Within an organization, senders create communication messages, which will trigger feedback messages. One of the main problems with several organizations’ communication strategies is that they are built on one-way messages; do not encourage discussion. Messages can be verbal or nonverbal; written, or in person. The main barriers of communication within the organization can be environmental or personal. Environmental barriers occur when visions and missions are not aligned across the organization. Environmental barriers can also exist in external communication plans; targeting the wrong audience, negative press, or unresponsive market. Personal barriers can also be related to visions and values. If the organization is not able to successfully communicate its mission, values, and vision, employees and other stakeholders are unable to understand and share it.
Hierarchy-based, and judgmental methods of communication can also prevent messages from getting through to recipients. Patronizing and moralizing tone can create a negative impact on communication effectiveness. Showing power and sending out orders instead of discussing issues can also be a barrier. Noise can be an important factor to be considered in the model of communication plans. When the sender sends a message to the receiver and the receiver sends feedback, these communication processes can be distracted by “noise” that reduces the clarity of the message.
When designing a communication program, it is important that the right channels are selected in order to reduce the noise effecting the messages. However, when sending out a message or feedback, context also influences the effectiveness of the communication. “Noise”, according to Dixon & O’Hara (2011) can be psychological (bias and stereotypes), semantic (distorted messages), environmental (location, setting), demographic (gender and age value differences), based in disability, or organizational (lack of meeting arrangements, resources, established means of communication).
In order to overcome the barriers of communication, managers need to develop advanced listening skills. The main barriers of listening, according to Dixon & O’Hara (2011, p. 10) can be forming judgment, or being inattentive. Having an open mind is essential to developing good listening skills. Further, non-verbal messages can improve or reduce the effectiveness of communication programs. Feedback should never be given in an authoritative manner; it needs to be constructive and based on common values and goals. Questioning skills are also important when seeking feedback from employees or stakeholders about the image, service, performance, or general productivity of the organization as a unit.
Guo & Sanchez (2009, p. 90) recommend the following steps to overcome the barriers of effective communication programs: reducing hierarchy, devoting time for listening, enabling the free flow of communication, understanding others’ beliefs, developing skills of empathy, and using multiple channels of communication to reinforce important messages.
As a conclusion, it is evident that ensuring that communication within the organization is not based on hierarchy and differentiation, but aligning visions and goals. Relating to employees’ and stakeholders’ values and implementing them in the communication strategy can reduce the barriers and make the program more effective. Further, creating a routine and inclusive setting for regular communication, reinforcing messages can help the organization overcome the barriers of creating an effective communication program.
Dixon, T. & O’Hara, M. (2011) Communication skills. Routeledge.
Guo, K. & Sanchez, Y. (2009) Workplace Communication. In: Borkowski, N. (ed) Organizational Behavior, Theory, and Design in Health Care. Jones & Bartlett Learning.