Cheryl A. Moore, PsyD

CEO, Prestige Countertops & Services

Barriers to CommunicationCommunication is used in organizations to coordinate actions and share information among both internal and external stakeholders. Organizations that promote good communication among leaders and employees are likely to be more effective. As leaders and managers, it is important to look at your communication efforts to determine if you are an effective communicator, or if you have room for improvement. When we consider the vast number of communication channels used today, it is easy to see where communicating effectively has become more challenging. It is important to understand barriers to communication and where they originate.

If we were to consider a simple communication chain, we would start with the communicator who has a message to send, whether it is in verbal or non-verbal form. The communicator would select a proper medium to relay this message to the receiver. The mediums used today include face-to face conversations, emails, telephone, texting, video-chats, faxes, and many more. Once the message has been transferred, it is up to the receiver to decode the message using the receiver’s thought processes that stem from his or her own previous experiences and frame of reference. The effectiveness of the communication is going to depend on the receiver decoding the message as the message was intended from the communicator. This is where feedback is so important. Feedback and two-way communication allow the opportunity for the communicator to verify that the message was received and decoded as intended.

As simple as this process seems to be, there is “noise” that can occur at anytime during this communication process. Noise can be physical, like the ringing of a phone, people talking loudly in the background, or construction work. Noise can also be an interference that ‘muddies a message’ between the sender and the receiver. Noise could be someone being too tired to really listen or give full attention to the message being conveyed, a complex or difficult language, a difference in levels of understanding, or even a cultural difference that distorts the original intent of the message. Leaders should clear the communication channel of any noise that may disrupt the meaning of the message. Clearing the channel requires the sender to recognize that there is noise in the communication channel or at the very least recognizing the possibilities.

Barriers to Communication

We also encounter various barriers that can impede our ability to communicate successfully. A few of the barriers would include filtering, emotions, information overload, time constraints, and differing perceptions.

Filtering is when the sender screens and manipulates the message before sending it to the receiver. This could occur when a subordinate sends a message upward to an authority figure. The sender does not want to send negative information, so the individual manipulates the message to make the information appear positive.

An individual’s state of feelings or emotions at a given time can also affect the way they communicate. When we are happy and relaxed, we are more likely to accept constructive criticism, whereas if we are angry and stressed, we are more apt to feel attacked or defensive and lash out at others. 

Given the number of emails, voicemails, text messages, faxes, memos, and reports we are faced with everyday it is no wonder we can be faced with information overload. 

Faced with all this information, we tend to make hasty decisions, lose creativity, and become less productive. Information overload can also be linked to physical repercussions like headaches, stress, and insomnia. 

More than ever, we are constantly being bombarded with spam messages and emails that we must filter through to determine what is purposeful and useful and what is not.

Researchers have shown that spam messages can cost U.S. organizations billions in dollars of lost productivity and IT resources to identify and filter out spam. 

Time pressures and constraints can cause us to shortcut processes and procedures. We train and setup processes and procedures for our employees, and then when we shortcut them in a way that causes individuals to be left out of the communication channel, this tends to create animosity and lower morale.

The final barrier, differing perceptions, goes back to my discussion on noise. We are all different in our thoughts, beliefs, and values. Two people can decipher the same message differently because they perceive things differently. A great example of this is the increase in the number of generations currently working in the workplace.

As we look at our industry and identify all the important communication channels we deal with daily, we can see the importance of being effective leaders and effective communicators. Our communication channels include our employees, our suppliers (like BBI), our project partners, our customers, and our finance partners to name a few. Each of the communication channels listed require us to give 100 percent recognition to our communication efforts. We always want to be mindful of practicing active listening. We do not want to be half listening and half planning our response at the same time. Take the time to hear what the other person is saying and clarify your understanding of what they said. Have you ever had a conflict in a conversation because you or the other person reacted based on what the listener thought the other person was going to say? The listener did not truly listen to what was being said and lashed out based on what they were expecting to hear. This would tie into perception errors, which would be a great next article.

Cheryl Moore is the CEO of Prestige Countertops & Services, Inc. and an Assistant Professor of Accounting at Mercyhurst University.

If you would like additional information, please email her at .