Barriers to Effective Communication in an Organization and Overcoming It

Barriers to Effective Communication in an Organization and Overcoming It

Communication is the key factor in the success of any organization. When it comes to effective communication, there are certain barriers that every organization faces. People often feel that communication is as easy and simple as it sounds. No doubt, but what makes it complex, difficult and frustrating are the barriers that come in its way.

Here are a few of the most commonly-found barriers in communication in an organization:

  1. Perceptual Barriers: The most common problem faced these days is that of the difference in opinion between two people. The varied perceptions of every individual give rise to a need for effective communication.
  2. Emotional Barriers: Another main barrier is the fear and mistrust that form the roots of our emotional barrier which stop us from communicating effectively with our co-workers.
  3. Language Barriers: Language that describes what we would want to express and communicate to others, may at times, serve as a barrier to them. In today’s global scenario, the greatest compliment we can pay to another person is by speaking and effectively communicating to them in their local language. We need to understand that the native language of employees can be different from anyone else’s.
  4. Cultural Barriers: The world is made up of diverse cultures. A cultural barrier arises when two individuals in an organization belong to different religions, states or countries.
  5. Physical Barriers: Research shows that one of the key factors in building strong and integrated teams is proximity. Most offices have closed doors and cabins for those at higher levels of the organizational ladder while the large working areas are physically placed far apart. This kind of barrier forbids team members from effective interaction with each another.

The only way one can improve effective organizational communication is by changing one’s thoughts and feelings with one’s colleague. In this way, we don’t just break down communication barriers, but also build relationships that work successfully for long.

Therefore, overcoming communication barriers in organizations is very important. Communication is much more than just trading words. It also encompasses the emotions and intentions of the people involved. Overcoming communication barriers can be achieved through proper training interventions. These include programs to improve listening and written skills, build conversational skills, trainings on verbal and non-verbal communications skills, giving and receiving feedback, negotiation skills, etc.

Most organizations today have a healthy mix of employees from all across the world – employees of all races, ethnicities, and religions. Hence, it is very important to ensure they all work together harmoniously and contribute to organizational success.

Diversity and inclusivity trainings help organizations groom their employees on embracing their inherent differences and leveraging diversity to build efficiencies. These training programs focus on building a culture of unity, promote inclusivity and help employees see others’ point of view – to agree to disagree – that helps break down perceptual differences.

It is also very important to train employees on developing effective interpersonal relationships, this entails sensitizing them on the importance of interpersonal relationships, the various styles of communication, educating them about emotional intelligence, conflicts, trust, creating a healthy work environment, etc.

To overcome language barriers, learn at least the basics of your employees’ language and communicate with them in the same. Translating communication aids (such as emails) and training materials into the respective languages will also help. You can also train employees on the English language and help them use it effectively.

Physical barriers can be overcome by training your managers, supervisors, and heads on dealing effectively with their subordinates. These training programs focus on several aspects such as giving proper feedback, conducting performance review meetings, coaching and mentoring skills, grooming future leaders, etc.

How E-learning Helps

With most organizations today spread all across the globe, online training programs cut down the costs and logistics associated with classroom trainings. Employees also prefer short training bursts they can access from anywhere without having to be tethered to their desks. With technology making huge advancements, different learning interventions are available today which cater to individual preferences.

Employees can view short videos, listen to podcasts, or access micro modules from their Smartphones, iPads, or any device of their choice while on the move. This provides just-in-time access to information, thereby maximizing the impact of learning.

E-learning modules can serve as refreshers or build on classroom sessions and focus on in-depth topics. Online training modules are a very good medium to increase learner engagement by incorporating elements such as scenario-based learning and gamified elements. Updating online modules and translating them into other languages is very easy too and cuts downs the delays and costs associated with classroom sessions.

Today, employees seek social collaboration and for ways to stay connected with friends and areas of interest. E-learning answers this need too. These online courses can provide links to discussion forums, chat rooms and other sites where employees can meet others with similar interests, discuss issues, talk to SMEs and participate in online events. Similarly, leaderboards in games are a very good way of motivating learners and appreciating top performers.

If every individual in an organization takes personal responsibility to make sure he works in complete effectiveness with his or her co-worker, no matter how many barriers come in the way, a responsible employee will always know how to overcome them.

Do share your thoughts on the same.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2010 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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  • Leo Salazar


    Let me guess, you’re American – am I correct? With all respect, you’ve laid out a nice solution process that will most probably work. For other Americans, anyway.

