14 Things That Affect Communication in Organizations


Barriers to effective organizational communication refer to all forms of impediments that may hinder the successful flow of communication in the organization.

And it is believed that if communication is impeded, the workflow in the organisation will be affected and if the organisation is affected, the income of the organisation will be affected and if the income of the organisation is affected, the workers and employees will be affected.

A number of barriers can retard or distort effective communication. Some of these barriers are discussed below.

1. Language

Words mean different things to different people. Age, education and cultural background are three of the variables that can influence the language a person uses and the definitions he gives to words.

In an organization, employees come from diverse backgrounds and this can have effect on the use and understanding of language.

Even where all employees speak a common language like English, the interpretation can lead to language barrier.

The English word “family”, for example, may be interpreted differently based on the individual’s background. In the United Kingdom or United States, “family” refers to one’s immediate parents or one’s wife and children.

In Africa and certain European and Latin American countries, however, “family” refers to one’s immediate parents plus aunties and uncles and grandparents and cousins.

One should also not forget that technical jargons can mean different things. Senders tend to assume that the words and terms they choose mean the same to the receiver as they do to them.

2. Selective perception

This refers to a situation where people selectively interpret what they see or hear on the basis of their interest, background, experience and attitude.

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Selective perception allows people to “speed read” others, but not without the risk of drawing inaccurate conclusions.

 3. Information overload

Information overload is a condition by which information inflow exceeds an individual’s processing capacity.

When there is too much information, the result is less effective communication-this is because individuals will select out, ignore, pass over or forget information.

4. Emotion

Emotion refers to how a person feels at the time of receipt of a piece of information.

How a person feels will influence how information is interpreted. Extreme emotions such as jubilations or depression are most likely to hinder effective communication.

5. Noise

Noise is anything that distracts the attention of the sender or receiver from receiving information.

Physical, psychological, technical or social noise is any form of noise that can be created in the communication process which impedes the effective transmission communication.

6. Environment factors

The environment within which communication takes place can have an effect on the effectiveness of the process. A telephone call from a crowded market centre or from a moving vehicle on a busy motorway would obviously suffer from the effect of noise.

Similarly, factors such as distance, room temperature, colour and the immediate physical environment can all affect the effectiveness of the process.

To achieve success, it is the sender’s duty to endeavour to eliminate all environment factors which in his opinion could have a negative impact on the communication process.

7. Filtering

This refers to a situation where a sender purposely manipulates information, so that it will be seen more favourably by the receiver.

For example, when a manager tells his boss what he (the boss) wants to hear. Factors such as fear of conveying had news and desire to please one’s boss often lead communication to filter information.

8. Cultural differences

As a matter of reality, individuals in one social group may have different norms, values or behaviours that vary from individuals in another social group.

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Hence, cultural differences and, for that matter, communication difficulties will emerge as soon as communicators encounter each other.

9. Lack of feedback

Most communicators find it difficult to communicate their responses back to the original sender of information.

When this happens, communication ineffectiveness will emerge because the sender might not know whether the message has been received and fully understood.

10. Unclear objective

This is a situation where the sender is unsure or unclear about the objective(s) of the message which he is encoding.

Ambiguity and/or lack of clarity will result in communication breakdown as the receiver is unlikely to respond as expected.

11. Meaning of words

Whereas the sender may choose words with a certain and clear meaning in mind, the words in actual fact may connote some other meaning as far as the receiver is concerned.

When this happens, the sender and the receiver are at cross purpose as they both have different meanings of the message. Connotative meaning can also arise as a result of one’s experiences, opinions, emotional status and interests.

In order to obtain shared meaning required for words used, the sender should analyse the message being sent to be able to determine what likely connotations could as a result of use of certain words.

12. Wrong timing

Timing of the message as noted earlier can be critical to the success of the communication process. In our traditional West African setting, the elders consider the very early hours of the day as the best period for the discussion of very important issues.

This obviously is because of the possibility of having the recipient’s full attention at such a time and thereby enhancing the effectiveness of the process.

13. Capability of the receiver

Physical disabilities of recipient will have an obvious effect on the extent to which the recipient appreciates the intended meaning of a message. Hearing difficulties, for example, are obvious situations will constitute a barrier.

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It is important that the sender is able to take the receiver’s capability into consideration in order to ensure effective communication.

14. Pre-judgement

Past experiences, perceptions, anxiety and the state of expectancy of one’s mind are likely to constitute a barrier.

One major cause of a message not achieving the intended objective is that the receiver would, most of the time; hear what he wants to hear.

Where a person’s mind is made up about an issue, it is possible for that person to have an appreciation of the implications of the message that is based on his own judgement but which is different from the intended and/or actual meaning of the message.

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