Fixing Common Communication Barriers In The Workplace

Conflict is inevitable when a lot of people with a lot of different personalities join together in an office environment that is often highly charged with stress and pressure. While conflict cannot possibly be avoided, it can be managed effectively and communication building skills can be acquired regardless of age. A lot of common errors in communication techniques often rear their heads and the most inopportune of moments. Recognizing and dealing with this conflict head-on will limit the extent of these problems going forward and create a more positive, healthy work environment for everyone.

Communication Barrier 1 – Differences in Personality

No one’s personality is identical. Just like everyone appears different, they react to identical situations differently and these situations can be impossible to predict. Personalities often contribute to workplace conflict because our personalities often contribute to our communication techniques. Miscommunication and conversation difficulties often hinder productive communication and can cause conflict between coworkers.
Instead of trying to keep different communication techniques separate, throwing various styles together can increase the overall level of understanding and open the door to new possibilities. Create an environment of patience and tolerance where all employees feel safe to express themselves and can be heard without criticism. Differences can be difficult to overcome, but not impossible. By encouraging patience and growth, differing communication styles can come together in a cohesive unit and make the overall company performance more productive.

Communication Barrier 2 – Failure to listen

It can often be difficult to listen to someone with an opposing point of view. The first instinct is to jump in and interrupt as soon as your reach an area of difference. If interruption isn’t possible, it’s common for one person to zone out while the other person is talking and only focus on their response rather than what’s being said. Listening is imperative to growing communication in the office and creating a productive environment for growth.
To correct problems with listening, teach your employees an active listening technique. Instead of assuming or inferring meaning from what’s being said, rephrase it in a different way to make sure that you understand what’s being expressed. This way miscommunication can be avoided as much as possible and co-workers aren’t left angry or resentful that they’re not being heard.

Communication Barrier 3 – Overwhelming Pressure

Stress does nothing to increase overall communication in the workplace or anywhere else. In small increments, stress can lead to an increase in productivity. Some people feel better working under a deadline. But stress can also lead to attitudes, behavioral problems and miscommunication. Without being handled productively, stress can rip apart workplace cohesion and lead to discord which can send profitability plummeting.
Teach employees to recognize the signs of pressure and allow them to take a short break from the situation before their stress feels overwhelming or unmanageable. You don’t have to always agree with everything a co-worker says. It’s okay to disagree. Compromise is a key in workplace environments where differences of opinion can quickly spiral out of control. By remaining calm and focused and taking a break where necessary, coworkers can overcome stressful situations without taking it out on fellow employees.
While conflict may never be completely abolished from a workplace environment, communication can be improved. Above all, let your employees know that they can come to you with questions or concerns and let them know that you have an “open door” policy when unavoidable conflict arises. Take an active role in the daily patterns in the office and try to diffuse tense situations before they become volatile and require additional intervention.
The author works with communication experts and leadership speakers to improve business relationships in Fortune 500 companies. She can be found at