Top Five Internal Barriers To Workplace Communication

We all know that communication is key when it comes to a properly-functioning workplace. Without effective communication, there is no collaboration or engagement, without collaboration between engaged employees, things start to fall apart.The lack of communication can be especially damaging when it is viewed as an integral element for success by your employees. According to studies done by Fierce Inc, “86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.” So how do you overcome these issues and open the platform for effective communication within the workplace?

First you need to identify the barriers to workplace communication. Knowing what the issues are makes it easier to find a workable solution that aligns with your business. We’ve put together five internal barriers to effective workplace communication to help you navigate the breakdown in your own place of business.

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1. Physical Barriers

While this may seem obvious, having physical barriers between employees can place sub-conscious restrictions on the level of communication that exists. With upper-management teams tucked away in offices behind closed doors, employees are faced with an obstacle between them and something as simple as posing a question. In some situations, employees will rather try and find a solution themselves rather than ask the manager so as not to bother him or her.

Physical barriers can also be extended to body language. Not being open to communication or discussion can be very present in the way that employees hold themselves. The words coming out your mouth might be different to what people perceive through your body language, which can put them off from approaching you or even trusting what you say.

2. Language Or Cultural Barriers

Respect for other people’s cultural beliefs can be a massive barrier to communication and can also isolate team members from one another. Having cultural learning groups within the business is a good way to allow employees to open up about the things that set them apart

from one another. Beliefs and traditions can be shared among team members, making them more aware of the background associated with each employee.

Having employees that speak different languages is a challenge if you don’t communicate in the language yourself. It’s important to have upper-management team members with the appropriate language skills to manage and communicate with these team members in their mother tongue. Without this, they can very easily feel estranged from everyone else and that their needs have not been considered as much as everyone else’s.

3. Irregular Conversations Or Meetings

Not having a consistent forum where people can voice their opinions might result in them not voicing them at all. Regularly timed meetings give people the opportunity to work up the courage to contribute what they need to say. Also knowing how much time is available will give people the foresight to know when they can have their moment to contribute. Hosting irregular catch-ups or meetings creates a sense of less time being available, which leads employees to believe that “now is not the time” to be airing their concerns or viewpoints.

4. Emotional Barriers And Lack Of Confidence In Peers

Emotional barriers stem from a fear of being embarrassed or being wrong, saying something silly or having an inadequate understanding of the work environment. If employees are experiencing this, they won’t contribute. When employees feel uncomfortable among their peers, there is a huge chance that they won’t speak up then either. Having confidence in one another helps employees feel grounded and secure, knowing that other team members will “have their back”.

Fierce, Inc also stated in their research that “83% of employees don’t trust their boss to tell the truth.” Harsh, but the facts are there in black and white. If employees don’t feel like their boss is being honest, there is a gaping hole in the solidity of leadership within the business.

5. Negative Non-Verbal Communication

This also ties in with body language. Negative non-verbal communication could be the simple act of waving someone away while you’re on the phone. Rolling your eyes, shaking your head, laughing when someone is talking. The smallest gestures could have the largest impact on another person, which makes it very important for all team members to be aware of their actions at all times. Even without words, communication can be stifled and drawn to a halt.

Finding the happy medium between over-communicating and too little communication is going to be different for every business. It’s important to find the perfect balance though, because some forms of communication can also sap the productivity from the team. According to extensive research done by CareerBuilder, employees found the following aspects of business communication to be huge time wasters:

  • 26% of employees said email is a productivity killer
  • 27% said that other employees dropping by for a quick chat (even work related) is the biggest productivity killer
  • While 24% think that meetings are unnecessary and a waste of time

Where does your business lie and what steps can you take to enhance the levels of communication without creating disturbances within the team?

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Posted by Lachie Dixon

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