In a world of Zoom calls, midnight emails and endless Teams messages, the point of communication can often get lost.
Technological factors aside, how people interact with each other can also impair communication in the workplace. For instance, a midsize organization with several hundred employees can observe interpersonal barriers to communication.
Team meetings may be disrupted because employees don’t get along, brainstorming sessions can lead to no outcomes if people are too shy to speak up or someone who’s new may not participate at all.
An organization is built on the relationships formed. Teammates, seniors and mentors build trust-rich relationships that factor into goal setting and subsequent achievement.
But there are times when these relationships crumble or there’s no interdependence. In that case, an organization’s communication can suffer from interpersonal barriers.
What Is The Meaning Of Interpersonal Barriers?
Communication is one of the most essential workplace skills in the modern professional world. Whether it’s spoken or written, communication helps employees and managers convey important messages, updates and information.
Information sharing is key at work, especially when it’s a high-stakes environment. Whether it’s managers communicating with employees, peer-to-peer communication or group meetings, there’s a lot at stake. Employers need to establish proper controls and a positive environment to encourage smooth and easy communication.
But what happens when communication channels are disrupted because of how employees get along with each other?
Barriers to effective interpersonal communication occur when employees are too afraid to reach out to their team leaders or if open communication isn’t encouraged. Relationships that help employees get the work done also impact communication. For instance, if two employees don’t see eye to eye, they’ll likely avoid communicating with each other. In this case, if they have to work on a project or send a memo to each other, they can take days or completely overlook this. This can cause the turnaround time on a project to be longer than ideal.
Interpersonal barriers are very common in the workplace. New recruits may be too shy to participate in important meetings. There can be managers who dominate the conversation, discouraging others from speaking at all. The reason might be a person’s individual qualities or the general environment in an organization. Leaders need to be mindful of establishing protocols that support an open and honest communication network.
Communication barriers can hamper the way organizations do business. From affecting day-to-day business to larger operations, interpersonal barriers can be potent. It’s important to recognize and correct them in a timely manner.
Common Interpersonal Barriers To Communication
There are several barriers to communication that include technological, organizational and emotional barriers. Each of these can impact how communication occurs in the workplace. Whether it’s a colleague who’s difficult to get along with or a manager who doesn’t follow an open-door policy, communication can be hampered quite easily.
Examples of interpersonal barriers in communication are:
1. Excessive Technical Jargon
If the manager in the product team is sharing an email with a sales associate, the use of jargon can make the messaging incomprehensible. It can also create a wall between the two employees. The sales associate may find it hard to express their confusion while the product manager might assume the message was successfully sent. The message eventually gets lost in translation with no one seeking clarification or acknowledging it. Jargon can act as a roadblock to effective communication.
2. Lack Of Trust Among Team Members
Team building is important for a successful organization. However, a lack of trust in teams can create interpersonal barriers in communication. For instance, if employees don’t trust their peers to deliver the work, they’ll prefer doing it themselves. Delegation also comes with a slice of trust and responsibility. Teams need to have the right mindset and approach to collaboration if they want to improve communication. If there are conflicts between team members, they need to be resolved in a timely way. This can save organizations a lot of trouble.
3. Lack Of Active Listening Skills
Communication isn’t just speaking or writing well. A critical aspect of effective communication is active listening. It means listening well enough to engage in an interesting conversation, asking follow-up questions and registering what the speaker has to say. Lack of active listening skills can cause a rift among employees. For instance, if someone’s sharing their ideas but no one’s paying attention, it can offend them. This can even deter them from participating or speaking up in future meetings or events.
4. Absence Of Control Over The External Environment
Between the speaker and listener or the sender and receiver of a message, there are several factors that can impair communication. The external environment is dynamic. If one employee is in the office while the other is at home, it can affect interpersonal communication. The person working from home may be unavailable for a meeting or the person in office may have too much background noise.
5. Filtering Messages Across Levels And Functions
The kind of organizational structure in an office can impact communication in many ways. For instance, if it’s a hierarchical work environment, employees may be reluctant to reach out to their seniors. They may only be taking directions instead of collaborating or working together with everyone. This can cause them to avoid group meetings and calls. They can even be too shy to present their ideas and opinions.
Interpersonal barriers, if not addressed, can affect the way organizations function. Good communication is critical in giving employees feedback, setting goals and sharing the organization’s vision. Interpersonal communication barriers have the ability to significantly disrupt the workflow.
How To Overcome Interpersonal Barriers To Communication
Barriers to communication can be countered and fixed with proper training and development efforts. The modern workplace dictates the need for a fully-functioning growth-led employee learning journey. New employees with a year of experience or experienced ones with ten years of experience can benefit from an in-depth learning path that helps them improve their communication and collaboration skills.
Here are some ways to overcome interpersonal barriers:
1. Communication Skill Development
Employees are always learning on the job. Even if they’re skilled at what they do, there’s always a learning curve. Similarly, communication skills can also be developed and improved with proper training. Organizations can sign their teams up for online skills training programs. These can help them identify their strengths and weaknesses, improve areas they need more work on and practice communication drills to overcome barriers.
2. Team Building Initiatives
Interpersonal relationships are the lifeblood of any thriving organization. Employees who get along are far more effective in achieving larger goals. Team building is the key to creating this collaborative and interpersonal environment. Group activities, social events and cross-functional work opportunities are some ways organizations can encourage teamwork. This will help teams overcome interpersonal barriers of communication.
3. Establishing Proper Channels Of Communication
Another way communication barriers can be overcome is by establishing proper channels of communication. Some employees may be more active on email while others may use informal messaging to communicate important information. A streamlined, singular communication platform can help employees stay updated. Shared calendars can also help employees update each other on what needs to be done, the progress of work and request for support, if needed. Tracking and recording essential information is essential to revisit historical data. This also makes everyone feel like a part of the team.
4. Implementing Regular Feedback Cycles
Interpersonal skills between a senior and junior can be improved with regular feedback systems. For instance, a manager may have some feedback for their employee. The way they deliver their feedback is more important than the feedback itself. A regular feedback cycle helps both employees and managers talk about work, what needs improvement and what was done well. Appreciation in the workplace goes a long way in encouraging employees to stick around. It’ll in turn help managers build rapport with their teams, improve interpersonal relationships. If there’s trust and support added to a feedback cycle, it can turn things around for workplace communication.
Organizations have a responsibility toward their employees just as much as employees have a responsibility toward their employer. A nurturing and healthy work environment is what employees need to thrive. For this, overcoming interpersonal barriers to communication is of the essence. So, how can organizations invest their resources in employee development?
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