Successful businesses aren’t just based on innovative ideas or unique business models. There are several other drivers of success, effective workplace communication among them. Unfortunately, the vast majority of workplaces tend to be inefficient at communication, mainly because communication is rarely considered a serious priority during a business planning or expansion phase.
Most businesses overlook the fact that establishing effective communication is a conscious and concerted effort, and that it does not usually happen spontaneously. Without directed efforts, therefore, workplace communication problems and obstacles continue to be disruptive, including the following:
Employees Working Across Timezones
Even before remote workforce models became the norm, businesses already had offshore ventures or outsourced services. This usually means employees working towards a shared goal, but across different time zones. This presents several obvious challenges, including the difficulty in effective and timely communication.
With time zone differences of eight hours or more, employees have very short windows to communicate their needs to disparate teams. This, in turn, can lead to inefficiency and lowered productivity, as the gap can prevent operational instructions or high-priority tasks from being communicated effectively. To address this communication pitfall, businesses can begin by implementing:
- Regular check-in calls
- Weekly or daily task sheets
- Online huddles for upcoming tasks
Cultural and Language Barriers
Another obstacle that arises with offshore or geographically diverse teams, in addition to the time zone difference, is the difference in cultures and languages. This, in many ways, can be even more of a challenge to effective communication. Cultural differences and language barriers can often lead to over-communication in the workplace, under-communication, and communication getting lost in translation.
As a result of the miscommunication, words may be misinterpreted and gestures can be misconstrued. This can lead to unnecessary friction, conflict, and even animosity.
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For many businesses, these issues can quickly devolve into a deterioration of interpersonal relationships, collaborative ability, and workplace culture. All of these can have quantitative (e.g. lost productivity) and qualitative (workplace toxicity) costs for a business.
The only meaningful solution is for businesses to be more inclusive and offer workers more access to intercultural training. This can make cross-cultural communication far more effective and risk-free, helping businesses maintain cohesion between multicultural teams and employees.
Ineffective Communication Technology and Tools
Communication problems usually don’t arise because of problems with the people within an organization, or isolated events like insubordination at work. They do often arise because of the tools and technology businesses use to communicate with coworkers, teams, and managers. Workplace communication technology can facilitate effective collaboration and idea sharing.
Conversely, obsolete or ineffective technology can impair collaboration and/or team productivity. While there are many free and paid tools that businesses can choose from, it is imperative that they choose the right communication technology for their needs. The final choice of tools and technology can vary from business to business. As a general rule, they should at least include the following:
- Email or equivalent for formal business communication
- Direct messaging for less formal/time-sensitive communication
- Video/voice conferencing platforms for collaboration and meetings
- Anonymous channels to share feedback, reviews, and complaints
Poorly Defined Organizational Communication Structures
Internal business processes are critical to defining strong, clear, and effective communication throughout the organization. Internal business communication plans, therefore, should define the correct ways for all situations i.e upward, downward, and lateral communication. Unless such a communication plan is clearly defined and implemented across a business, most communication is misdirected at best and ineffective at worst.
However, with a formal communications plan, all aspects of business such as centralized vs decentralized recruitment, internal disciplinary discussions, policy dissemination, etc., can align in a uniform way while eliminating any confusion.
Without a clear understanding of who and how to contact for a specific business need, workers may struggle to find support and/or authorization. In other cases, employees may accidentally bypass the appropriate contact for a workplace bullying complaint and create additional friction.
The only meaningful and sustainable solution, in such cases, is for businesses to either create or revamp organizational communication plans and ensure they cover as many instances of lateral, upward, and downward communication as possible.
Communication is usually categorized as a soft skill. But in the workplace, it impacts effectiveness and efficiency when it comes to collaboration, productivity, and streamlining deliverables. In the absence of adequate measures to address business communication challenges, organizations will continue to operate with reduced efficiency and increased friction.
Conversely, with appropriate communication plans, businesses are able to foster more agile collaboration and maintain efficiency in production.
What are some communication problems in the workplace?
Ineffective tools, poorly defined communication structures, and different time zones are some of the communication problems.
What causes poor communication in the workplace?
Most communication is misinterpreted due to cultural barriers in a diverse workforce.
How to solve communication problems in the workplace?
Organizations need to take adequate measures to address business communication challenges. They must start by creating or revamping organizational communication plans which should also include the right communication technology.