7 Communication Failure Examples (With Definition)

Updated March 10, 2023

Efficient communication can have a direct impact on a business' profitability. Communication failures can occur when employees haven't formed alliances, but they can also present learning and growth opportunities for brands. Exploring the causes of mistakes in the professional environment can help you identify room for improvement in your own company. In this article, we describe what a communication failure is, list several examples with hypothetical situations and provide steps for avoiding workplace mishaps.

What is a communication failure?

A communication failure is an interruption of the workflow of a company. It typically emerges when employees have different objectives, which can affect how efficiently they collaborate with one another. Their incongruence internally can cause problems externally, where stakeholders, clients and consumers become impacted by the mistakes. For example, the value of products may fluctuate or supporters may decide to support competing brands. Business leaders can learn from communication failures by examining how the mistakes transpired and implementing strategies to enhancing their practices.

Communication failure examples

To better understand how communication failures materialize in the workplace, review multiple types with examples illustrating the consequences:

1. Lack of unity

A unified organization emphasizes teamwork and meaningful relationships among all employees, not just the ones who work in the same department. Togetherness enables coworkers to work toward a common goal. When employees feel distant from their counterparts that don't work in the same vicinity, the quality of their communication decreases. There may be confusion on how the functions of one team complement the output that another team delivers, and staff members may not know their colleagues although they share an employer. It can be helpful for companies to promote their objectives and coordinate group exercises that encourage deeper connections.

Example: A company has several internal divisions, including human resources, marketing and finance. Every team creates their own milestones and works independently. The HR specialists overspend on recruitment and hiring processes, and the marketers don't prioritize recruiting new talent in their campaigns. The finance managers also develop low budgets for the other departments to handle their tasks. Although the individual work endeavors have quality, the company experiences a standstill because of the lack of cohesion. The president implements a holistic business model to unify the staff members. They learn the true value of their work and support one another.

2. Surplus of information

Another instance of communication failure is delivering too much information about a topic. Employees may find it challenging to concentrate on the core message and prioritize tasks when there's a surplus of materials. If a new project is extensive, then it may be beneficial to provide summaries at the end of the instruction to remind your staff members of the important parts you want them to apply. You can also dedicate communication channels to certain types of details. For example, in-person meetings can be for urgent tasks, emails can represent private conversations and electronic chats can invite casual interactions.

Example: An organization with over 2,000 employees changes the policies in the employee handbook. To spread awareness as quickly as possible, the chief officers send several mass emails explaining the new sections. Every associate, regardless of their department or rank, receives all the messages about the changes, making it hard to identify which modifications affect their positions. After learning about the confusion, the organization entrusts managers to instruct their individual teams on how to proceed with the new handbook. Employees better understand the policies, and the information doesn't make them feel overwhelmed.

Related: Guide To Improving Team Communication in the Workplace

3. Slow response to emergencies

Emergency situations often require immediate responses. Representatives can explain the circumstances and provide a plan for the future, which can calm consumers and keep them informed. A delayed address to the public can cause misinformation to spread and affect the reputation of your company. Consumers typically pay attention to how long it takes you to make a statement and how transparent you are when acknowledging your mistakes. Consider developing a crisis communication plan to answer diligently to emergencies and keep the perception of your brand intact.

Example: A highly anticipated phone premieres on the market. Users can charge it using a wireless system, and the quality of the camera exceeds every other brand. Two weeks after its release, there are widespread reports of the phone overheating while being charged. It takes five days for the company to confirm the malfunction and make a product recall, which escalates the controversy. Representatives acknowledge the inconvenience and issue full refunds to the customers who bought the phone. Their public statements become more frequent after the situation, which helps the brand restore its reputation.

Related: How To Develop a Successful Crisis Management Plan

4. Little interaction with telecommuters

Remote employees operate in a virtual work environment, where they use the internet to submit assignments and receive instruction from their supervisors. Their absence from the physical headquarters can influence their relationships with their coworkers who work face to face. They may find it challenging to receive prompt answers to their questions, and they often rely on technology to learn about the company's activities that traditional employees may already know. If you hire telecommuters in addition to the staff who work at the office, then consider hosting video conferences to help all employees hear and see each other.

