You've heard the “communication is key ” cliché, haven't you? There's a reason that sentiment is often repeated. It's true.
A strong communication process is an essential part of any organization. Without effective communication, it can be hard for employees to work well together and find areas of agreement.
When a communication breakdown happens, there is a high chance of confusion between team members. This leads to mistakes, reduced productivity, and frustrated employees.
Clear communication channels make it easy to understand what each employee should do. It allows teams to interact and provide feedback to one another to keep projects running. This boosts productivity and efficiency at every level of the organization.
Effective communication isn't always easy. In fact, it can be downright hard. One poll of 1,000 employees found that 91% of respondents think their leaders lack this critical skill1.
There are eleven common communication barriers that stand in your way. Let's discuss examples of communication barriers and how you and your team can overcome them.
Physical barriers are things that keep people apart, such as closed doors, high cubicle walls, and blocked-off areas. Physical barriers to communication may include distance.
When team members work in different locations, it makes communication harder. A study by Grammarly of US professionals showed that since the pandemic, people use more digital communication channels2.
You don't have to change your office layout, but there are ways to help your team work around physical barriers, such as:
With the rapid advancement of technology, technical barriers to communication can arise. Technical barriers to communication refer to problems or difficulties arising due to the use of technology. Too much technical language can cause delays and make it hard to understand what is being said.
Access to technology may be limited or nonexistent for some people. For example, they may not have a phone or computer needed for communication. They may also have faulty equipment or no access to modern technology. This can make it hard for them to talk to each other.
Two people talking on different devices or platforms may struggle to understand each other. This barrier would be considered an Incompatibility of communication devices or platforms:
Don't get frustrated if you find constant technological interruptions when communicating with someone. There are tools and tricks that you can use to avoid technological interruptions.
Cultural fit is one of the biggest communication barriers. Diverse teams are more productive, more creative, and more profitable. But, having employees of different cultural backgrounds also challenges cross-cultural communication. There are different generations, cultures, races, and more. That means they also have different values, work ethics, norms, and preferences.
Cultural barriers to communication may cause employees to feel like they don't fit in the organization. It's tough to communicate effectively with someone when there is no common ground. It is important for your entire workplace to have an internal common language.
Having a team with people from different cultures can make communication hard. But avoiding these differences is not the solution. It's important to find ways to share information despite these cultural barriers to benefit from the diversity of the team. Here are a few ideas:
Simply put, a motivated team is an empowered team. Motivational barriers of communication prevent people from sharing information with each other. Low self-esteem, lack of drive, fear of failure, or rejection, are psychological barriers to motivation.
A lack of motivation will make employees believe their opinion is unimportant or there is no incentive to speak up. People require encouragement to initiate conversations about communication challenges.
Team morale takes time to build. To improve performance, you must understand your team's individual motivations. Employees’ individual needs should be acknowledged. By doing so and encouraging good communication, you can boost morale and make everyone feel supported at work. Here are a few ideas:
Systematic barriers make it hard for people in an organization to talk to each other because of how the company is set up or run.
Systematic barriers in communication may include; not having a good way to share information; not teaching good communication skills, or not valuing different perspectives and being afraid to speak up.
These barriers can hurt employee motivation, performance, and the company's success. So, it's important to understand systems thinking to create a successful communication plan.
Fixing communication problems caused by the way the company is run is ongoing and needs everyone's effort to be successful. Here's how:
Language or vocabulary differences can make communication difficult. This is not only when it comes to different languages but also when people in different departments use different jargon. Language barriers to communication can be caused by a lack of cultural understanding. It is important to respect different communication styles.
If there's a major language difference in your workplace, you'll need to look into translation services to bridge that divide. But here are some other important things to keep in mind:
Imagine that you went into a meeting with the assumption that it was going to be a major waste of your time. How inclined are you to listen closely? To engage in the discussion? To actively participate?
Your motivation is probably running pretty low, isn't it? That's a perceptual barrier.
The assumptions we carry with us into exchanges influence our communication style. They can actually hinder our ability to get our point across or result in poor listening. This can create difficult situations for employees.
It'd be nice if your own perceptions, biases, and assumptions had a simple “off” switch. While navigating around this barrier isn't quite that easy, these tips can help:
Let's clarify this one with another example. Think of a time when you had to converse with someone who was undeniably stubborn. They insisted that their view was correct, and they refused to listen to any other points of view.
