Communication problems can make the work environment uncomfortable and unproductive. The source of the problem can be anything from personal management styles and educational backgrounds to personality conflicts and cultural differences.
Recognising situations caused by communication issues in the workplace usually helps employees solve problems without blaming managers or co-workers. Attention should therefore be given to ineffective communication techniques.
Types of communication problems
Good communication requires everyone to participate fully. Poor communication can occur in the following situations:
- When a person sending a message uses the wrong communication style for a situation or provides an overly complicated or incomplete message. The receiver of the message must be able to interpret what the sender says
- When the sender can’t anticipate possible causes of confusion
- Failing to give background information or sufficient details
- Lack of understanding how people may receive the message, particularly on a complex issue
- Using the wrong communication channel for the particular message, for example using email when a personal conversation would have had a better effect
- Poorly organised or written documents, including typos and mistakes.
Effects of poor communication
Problems with communicating may occur throughout the communication process. Communication problems waste time, money and productivity and lead to conflict, distrust and low morale. Poor communication disrupts productivity and results in lower product quality and customer satisfaction. Most companies can benefit from improved communication.
To prevent communication problems, managers should assess their own communication styles and techniques, in other words, how assertive and expressive they are when they communicate. In addition, they should determine the communication style of the employees they are trying to reach. The following techniques can help to provide clear and consistent messages:
- Use probing and open-ended questions to enable dialogue
- Use reflecting statements to help build rapport and trust
- Paraphrase, or repeat what was said to help avoid conflict and unnecessary confrontations
- Educate employees on the benefits of good communicating to reduce workplace stress or tension
- Encourage employees to avoid emotional reactions, use active listening techniques and provide only constructive feedback
- Try to be open about issues and listen to different points of view.
One of the best ways to improve communication in the workplace is by building a network of trust and reliability across different departments or sections in the company. Employees will then feel more comfortable about expressing their opinions and they will be more likely to do so in a constructive way.