Career Development

7 Common Communication Problems and How to Address Them

December 2, 2020

Communication is the building block of every great organization. How an organization communicates both internally and externally directly represents the business as a whole, including its reputation. Even with appropriate communication measures in place, problems still occur. In this article, we discuss some of the most common communication problems that arise in the workplace and offer advice on how to address them.

Why is communication important?

Employers that invest time and energy into establishing clear methods of communication build trust among employees. Strong trust between employees and employers leads to increased morale and overall productivity. Teams work together more efficiently and managers are more transparent about upcoming changes that impact their teams. Instead of working their way through the chain of command, when an employee needs an issue addressed, they send a direct message to the appropriate party, gaining a fast response.

Related: 4 Communication Styles in the Workplace

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Communication methods

Here are several methods and mediums used for communication in the modern workplace:

  • Video messaging
  • Direct messaging
  • Email
  • In-person

Video messaging

Video messaging allows for employees or teams anywhere across the globe to instantly connect. Organizations use video messaging applications for better communication with long-distance or remote employees. Because the applications show individuals through video, they're often preferred over phone calls. If you must share sensitive information with a distant individual, video conferencing provides a more personal and private meeting in comparison to a phone call.

Direct messaging

Some organizations provide instant messaging applications to their employees. These applications allow individuals to directly message each other throughout the day, making organizational communication easier and more efficient. Most of these applications allow for both one-on-one communication and group conversation. Additionally, these applications provide real-time conversations without the delay of email replies.

Email

Email involves the sending and receiving of communication through a virtual inbox. Most organizations use email for both internal and external communication. Once sent, you cannot edit or alter emails in any way, necessitating thorough editing on each message. Many email applications come with additional tools such as shared meeting calendars, address books and more that further support communicative efforts.

In-person

In-person communication involves speaking with one or more individuals face-to-face. Depending on the context, in-person communication often holds more value than digital communication. For example, when speaking in-person, no one hides behind a computer screen. This often encourages more honest communication. Additionally, through in-person communication, all parties communicate with each other directly without delay or the reliance of technology.

Communication problems

This list outlines some of the most common communication problems in the workplace along with how to address them:

  • Cultural differences
  • Attitude
  • Lack of motivation
  • Listening skills
  • Written communication quality
  • Appropriate communication tools
  • Oversharing

Cultural differences

Modern workplaces are often more diverse than ever before, especially those businesses that work with international clients or employees. For successful cohesion and teamwork, managers devise new and engaging solutions to bring individuals of varying backgrounds together. Opt for team building activities and organize each team with individuals who normally don't work together and those with different cultural backgrounds.

Additionally, host a cultural differences training session. This educates employees on how to be more sensitive to cultural differences in the workplace. Beyond behavior, other areas that impact cultural differences in the workplace include:

  • Desktop wallpapers
  • Newsletter and email copy
  • Desk or office decorations

Consider what ideas, items or other non-essential objects within the workplace may be culturally offensive. Ensure all team members actively consider these differences as well.

Read more: 14 Communication Strategies to Overcome Communication Barriers in the Workplace

Attitude

An individual's ego and attitude often inhibit teamwork and other initiatives in the workplace if not properly addressed. For example, an individual might speak over another working in meetings or refuse to lose an argument when the other individual is right. Alleviating attitude and ego requires more listening to those team members most affected by it.

Consider their experience and how it affects their work. If you see attitude and ego appear within a meeting, a conversation or other area of the workplace, stand firm against them and communicate that there is a better way to handle the situation than with their current attitude.

Lack of motivation

Some businesses experience a downturn in productivity due to a lack of motivation from their employees. A lack of general interest or motivation often stems from how strong communication with employees is or how they're treated by management. Talk to and engage with team members. Discover if any hidden problems impact their performance. Once you understand what the problem is, address it as needed or refer them to another member of the organization who can help.

Listening skills

Listening skills allow you to better understand or empathize with what someone said rather than simply hearing them. Stress the importance of active listening throughout the organization. If necessary, host a workshop in which employees learn more about the importance of listening and how to improve their listening skills.

Written communication quality

Organizations use a wide variety of communication methods and mediums to relay messages. Examples include newsletters, emails, corporate software and more. Ensure your copy is well-written and free of grammatical errors. Let other team members read all written correspondences before sending them. Allowing others to check your work increases the chances of finding and correcting even the smallest errors.

Read more: 11 Writing Strategies for Effective Communication

Appropriate communication tools

Depending on the message, in-person communication is often more effective than over the phone or through email. Understanding when to use those varying methods of communication is essential to the success of the overall communication of a business. Email works best for non-sensitive information. Video calls are often most effective in handling a complex situation that already caused the spread of misinformation. When delivering sensitive information, choose an in-person approach within a private setting such as an office.

Oversharing

While transparency works well for most organizations, the concept of oversharing still requires temper. Oversharing leads to gossip or the exchange of sensitive or inappropriate information. Consider the need and importance of confidentiality within the workplace. For example, hold meetings regarding sensitive information within a private and secure office, refrain from including confidential information within an email and discourage gossip or other inappropriate communication as necessary.