I'm willing to bet that discussion was difficult because you couldn't truly connect with that other person. That's an interpersonal barrier in action.
Interpersonal barriers are difficult to overcome. Especially if someone is withdrawn and isn't willing to engage. Here are a few tips that can start to get things back on track:
When people at work don't trust each other, it can make it hard for them to work together. Employees may be scared to speak up because they fear they might be ridiculed. When trust is low, it can stop people from being creative and making innovative decisions. To fix this, leaders and employees need to make sure they trust each other and respect each other's ideas.
Rebuilding trust in the workplace requires active effort from both leaders and employees. Transparency and teamwork can be improved by ensuring everyone knows what is expected of them, with clearly defined goals. Additionally, consistency from leaders can also foster trust.
Gender barriers in communication in the workplace can make it difficult for men and women to communicate with one another. This can include stereotypes and generalizations about gender differences in communication.
Pay attention to communication differences between genders. This will help improve the communication ecosystem in the office.
Your best bet is to stay away from generalizations. Instead, learn more about each of your team members regardless of gender or gender identity. You can do this using the following strategies:
Personality conflicts and emotions can make it hard to communicate effectively. Emotions such as fear, anxiety, or anger often form communication barriers. This can hurt productivity and create a negative communication experience.
Emotions are natural, and they shouldn't be discouraged or reprimanded. Instead, you and your team need to understand how to deal with them. Try some of these strategies:
Effective communication in the workplace is crucial for conveying your core message, but it can be difficult to achieve. To improve communication, be aware of the common barriers mentioned above. Find and understand these barriers to help your team communicate more effectively.
Answer these questions to get a free report on your communication style. Take our F4S assessment, it only takes 15-20 minutes and it will help you to communicate better at work.
Our expert coaches have designed hyper-effective programs that will help
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Coach Marlee (your amazing AI-powered personal coach) will analyse your unique traits and goals to let you know which program to start with (and if there are any you should skip)!
Your recommended programs include:
Big picture thinking is at the heart of great communication. Increase your comfort and use of abstract and strategic thinking to articulate a vision, your ‘big why’, priorities and a bigger perspective. Big picture thinking is key in inspiring others and powerful communication.
Inspire yourself and others to see and achieve grand visions and goals. A focus on goals is especially helpful for inspiring others, impactful communication, maintaining communication over time, and for aligning clarity and expectations.
Strengthen your emotional intelligence (EQ) and strengthen your communication and relationship. Awareness of your and others’ emotions is a key to ‘reading people’, leading others, high impact communication and building authentic connections at work and in life.
Improve your communication through the experience and feedback from others. During this eight week program Coach Marlee will help you to develop a genuine appreciation for experimentation and data and a willingness to explore the opinions, feedback and insights from within your team and others in your life.
Develop ‘step back’ mastery, gain multiple perspectives and become a strategic communicator. Reflection and patience are core to consolidating learning, strategic thinking, continuous improvement and high impact communication.
Comfort to initiate conversations is key to high impact communication. Close the gap between your great ideas and taking action on them. Strengthen your comfort and motivation to start conversations that inspire and also achieve satisfaction and success in your work and in life.
Explore, strengthen and build confidence in your point of view. Trust in your ‘gut feel’ and point of view is especially helpful for increasing self-awareness, impactful communication, aligning expectations, meeting your personal needs and for living an authentic and meaningful life.
In this high impact nine week program Coach Marlee will help you build the foundations for general wellbeing while also helping you to break through self sabotage to develop life long skills for managing personal boundaries and emotional resilience, all crucial skills for sustaining healthy communication and happy relationships. Enjoy weekly cutting edge science backed wellbeing resources from both Marlee and our wellbeing partner Blisspot.
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1. Schwantes, M; August 10, 2017; Survey: 91 Percent of 1,000 Employees Say Their Bosses Lack This 1 Critical Skill; Inc.Australia https://www.inc-aus.com/marcel-schwantes/survey-91-percent-of-1000-employees-say-their-boss.html
2. Grammerly, June 2 2022; Less Casual, More Digital Everything: How Work Communication Has Changed Due to the Pandemic; Grammerly.com; https://www.grammarly.com/blog/pandemic-work-communication-trends/