Barriers to workplace communication

Written by nicole papa
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Barriers to workplace communication
Every workplace is dependent on effective communication. (business colleagues preparing for business meeting image by Vladimir Melnik from

Communication is the fabric of a company that helps employees succeed at their job, relate to the public and conduct business with customers and other businesses. Barriers exist in the workplace that can distract, distort or restrict communication. Identifying workplace communication barriers is the first step in overcoming them and improving organizational communication.

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Physical Barriers

Management may use physical barriers to intentionally limit communication. A common example is the placement of the CEO’s office. Typically her office is located on the top floor and a key is required in the elevator to gain access. A closed office door, dividing walls or separate rooms that departments operate from all hamper communication.

Emotional Barriers

If a person is afraid of losing his job or that a superior is going to find out that he compromised his work, he will take pains to limit his communications. Jealousy and envy crop up when workers are at odds with one another. If an employee is promoted and others are unhappy with the promotion, this creates emotional barriers that will prevent effective communication.

Perceptual Barriers

Everyone sees and understands the world differently. A task may be given to a team of employees and each employee may pursue the objective very differently. A team leader may ask a team member to remember to turn in his work before 5. The team member may perceive that the leader doesn’t trust him or doesn’t think he is a good worker. A different worker in that situation might perceive that the leader is looking out for her best interest.

Cultural Barriers

A person’s upbringing, culture and belief system can all play into complex barriers in the workplace. For example, a person from a South American country may feel comfortable talking in close proximity, while a North American may feel uncomfortable. Learning to keep comfortable social distances and observe other cultural preferences will help overcome cultural barriers.

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