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Communication barriers can be detrimental to the normal functioning of the workplace. Managers can make their employees understand what they want to convey if they will communicate with them (Smith, n.d).
Lack of communication between employer and employee is sometimes the reason why there are misunderstandings in the workplace. It is listed as one of the main reasons for company problems. When managers and their staff cannot communicate with each other, there are a lot of potential dangers that may arise (Smith, n.d):
• Without communication, the path of the company may be misinterpreted and work would become inaccurately accomplished.
• Customers will receive incorrect information
• There will be no cooperation between employees and the different departments will not be able to coordinate their efforts
• Personnel will not have access to vital information
Communication is important in establishing a connection between the different components of the organization. Thus, its importance in the workplace cannot be undermined. Much time is spent by the manager in communicating with both their superiors and subordinates (Smith, n.d).
Unless the message is clearly conveyed to the intended recipient, effective communication will not be achieved. When the message is not conveyed clearly and with distortions, there are barriers that are blocking the effective conveyance of the message (Smith, n.d).
According to McFarland, communication is the process whereby human beings interact with each other. For communication to be effective, the intended recipient of the message must clearly understand the contents of the message (Rupal, n.d).
Objectives of the Paper
Realizing the fact that there are barriers that could hinder effective communication in the workplace, the objectives of this paper is to:
1. Identify and describe the possible barriers that could hinder effective communication in the workplace.
2. Discuss the administrative/managerial, ethical, financial, and legal implications of barriers to communication in the workplace.
The researcher utilized various methods in conducting literature search. Using the keyword, “Barriers to Effective Communication in the Workplace,” he made his research in Google. Various websites such as E-zine, Tripod, Buzzle.com, and many others served as reference for the paper.
Review of Related Literature/Findings
Poor communication between managers and their employees can bring about a wide array of workplace problems, which may include interpersonal conflicts, waste of money and effort, reduced productivity, legal ramifications, low morale and high employee turnover. However, the types and causes of communication worries differs.
In order for workplace communication to become effective, it has to have has the following traits (Communication Skills.com, n.d):
• It has to be suitable to the structure of the organization
• Communication should motivate employees rather than repress fresh ideas
• Communication lines must be open and well-defined.
• Both managers and staff must understand how to utilize the channel of communication
• Top level management must be able to relay the essential objectives of the company
• The channel of communication must be responsive to the customers
Communication skills in the workplace should likewise involve the opportunity for employees to work with a diverse workforce. As companies are heading towards diversity in the workplace, communication channels should allow employees to make significant contributions to the company (Communication Skills, n.d).
When it comes to the workplace, there are three facts about communication:
1. Messages conveyed are sometimes distorted and not always interpreted accurately.
2. Message interpretation is done in the mind
3. The representation of communication is not perfect.
According to recent studies, 8 out of 10 workplace problems could be resolved through proper communication. Lack of communication results to unresolved problems, conflicts, and misunderstandings (Smith, n.d).
Barriers to effective communication can become hindrances to achieving professional goals. According to social psychologists, 50 to 70% of meaning is loss during conveyance of message from sender to receiver. The following are some of the obstacles to effective communication in the workplace (Rupal, n.d):
1. Language Barrier. With most companies now focusing on diversity, language has become one of the major obstacles in an effective workplace. Dialects may symbolize regional barriers. Using difficult or wrong words may lead to confusion.
2. Personal Barrier. This is due to the person’s perceptual and individual discomfort. Although two individuals share the same experience, their mental view may not be similar which can become a hindrance. Halo effect, poor attention and retention, being close-minded, among others can be personal barriers.
3. Cultural Barrier. Religious affiliation, social status, educational background, aspirations, interests can be divisive and may result to barriers.
4. Organizational Barrier. This may include corporate culture, environment, company rules and regulations, lack of professional growth or insufficient facilities, obsolete equipments, to name just a few are examples of organizational barrier.
5. Relational Barriers. For employers, interpersonal obstacles may include lack of employee trust, time constraint, inconsideration for the needs of their employees, and others. On the part of the employee, lack of motivation, uncooperative co-employees, fear of reprimand, and others are interpersonal barriers.
6. Attitudinal Obstacle – physical and mental skills, intelligence, understanding, and distrust can bring about obstacles in effective communication.
7. Channel Barrier – If the duration of conversation is long, or the medium chosen is wrong, the conversation may become distorted. This can bring about inter-personal conflicts between the sender and receiver. Disinterest in communication, sharing of information or accessibility problems can hinder the channel and can have an impact on its clarity, effectiveness, and accuracy.
8. Physical Barrier. These barriers may include large working space that are physically segregated from one another. The noise in the background as well as the environment may likewise hinder effective communication from taking place.
9. Emotions. There are times when being emotional can be a distraction to effective communication in the workplace. If this is the case, it is usually impossible to receive or even send a message. Hostility, anger, fear, and resentfulness are examples of emotional barriers.
10. Minimal Knowledge of the Subject Being Conveyed. Usually a person with little information about the topic or subject will have a difficult time transmitting a clear message. The receiver could interpret the message differently, and this could trigger obstacles to effective communication.
11. Stress. Stressful experiences in the workplace can have a hard time understanding the message which poses a threat to effective communication workplace.
Common Workplace Problems That May Hinder Effective Communication
The first step in addressing barriers to effective communication is identifying some of the problems that blocks effective communication. Sadly, the last person to become aware of these problems are the managers themselves. After all, when communication is not reaching the employee level, then it is unlikely that it would reach management. Here are some problems that could serve as hindrance to effective communication (Harlig, 1999).
One of the reasons for ineffective communication is information deficit. Most of the time, employees are not given accurate information about what they need to do with a certain task. They are missing out on the important aspects of the job (Harlig, 1999).
Method of Communication
The manner of communicating may vary from one person to another. Some people talk fast for another person and vice versa. According to Deborah Tannen, people have the tendency to make assumptions regarding the way people deliver their message. According to her, it is not the style of communicating that creates a wall in the process but the assumptions that people make (Harlig, 1999).
In her book You Just Don’t Understand: Men and Women In Conversation, Deborah Tannen explains that there are variations in communication between males and females. The difference lies not only in their words but also in their bodily gestures. A good example is during group discussions. Men are more likely to interrupt than women. Females, on the other hand, are more likely to give up their turn to speak more quickly than their male counterpart (Harlig, 1999).
In the workplace, women become defensive when they fail to make a decisive response to their male superiors or officemates (Harlig, 1999).
Native Language Variations
With the switch to diversity, there are now more employees in the workplace who are non-native speakers. Here lies the problem of communicating in the English language (Harlig, 1999).