Example: A technology startup company builds a new software program for video editing. Half of the project management team physically works in the office, while the other half telecommutes. The face-to-face members change the initial plan for the user interface, but they don't consult with their remote coworkers. When it's time to troubleshoot the product, the team discovers they've been following two different objectives, so their work isn't cohesive. The project manager resolves the division by installing webcams in the office to enable telecommuters to brainstorm with their counterparts from afar. Their collaboration and work improve as they make progress.

5. Insufficient delivery

When you represent a company publicly, the delivery of your messages can influence how consumers respond. They may base their interpretations on your tone, non-verbal cues and word selection to determine if you're meeting their needs. A communication failure can occur when they perceive the brand representation differently than what you intended. Pay attention to your verbal and nonverbal communication techniques when addressing the public. For example, if you want to excite the audience about the upcoming release of a new product, then you might add cheerfulness to your voice and use more expressive mannerisms.

Example: The headquarters of a famous company sustained roof damage after a tornado. The leading officials appeared at a press conference to address how the repair of the building would impact their manufacturing processes. They jokingly stated that they're looking forward to receiving the funds from insurance agents so they can continue building expensive products. The joke and their seemingly cheerful demeanor amidst a natural disaster didn't resonate with viewers, and the company received criticism.

The chief officers released a video apologizing to the people who felt offended by their comments. They maintained they were eager to return to a sense of normalcy, where they can continue to service a community that has remained loyal to them for the past 30 years. They also announced they would donate funds to local charity organizations that were rebuilding the areas the tornado affected. Their transparency and dedication to positive change helped them renew support.

6. Overlooked writing mistake

Public written works, such as email newsletters, social media captions and press releases, can represent the organization and influence the reputation of its brand. Employees can experience communication failure when they don't proofread the material that they write. Typos can make it challenging for subscribers and customers to understand the company's message, and they can form a different impression than what the company predicted. Before publishing written content, it's essential to proofread your work for spelling and grammatical errors. You can also review your sentence structures and vocabulary to ensure you demonstrate your message clearly and engage your target audiences.

Example: An air conditioning company published a blog post titled, '5 Ways To Tell When Your Air Conditioner Needs Repair.' Content creators also designed a corresponding graphic for social media. Followers commented that the article and graphics only included four tips, not five. Since the content had gone live on multiple platforms, there was an influx of similar comments pointing out the discrepancy everywhere. The employees immediately removed the materials and uploaded the correct number of guidelines. To avoid future mishaps, they implemented a multistep approval process for several professionals to edit the written works before publication.

Related: Written Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

7. Brand misalignment

Another aspect of external communications is making sure the published content matches the company's brand. Consistency with your color schemes, logos and slogans can make it easier for prospective consumers to identify your brand over competitors. Inconsistency can interfere with how your audiences perceive the organization, which is a type of communication failure. Contemplate how you've interacted with consumers historically, and incorporate the same messaging, tone and formatting in every material you make public. While it's common for brands to change or expand their approaches over time, being faithful to their core messages can help them keep their support.

Example: A popular soda company launches an advertisement, taking a side against a controversial social issue. It becomes a trending topic on social media. Some consumers commend the company for speaking out, while others declare it was unnecessary for the brand to make a statement since soda is unrelated to the controversy. The consumers that disagreed with the stance vowed to stop buying the products.

Organizational leaders learned how to reflect the present social climate in their commercials while respecting different opinions. They educated their audience about current affairs without endorsing a particular side, allowing them to reform all of their supports to feel valued and heard, regardless of their viewpoints of the issue.

Related: What Is Brand Identity and How To Build Your Brand

How to prevent communication failures

Take these measures to avoid communication mishaps and maintain productivity in your workplace:

  1. Create an extensive plan. Whether you're releasing a campaign or launching a new product, it's important to have a plan that involves all employees. Promote teamwork to identify and fix mistakes, and explain the concepts of the plan so everyone can comprehend their responsibilities.

  2. Prioritize widespread communication. When every member of your team fully understands the objectives, the quality of their work can increase, and your projects can resonate with your target audiences. Communicate with your employees frequently and encourage conversations between departments to clarify ideas and invite innovation to the workflow.

  3. Channel the viewpoints of your consumers. Contemplate your company's brand and its products or services in the same ways as your consumers. Their expectations can impact the success of your campaigns, and you can learn how to reflect their interests and needs when you interact with them.

  4. Take responsibility for your actions. If the organization makes a mistake, then be transparent about what transpired and focus on how you can improve for the future. Show your supporters that you value accountability and are receptive to constructive criticism.


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