The Top Barriers to Effective Communication in the Workplace
Communication barriers in the workplace range from lack of inclusivity to inactive listening.
On average, large companies lose over $62 million dollars a year and smaller companies lose over $420,000 per year as a consequence of communication barriers in the workplace.
The Effects of Poor Workplace Communication
Communication barriers in the workplace result in a wide range of consequences, ranging from fostering a negative company culture to legal issues. Below are some effects that companies with poor workplace communication may face, including-
- Negative company culture- Employees are unlikely to feel happy or satisfied in their roles when there is a communication barrier in the workplace. Your staff may feel that they are not being valued, heard, or validated by you or their coworkers.
When a communication barrier occurs at a company-wide level, your entire company culture will suffer. Miscommunications can produce an emotional barrier between employees which can develop into disputes and deep resentments if left unaddressed.
Negative company culture has very real consequences to your business's bottom line. Customers prefer to give their business to and work with companies that do not have a toxic work culture.
Customer service will be negatively impacted if the communication barrier flows from your staff down to your client base. When customers are unhappy with your company culture they are likely to seek a replacement company for your services or product.
- Physical and mental health problems- Consistent poor communication will result in increases in employee stress levels. People who experience chronic stress are more likely to develop both mental and physical health concerns.
When employees are stressed they are less productive and are more likely to make mistakes or miss important deadlines. Additionally, this increased level of stress can have a negative effect on employee self esteem.
This is exceptionally prevalent when bringing a new employee onboard as a lack of communication from the beginning will prevent them from understanding how to effective in their role, hurting their performance. To avoid this, make sure to encourage employees to reach out when they need support and to practice self-care.
- Legal issues- Failure to properly address communication issues in the workplace can land your business in legal disputes. Legal issues are not only expensive but they damage personal and business reputations.
Your human resource team should promptly and adequately address miscommunication issues. Make sure your employees know that they are welcome to meet with human resources to discuss any concerns, no matter what they are.
In workplaces with unhealthy communication employees may feel intimidated about talking with human resources or worry that reporting an issue will put their job at risk. Many legal issues can be avoided if clear communication is practiced in the workplace.
The Top Barriers to Effective Communication
Communication in the workplace is complex and occurs on a variety of mediums. In order for business professionals to optimize their workplace communication, they must understand the most common ways that miscommunications occur. Barriers to effective communication in the workplace include-
- Technology- Many people think technology has improved communication, but that is not always the case. The verbal cues and body language that we display during in-person or phone conversations can make a huge difference in the way that information is sent and received.
- Inaccessibility- Communication in the workplace is negatively effected when written and verbal communication is unnecessarily complex or relies too heavily on professional jargon that not all employees are familiar with. Improve communication and minimize any language barrier by keeping the language clear and direct.
Employees or customers may not ask for clarification if they are having trouble understanding an acronym or term. Using clear and accessible language will help make sure that you improve communication and keep miscommunication to a minimum.
- Distractability- Employees may misinterpret a conversation if they are not practicing active listening. Make sure to encourage employees to listen carefully to one another and avoid making incorrect assumptions.
- Disability- Mental and physical disabilities are a common barrier as they may hinder communication. Hearing difficulties or speech problems may cause unintentional miscommunications if the information is not transmitted or received clearly.
Mental health problems such as anxiety can present as anger or distractibility during important conversations. Messages may not be clearly received and misconceptions can create a toxic work culture if written and verbal communication is not accessible to employees of all abilities.
- Identity- Every human has their own language, accent, religion, political views, cultural differences, gender identity, and additional facets of identity. These differences are what make us unique, but have the possibility to create a communication barrier in the workplace. Make sure to acknowledge any language barrier or cultural barrier and fiercely combat prejudices and stereotypes in the workplace by providing proper diversity and tolerance training.
Practice mindfulness and respectability when speaking to someone whose identity differs from your own, for example, saying "you guys" to a group of women may cause offense. Alternatively, saying "ya'll" to someone not from the midwest, may make them uncomfortable.
Staff should also be aware of the consequences that would result from inappropriate actions or communications towards individuals with different identities than themselves.
It is important to always keep in mind that each individual has a different communication style. Cultivating a culture of acceptance, accountability, and openness decreases misunderstandings, conflicts and can improve communication overall.
- Environmental- Severe temperatures, distracting sounds, closed doors, or a floor plan that separates coworkers may also create a communication barrier in the workplace. The over stimulus of the environment can cause information overload for employees preventing them from achieving the work they set out to do. Alternatively, the improper layout of teams in a floor plan can create a physical barrier between employees, limiting their ability to effectively communicate.
This, in turn, can manifest itself as an emotional barrier to communication for employees as they do not feel secure in their environment which will then reflect in the work they produce. Ensuring that the work environment is open, engaging, and free from too many distractions can drastically improve employee effectiveness.
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