Communication Barriers in Business – Part I – Understanding Them

‘Communication is key.’ That’s not just a slogan for a happy relationship; it’s extremely critical in business. Communication is one of the top skills required in business.   Communication barriers have been around for decades. But, add in today’s technology-driven, post-pandemic world, and your chances of miscommunication drastically increase.

What is a Communication Barrier? 

A communication barrier is a disconnect that prevents people from receiving a message or idea as planned. A communication barrier can occur if: 

  • The information does not reach its intended recipient(s)
  • The message is fragmented so difficult to understand the whole picture
  • The recipient completely, or partially, misunderstands the intent and details of the communication

Big or small, communication barriers create issues, negatively impacts morale, productivity, worker engagement, trust, and revenue.

Miscommunication in Large Versus Small Businesses

Does size matter? In this case, not really. Regardless of the size of a company, communication barriers create team, revenue, and product development challenges.

Naturally, the larger a business, the harder it is for those within it to communicate effectively. Big companies must work harder to overcome communication challenges, from the larger number of people involved to complex business and personal factors.  Because larger companies rely more on technology like emails, it isn’t a stretch to understand that miscommunication can happen more often than small companies where team members rely on verbal communication more. 

Where do Communication Barriers Come From?

There are different types of miscommunications in business. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common and impactful communication barriers.

1. Communication Skills & Technology

Technology has changed how businesses operate and how we interact. Digital communication can positively impact collaboration, costs, and co-worker communication but it can also be a barrier.  Being overwhelmed with massive amounts of emails, chats or instant messaging communications can create a bottleneck of non-responses.  Digital communications can also lead to misinterpretation that further creates stress, anger or frustration. 

The global and remote workforce is more efficient and productive, thanks to technology. Using technology to your advantage ensures team members have access to the tools and resources to communicate effectively but be aware of the potential overload.

We all have communication strengths and weaknesses. Everyone receives and processes information differently. Information can get lost or miscommunicated, causing frustrations within the organization. Barriers including stress, social anxiety, anger, frustration, and self-esteem can contribute to an employee’s ability to communicate effectively.

2. Language & Age Barriers

Multilingual speakers will often have trouble understanding specific words or phrases when communicating in a second language. Messages get lost in translation, leading to confusion or frustration.  

Age differences impact communication.  Gen Y, Gen X, and baby boomers each have preferred work styles and communication methods. Not surprisingly, the younger generations are more comfortable and willing to rely on technology to communicate, while the older generation prefers more personal one-on-one conversations.  

3. Physical Barriers

Where you work can also create communication barriers. Thanks to technology, a lot of people can work from anywhere. While 77% of remote workers say working from home is more productive, it’s not without its hiccups.

Post-pandemic, we’re seeing more companies opt for a fully remote or hybrid environment. One of the biggest challenges is how information is being received. When you solely rely on technology to deliver a message rather than speaking in person, the details must be straightforward because you don’t see things like posture, facial expressions, body language, and other nonverbal cues.  These ‘cues’ are very telling, so if missed can cause major strife within the organization.

What Happens Next?

The next article will help identify how these miscommunications can influence a business.