Sudeshna was on her third team call of the morning. Her back was aching, her eyes were burning and her concentration was wavering. But worst of all, she had serious reservations about the direction the project was taking. Yet, she couldn’t speak up because there were just too many people on the call trying to make their point.
Sudeshna’s situation is common, and has been since well before work-from-home became the norm. She’s suffering from barriers to effective communication in an organization.
In organizations large and small, it’s not always easy for communication to flow smoothly. There are many people who have fresh ideas and try to communicate various messages, sometimes all at once. There are many channels through which we send these messages, be it emails, phone calls or even face-to-face conversations. These have the potential to be misunderstood, especially if there are organizational barriers to communication.
Let’s find out more about this problem and how organizations can overcome it.
What Are Organizational Barriers?
Communication is critical to the success of any organization. And yet many struggle to grow because they don’t have good structures in place for communication. This can lead to frequent miscommunications and breakdowns in processes. The management needs to understand the importance of communication and integrate various strategies into their organizations to overcome organisational barriers of communication.
Here are the common examples of organizational barriers seen in organizations:
1. Environmental Barriers
This kind of organizational barrier includes all the physical obstacles that might affect an organization’s ability to communicate with its employees, customers or suppliers. It could even affect communication between employees too. This might be because of a noisy workplace, technological troubles, climatic factors that prevent communication or even a pandemic that stops people commuting to and from work.
2. Interpersonal Communication Barriers
This type of organizational barrier is perhaps the most common, particularly as businesses grow. Poor communication among teams can be caused by a breakdown in working relationships and can hamper a project. Some kinds of communication barriers occur occasionally, while others are more chronic. When a project is on a tight deadline, communication can suffer. This is also paradoxically when good communication matters the most.
3. Cultural Barriers
These types of organizational barriers can occur among employees who don’t understand each other’s culture or background. With organizations becoming more global, these kinds of barriers have become more common. Therefore, it’s important to make employees understand one another. It can help to have uniform values that are adopted across an organization’s locations. It’s also important for organizations to provide training for their employees so they know how to work well as part of a team, regardless of the background of its members.
4. Decision-making Barriers
Poor communication skills cause these types of hurdles among managers. This can be a big organizational barrier to communication, as teams try hard to achieve their goals. It may block them from reaching their targets because of the lack of motivation or understanding within the workforce. Therefore, it’s important to make sure everyone has enough knowledge and experience to make decisions.
5. Insecurity Within Teams
Sometimes, the lack of communication skills is a symptom of a deeper leadership problem. A lack of confidence among employees might cause it. When the team doesn’t trust the boss, its members may hesitate to speak freely, as they do not feel comfortable. For individuals to perform at their best, they need to feel secure. It’s important for organizations to resolve these examples of organisational barriers by encouraging everyone to work well together.
6. Remote Working Barriers
The pandemic forced the world into remote work mode almost overnight. While it has allowed us all to continue work through multiple lockdowns, it has also brought along with it some unique challenges. Listening is more difficult when we’ve been saturated with Zoom calls all day. Even our ability to concentrate diminishes with the number of meetings increasing in a remote environment. It’s important to understand how these issues affect us. Only then can we overcome these examples of organizational barriers to communication.
Organizational barriers to communication can be temporary or caused by deep-seated issues in a business. If they aren’t addressed in a timely manner, they can stand in the way of growth of both the business as well as the individual.
How To Overcome An Organizational Barrier
Addressing organizational barriers to communication isn’t easy, but it can be done with the right interventions. It involves taking a step back and analyzing the situation. It’s important that employees and managers receive guidance on how to communicate within an organization. Here’s how:
1. Create A Culture Of Listening
In today’s competitive business environment, everyone wants to come up with the next big idea. But real success is only possible when everyone has an equal chance of being heard. How can employees engage in communication with each other and listen to what the other person is trying to say? We can achieve it by making sure that every employee understands the importance of listening. They need to make others feel valued and important. They also need to shut out any distractions which may be affecting them from engaging with each other.
2. Have Open And Transparent Evaluation
Sometimes the cause of an organizational barrier is failing trust. If employees are hesitant to speak up, it might be because they fear the consequences of being wrong. This is a recipe for disaster. Big thinking can only thrive in a space where it’s okay to fail. Create an open system for evaluation where everyone understands their performance appraisal criteria. Be clear that they won’t be punished for speaking their minds.
3. Make Communication A Necessity
To avoid having an organizational barrier, it’s important that communication isn’t just a casual discussion between employees within the organization. It should be treated as an essential component within the organization and its systems. Having meetings for each and every event or situation may not be needed, but there are other ways in which communication can be facilitated. Anything that helps employees communicate more effectively will break down those barriers. It’ll also help them interact with each other and understand one another better.
4. Put Systems In Place
One of the surest ways to improve communication is to put a system in place. Hoping that employees are comfortable with each other and work well together isn’t enough insurance against an organizational barrier. By providing them with tools to make them engage in communication and work better together, success will follow. This could mean project management solutions and systems that build in the necessary communication, 360 degree feedback and appraisal mechanisms and town halls with top management.
Brands also need to reach out to external stakeholders. This could be in the form of social media communication, or announcements to the public about ongoing events through email and text messages. Other communication tools are also available which can help manage communication in an organization without any obstacles, such as websites, discussion forums and newsletters.
5. Unite The Vision
Make sure everyone is on board with organizational culture. The set of values, norms, attitudes and beliefs which an organization shares with its employees will get everyone on the same page. This shared organizational culture will help employees communicate easily with each other and external stakeholders as well.
6. Encourage Conflict Resolution
One of the best methods of protecting against an organizational barrier is by tackling the problem in a direct manner. For example, if barriers to communication are being caused by an individual’s personal problems or by lack of communication skills, they can be addressed on a personal level. This means that when an issue arises between two or more employees within the organization, then they can find a way to resolve it. Get them together either alone or with a manager to help thrash out the problems one on one. Conflict resolution and an open-door policy between employee and management can go a long way.
7. Consider A Flatter Hierarchy
Providing more authority and responsibility to employees will make them feel more comfortable in their work and it’ll also empower them. It’ll make them feel like they’re important to the organization and that their opinions, ideas and suggestions are welcome. This confidence makes for more seamless communication.
When communication goes wrong, it might feel like an insurmountable problem. But with a few measures, it can be addressed and brought back on track. One such step is to make sure that everyone in an organization has a chance to improve their communication skills.
Upskill To Break Down Barriers
Communication is one of the most crucial components in an organization. If communication isn’t right, then it’ll cause harm. If it’s on track, it’ll boost team morale and productivity. With Harappa’s Confident Communication Program, employees at all levels will scale the barriers that are holding them back. Written and verbal presentation skills, storytelling and active listening are some of the key soft skills they’ll unlock. Our faculty will inspire them to put their learnings into practice for a new, invigorated workforce today!
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