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Barriers to Effective Communication in the Workplace

While an organization may have an internal communications strategy in place, managers and business owners have to be aware that there are barriers that put a halt to effective communication at work. These barriers hurt the process of communication in the workplace, while recognizing them and finding ways to remove or prevent them will help improve work processes, while supporting your efforts when it comes to motivating and inspiring your employees.

The following are some of the barriers to effective communication in any organization:

1. Assumptions

When people in the workplace make decisions based on assumptions, the said actions put a strain on a company’s internal communications strategy. While we all know that we shouldn’t assume anything regarding the thoughts and behaviours of others, we still do it anyway. Many times, people in the workplace use assumptions, thinking that these will speed up work processes.

However, while assumptions are used as shortcuts, they ignore the path to true communication. Not only can assumptions lead to miscommunication and potentially, friction, they are also likely to make it difficult to gather important information.

2. Failure to listen

Being a poor listener is one of the most common barriers to any internal communication strategy. Some of the reasons why poor listening occurs include disinterest and indifference to the topic being talked about, lack of desire to take an active role and being distracted by other things or thoughts. Another common reason for failing to listen could also be when a worker disagrees with the one talking and refuses to hear what he or she has to say; in this case, the failure to listen is done on purpose.

3. Negative nonverbal communication

If nonverbal communication is negative, it could potentially prevent effective communication from occurring in the workplace. Negative cues include shaking your head when one is speaking, and waving away a person who is trying to communicate with you. While your intention may be different from how the other person sees your action, remember that it is ultimately all about interpretation. In order to align your positive intention with the interpretation of others, make sure to be able to understand and to truly be aware of your own body language.

4. Information overload

While information is, of course, always important in any company’s internal communication strategy, too much information can overwhelm employees and thus block effective communication. For example, if you constantly send out emails covering the same information, employees may tend to start ignoring your messages. This is especially true if the same email or information is forwarded again and again.

5. Questions that are not effective

When workers ask questions that are ineffective or that lack details, it can be seen as a barrier to effective communication. The whole idea behind asking questions is to confirm or clarify ideas that have been communicated. In order to prevent ineffective questions, make sure to utilize open-ended questions, including details such as what, who, where, when and how.

6. Conflicting messaging

There are times that management and business owners send conflicting messages, and deliver messages with inconsistent and confusing nonverbal cues. The confusion brought about by these occurrences create miscommunication and frustration. Others simply ignore the message being relayed.

7. Stress in the workplace

Daily stress is an inevitable part of the workplace; but while stress is commonplace, it continues to greatly impact workplace communication. Stress can result in attitude changes, and lack of focus and motivation. These alterations can then result to missed deadlines, decrease in productivity, and off course, weakened communication between management and employees, and between employee and employee. Knowing and understanding how to manage stress in the workplace are then important in order to promote effective communication.

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