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5 min read

What Is Ineffective Communication In The Workplace And Its Effects

Communication In The Workplace

When developing a communications strategy, organizations should always lean towards promoting and focusing on positive communication. However, there are times that positive communication may be hard to come by or may be difficult to implement. This makes it easy for companies to default to ineffective communications habits simply because this is what they are used to.

Why should companies make sure to prioritize positive communication over communication that has proven to be ineffective? While positive communication may be more challenging, allowing ineffective communication will only deter the progress of a business and will more likely result in less productivity and a decrease in employee morale and engagement.

Table of contents

What is ineffective communication?

Ineffective communication examples

Factors that make communication ineffective

Effects of ineffective communication in the workplace

What is ineffective communication?

Ineffective communication in the workplace occurs when the intended message fails to be conveyed accurately or fails to achieve its desired outcome. This can happen due to various reasons such as unclear messaging, lack of context, poor delivery, or misinterpretation. It may result in confusion, misunderstandings, conflict, or failed collaboration.

Ineffective communication can lead to decreased productivity, damaged relationships, and hindered progress. It often stems from a lack of attention to audience needs, insufficient feedback mechanisms, or cultural and language barriers. Addressing ineffective communication in the workplace requires clarity, active listening, empathy, and the willingness to adapt communication strategies to ensure mutual understanding and alignment.

Ineffective communication examples

Ineffective communication manifests in various ways, each hindering the conveyance of messages and causing misunderstandings. Examples of ineffective communication include:

  • Ambiguous instructions: Lack of clarity or specificity in directions leading to confusion and errors.
  • Poor listening skills: Failure to actively listen resulting in missed details and misunderstandings.
  • Communication barriers: Language differences or jargon hindering understanding and alienating some audience members.
  •  Ineffective non-verbal cues: Displaying disinterest or hostility through body language, such as avoiding eye contact or closed posture.
  • Inappropriate timing or medium: Sending urgent messages through inappropriate channels, leading to delays and compromised outcomes.
  • Mixed messages: Contradictory or inconsistent communication causing confusion about expectations or goals.
  • Emotional barriers: Strong emotions such as anger or frustration impeding rational communication and problem-solving.
  • Lack of feedback: Failure to provide or solicit feedback leading to uncertainty about performance or progress.
  • Information overload: Overwhelming recipients with excessive information, making it difficult to discern key points or priorities.
  • Cultural differences: Divergent cultural norms and communication styles resulting in misunderstandings or offense.
  • Technology glitches: Technical issues such as poor audio quality or dropped calls disrupting communication flow.
  • Personal biases: Preconceived notions or prejudices influencing interpretation of messages and interactions.

Factors that make communication ineffective

There are numerous factors that make communication ineffective in the workplace. This can include personal distractions, such as multitasking, that divert attention from the conversation. Similarly, physical barriers like noise or distance hinder effective communication.

Over-reliance on digital communication platforms can also spark ineffective communication by stripping away nuance and hindering understanding. Finally, a lack of trust can breed skepticism and undermine message reception.

Effects of ineffective communication in the workplace

Ineffective communication in the workplace can result in several problematic issues, such as:


Companies go into developing communications strategy in order to reduce uncertainties, stress and conflicts. However, poor and ineffective communication could lead to employees uncertain of their roles and value to the company. For example, if a manager fails to keep his staff members in the loop regarding new company policies, employees may tend to break rules without intending to or miss out on benefits that are due them. As a result of this ineffective communication, distrust, frustration and conflict between the involved parties may occur.


The majority of companies will have limited resources, such as budgets, and even office equipment and supplies. When there is a lack of communication in the workplace, resources may go to departments and individuals who don’t need them, leaving those who do need them without the things that they need. For example, the sales department might need a new photocopying machine because their previous one broke down. The equipment that they requested goes to the HR department which already has more than enough machines. The sales department is then left without the equipment they need, which could result in decreased productivity and frustration. Therefore, when developing a communications strategy, companies must make sure that lines of communication between different departments and management are open and constant to avoid ineffective communication.


If communication in the workplace is poor and ineffective, staff members are less likely inclined to collaborate with each other. This then results in poor teamwork and, potentially, even friction among employees. This would be extremely unfortunate as the core of any organization is the people who work there. Without camaraderie and strong working relationships, companies will have a difficult time going towards their objectives.


Poor and ineffective communication can result in gossiping and rumours, which then results in tension and friction in the workplace. Should management fail to address issues such as these, developing communications strategy would be a pointless exercise as harmonious working relationships are non-existent.

Gossiping and rumors build animosity amongst team members and colleagues. And while gossiping may be seen by others as a past time, the truth of the matter is, it only makes matters worse. Bonds are broken, and are not easily repaired.


Miscommunication in the workplace can stifle and put a halt to work processes. When people don’t know what to do, they may end up doing things that were not required of them. For example, a person may think that he is in charge of finishing a particular graph, while all along, the said task was already given to someone else. This ineffective communication in the workplace results in two outputs, confusion, frustration, and lost opportunity to further the progress of a particular project.


Ineffective communication can erode trust and create uncertainty among employees, leading to decreased morale. When messages are unclear or inconsistent, employees may feel undervalued or disconnected from the organization's goals. This lack of alignment can diminish engagement as employees may become disengaged or disenchanted with their roles and the company's direction.



There are a number of effects of ineffective communication in an organization, including:

  • Reduced productivity - when employees are not able to communicate effectively with each other, it can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and errors.
  • Increased stress - when employees are constantly feeling frustrated or confused by ineffective communication, it can lead to increased stress levels.
  • Damaged relationships - when employees feel like they are not being heard or understood, it can damage relationships between employees and managers.
  • Loss of customers -when customers are not able to get the information they need or are not treated well by employees, they may take their business elsewhere.
  • Increased costs - when mistakes are made due to ineffective communication, it can lead to increased costs for the organization.


Effective communication can lead to a variety of positive outcomes, such as improved relationships, increased productivity, and a better understanding of others. Ineffective communication, on the other hand, can lead to misunderstandings and conflict.


Ineffective communication can lead to problems in relationships, at work, and in other areas of life. It is important to be aware of these common mistakes and to try to avoid them.

  • Not listening actively. This means not paying attention to what the other person is saying and not responding in a way that shows you are listening.
  • Not being clear and concise. This means not using clear and concise language, which can lead to misunderstandings.
  • Not being respectful. This means not being polite or considerate of the other person's feelings.


The effects of poor communication in the workplace include:

  • Increased stress and conflict
  • Poor decision-making
  • Damage to morale and reputation
  • Increased turnover.
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