    I notice that the first barrier in Asma’s excellent article is “perceptual”. I also notice that your first step in your solution process is “a shared vision” where everyone “knows” their role. How do you suppose this will work in different cultures, for example, where everyone’s assumptions are not the same as yours? How about in the same culture where not everyone shares the same vision?

    I find that even though Asma’s solution, “changing one’s thoughts and feelings” is short on specifics, it at the very least contains an essential element of success that your list sorely lacks: the possibility that other people see the world differently than you do.

  • Bill Fraine

    The barriers you list have been “The Barriers” from the beginning of time. Said another way, “If I do not buy into what you want me to do or how you want me to do it, we will have challenges in any process we work together.” Multiply that problem across a network of employees and locations and the process quality fails. The fix is:

    1) A shared vision all understand and know their role in.
    2) A clear process map visible to all.
    3) Critical Control Points of the process defined. (CCP)
    4) Simple clear and up to date measurements of each CCP real time.
    5) Feed back to each team and employee on their adherence to the CCP.
    6) Frequent clear rewards for success and corrections where needed.
    7) A learning loop process where the entire process is improved based on learning from real life lessons.

    This is a brief but effective way to proceed

    All the Best

  • Jacqueline C. Roberts

    Someone has to lay the groundwork and actively enforce it. Visionary leadership can create a culture of open communication and positive acknowledgement. Contrary to the shows we see on TV, a poisonous environment leads to hostile interpersonal communication.

  • Doreen Pendgracs

    Great post and terrific comments.

    One thing that I think takes the global differences into account and really helps focus on a positive vibe — in any environment — is Toastmasters International.

    If a work environment needs moral boosting or help with developing a more positive environment, start a workplace Toastmasters club. You will soon find any barriers will be notably diminished, and eventually eliminated.

    For more on my thought on the positive impact of Toastmasters, please visit my blog.

  • Guy Farmer

    Helpful advice, thank you. I’ve found that when organizations invest in learning how to communicate effectively they increase the effectiveness not only of their employees but also their entire operation.

  • Rashmi Priya

    Communication barriers can hamper the overall working of an organization. It can lead to miscommunication and the grapevine can be disastrous.

  • erick

    communication barriers can be coursed by psychical nose and also the different ideology disturbance in and aunt especial at school

  • Frank Edward

    It is fascinating to know that people like you are there to help in people’s need, that was a nice piece. You made some point but i would like to contribute to what you outlined
    1. A weak delivery
    2. A distracting environment
    3. A mixed message.
    And so on, nice work keep it on.

  • lelhogonolo gaoitsiwe

    there is also premature evaluation , information overload and technical barriers such as power cuts and poor telephone connections.

  • venkatesan.p

    i can’t speak sequancly please some one help me.

  • nithin

    thank you for the information. It is more helpful for my study about the barriers of communication. . .

  • Adetola Raji

    Poor communication planning is a barrier& lack of interest.

  • Ahmed hussein

    Technological barriers is also another serious barrier to communcication. For instance poor network and lack of power can affect the organizations working framework. there will be breakdown of communication. May be two organizations which work or are tied together cannot communicate simply because of poor network. On another note environmental barriers also come in. This include noise at the work place.

  • kennedy Iduwe


    In workplaces poor communication is a serious problem and can be costly to an organization. The impact can be devastating to the parties involved. Some of the results include: Loss of business, customers, products, goods, services, employee turnover, loss of productivity, absenteeism, sabotage, injury and accidents, sick leave and so on. The main purpose of this study is to identify the effects of poor communication on organizational performance and to find out the strategies for improving on communication at the workplace so that employee motivation can be enhanced. The specific objectives of the study included finding out the factors, levels, types and effects of poor communication at the workplace.

    The study was guided by the writings of Elashmawi and Harris, (1993) who have argued that a fuller understanding of organizations is a vital ingredient at every forward step of the career process, and that communication is a primary element for understanding how organizations function and how members of the organization should, even must, behave in organizations if they are to advance their careers. The study was carried out at the Kenya Seed Company Limited. A sample of 300 respondents was involved in the research and they were picked through random stratified sampling save for seven heads of departments who were purposefully selected by virtue of their positions and possession of key information. This sample was deemed representative enough as the total number of workers is 3000. The research used both questionnaires and interviews schedules.

    Data was analyzed and presented using descriptive statistics methods. Excel was used to come up with this analysis. To analyze and determine the magnitude of poor communication and good channels of proper communication, the findings of the study

  • financial outsourcing

    Thanks on your marvelous posting!

  • Smriti Bam

    liked the article very much
    Organization environment relationships