How to Address Poor Communication in the Workplace

A business’s success is partially determined by the effectiveness of its internal communications. Poor communication must be addressed quickly or else it can result in negative outcomes. Establishing successful communication learning strategies is the key to eradicating poor communication. 


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What is poor communication in the workplace?

Poor communication often occurs when there is a discrepancy between what is said and what is heard. In other words, the person being communicated to misunderstands what you’re communicating to them. Understanding is no longer mutual.


Overall, good communication is the effective sharing of information, meaning, thoughts and feelings between people. When communication is effective, a communicator is able to express themselves in a comprehensible manner, and the person they are communicating with understands what they intend them to. 


What causes poor communication in the workplace? 

The following are some of the causes of poor communication in the workplace:


  • Unconfirmed understanding: When communicating with another person, you should ask questions to make sure that they have clearly understood you. It is important for you to check comprehension every during a conversation.
  • Poor communication skills: Written communication can cause misunderstanding because there is a lack of non-verbal cues to strengthen communication. Vagueness, multiple interpretations and improper grammar can all impede good written communication. Good written communication in the workplace is grammatically correct, unambiguous, precise and professional.
  • Lack of clear objectives: Employees need to have expectations communicated to them clearly and in detail. Objectives should be measurable and easily assessed. When employees have tangible goals, they can easily assess their performance and seek to improve when necessary.
  • Insufficient leadership: Leaders need to clearly communicate objectives, goals and future visions. Poor leaders may lack the ability or training to answer certain questions that a team may have, leading to workplace frustration. Good leaders have the self-confidence to answer questions or seek out the necessary resources when they are uncertain of the answers.
  • Fear of punishment: Employees may withhold key information from employees because they fear that their honesty could have negative consequences. When leaders have a transparent communication style and explicitly value honesty, employees will feel comfortable being vulnerable around them.
  • Gossip: When rumors start to spread it can cause people to believe inaccurate information. It is best to keep employees updated with current information to quell the spread of rumors.
  • Remote communication: In the modern world, a lot of workplace communication is occurring over the Internet through messaging software and email. Without an in-person conversation, sometimes what is being communicated can get lost in translation.

What are the effects of poor communication? 

Poor communication can have lasting effects on workplace productivity and performance. Here are just some of the ways that poor communication can affect the workplace:


  • Unpredictable work environment: Poor communication can cause a lack of predictability and stability within the workplace, leading to an uneasy environment. 
  • Low morale: When there is poor communication, employees may have a harder time meeting expectations and catching up when they get behind on projects. This could leave them with a sense of guilt, embarrassment or low self-esteem. Low workplace morale must be addressed immediately so that employees can maintain a healthy work-life balance.
  • Missed deadlines: When expectations are clearly communicated, deadlines are not missed, projects are not delayed and work is finished as efficiently as possible. Employees need to know what work to prioritize in order to get things done efficiently. 
  • Workplace conflict: When tensions are high due to the effects of poor communication, a conflict between employees may arise. Good communication prevents workplace conflict from arising in the first place.

How to improve communication in the workplace

Follow these steps to improve communication between all your employees:


  1. Develop a straightforward onboarding process. Develop a training program with easily accessible documents and videos so employees can review them if they have any questions. Make your company culture easy to understand with clear guidelines for how employees can embody and support organizational values. Your onboarding process should be social so that employees get the chance to ask any questions and form meaningful connections.
  2. Make expectations clear and measurable. Employee expectations are measurable goals that outline steps to follow for success. Regularly meet with employees to assess their performance and give feedback.
  3. Consider using social intranet software. Social intranet software streamlines employee communications allowing for more efficient business processes. They give employees the power to share ideas and connect freely in a transparent environment.
  4. Develop an open-door policy. Sometimes employees can feel intimidated approaching their boss especially when leadership discourages such conversations. Having an open-door policy will allow your employees to feel comfortable approaching superiors. This will help clear up any confusion that may arise when executing business processes.
  5. Make sure resources and internal documents are easily accessible. Make sure that the all resources that employees need are easily available. Freely sharing information is essential to efficiently answer questions and clear up the confusion. When information is available freely, employees will not need to ask their superiors for help.
  6. Consider creating an internal newsletter. An internal company newsletter is a great way to share news and information quickly to everyone in an organization.

FAQs about poor workplace communication

Below, we answer some frequently asked questions related to the topic of poor workplace communication:


Can good communication be learned?

Though some people are naturally better communicators than others, good communication can be practiced and learned. For example, there are classes they can teach you active listening to help you to focus on conversations, understand what is said and commit information to memory. Developing a workplace communication learning program can help each employee to be a more effective communicator.


Can you measure communication in the workplace?

Soft skills such as communication can be measured and assessed. One way to easily measure how well people are communicating in the workplace is to survey your employees. Their responses will help you to identify if your core message is being transmitted effectively.


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