Barriers to Communication

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Strong communication skills in the workplace foster a positive work environment, enhance job satisfaction and contribute to the creation of high-functioning teams. More than anything else, effective workplace communication facilitates the efficient completion of projects and builds positive bonds between coworkers. Even the most skilled leaders and communicators, however, can encounter barriers. Generally speaking, barriers to communication in the workplace are anything that prevent or cause persons to misconstrue the effective delivery of messages between employees and leadership within a company or organization. Breakdowns in communication are problematic to workplace productivity, damaging to professional relationships, and can make daily responsibilities difficult to perform. In this module, you will learn to identify typical barriers to communication in the workplace and review strategies to use in resolving them.


Activity #1

Take the self-assessment below to learn more about your communication style.


Reflect on what you learned from this assessment and how it impacts your ability to communicate with others in the workplace. Think about the barriers that your communication style could effectively combat or create.


Activity #2

Take a look at the video below and ask yourself what communication barrier(s) you would like to improve upon and the strategies you will use to make that happen.

Video: Communication Barriers (1:08)


Activity #3

Review some of the common workplace communication barriers listed below and ask yourself the questions listed after each section.


Typical Workplace Communication Barriers

Communication barriers affect the ability of individuals to perform job duties, complicate workplace relationships, and impact overall team performance. In the section below, you will learn how to identify communication obstacles as the first step to resolution. Common barriers to communication in the workplace environment and their causes are listed below.


Emotional Barriers (people just can’t relate/don’t care/mistrust/are fearful about what you are saying)

Professionals communicate differently based on individual needs, strengths, and backgrounds. One individual may be very direct and concise in their verbiage, while another needs more time to get their message across and prefers to provide many details. Some people rely on visual stimulus and gestures, while others are keen on the use of tone and facial expressions. These variations can create communication obstacles when people with diverse communication styles are unaware of and don’t recognize the needs of the other party.

How to complete these activities and save your work: Type your responses to the questions in the box below. When you are done answering the question navigate to the ‘Export’ page to download and save your response. If you prefer to work in a Word document offline you can skip right to the Export section and download a Word document of this exercise there.


Language Barriers (is there a common language? Is it English? Is everyone able to understand the language/words? Are you using jargon?)

When someone’s primary language differs from your own, you may have trouble understanding one another. Idiomatic phrases or expressions, where the actual meaning differs from what is literally said, do not translate well among languages and cause misunderstandings. Having a multicultural and multilingual work culture is extremely beneficial, though it is necessary to be mindful of clear communication.


Cultural Barriers (could there be barriers due to cultural differences, such as viewpoints on authority?)

Cultures form the foundation of how we view the world and dictate much of our behavior and mannerisms. Because the guiding principles of cultures vary, they create cultural barriers that can impede people from understanding one another. In some cultures, it is disrespectful to touch the hand of a stranger, while in others it is standard practice and polite to shake hands when meeting. One culture may consider strong eye contact a sign of aggression and disrespect, while another views consistent eye contact as a sign of interest and engagement in a conversation. The different connotations of these behaviours, if not recognized, can create conflicts among coworkers.


Physical Barriers (can everyone attend the meetings? Is everyone included? Is the environment/geography accessible for all?)

Hearing impairments, speech impediments, visual impairments, or other physical or mental differences can act as communication barriers, can cause difficulty in performing daily tasks, and can complicate teamwork. It is important to have support built into the work environment and to educate all employees about the communication modifications and strategies available to create an inclusive and productive atmosphere.



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Leadership for Nurses in Clinical Settings Copyright © 2022 by Dr. Kirsten Woodend, Dr. Catherine Thibeault, Dr. Manon Lemonde, Dr. Janet McCabe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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