Adequate communication that is clear to each party is an absolute must for any business or organization – but problems in this area are sometimes unavoidable.Communication becomes particularly relevant at a time when it is increasingly common to have employees on remote contracts who perform their duties from different locations and exchange information mainly in written form through various types of channels. Today, we’ll take an in-depth look at the reasons why communication breakdowns in organizations happen, and then we’ll also show the kind of impact they may have.
Communication breakdown in organizations – table of contents:
What is the communication breakdown?
Communication breakdown in an organization refers to a disruption in the flow of information that leads to a variety of difficulties. It can occur between different hierarchical levels, departments, teams or even units working together – in virtually any company, no matter what industry it operates in. Most often, it takes the form of distortion, inaccuracy or lack of clarity in the conveyed messages, which significantly impedes communication. As a result, all sorts of errors and misunderstandings can arise – both simpler to resolve and with the potential to exalted into serious conflicts both internally and externally.
Causes of communication breakdown
Communication breakdowns can occur between different people (co-workers, employee-supervisor or organization-external partner), within any possible topic or at all levels. Most often there are 3 reasons behind it, which we list below.
- Lack of adequate communication skills
- Insufficient channels of communication
- Cultural differences
Miscommunication occurs primarily in situations where there are gaps in communication skills among employees. If the sender is unable to express his or her thoughts or convey information or expectations in a way that the recipient can understand, this can lead to misunderstandings and errors. Unclear instructions, vague goals or a lack of clarity make employees perform tasks inconsistently with their intentions, or even – unable to understand the expectations and needs of the organization. If such a situation has for a long time, it can wreak havoc in the company.
Communication problems can also occur when an organization lacks adequate communication means or the existing ones are ineffective and do not provide a full flow of information. If an organization does not have a well-developed communication structure in which the transfer of information is carried out efficiently and without hindrance, there can undoubtedly be bottlenecks in the flow of information. Lack of regular meetings, insufficient communication tools or excessive paperwork can result in important information not reaching the people who need it promptly.
This reason has become particularly important in recent years when we are increasingly dealing with multicultural teams in organizations. The leader of a team consisting of people of different cultures or nationalities must be aware of the differences between them and make sure that the communication is understood by everyone in the same way. In addition, effective understanding between employees can also be hindered by psychological differences such as communication styles or communication preferences (verbal, written, etc.) – this fact should also be taken into account.
Consequences of communication breakdown
The most serious negative results of communication breakdown in organizations should be considered delays in completing tasks – especially those that are linked to external business partners and can even lead to a break in cooperation (if superiors fail to defuse the situation) or that are linked to customers and backfire on them. Similarly, an extremely harsh consequence can be the unfair dismissal of an employee for making a mistake as a result of improper communication. Other consequences of communication breakdown are:
- Interpersonal conflicts that translate into a lack of trust in the team or a growing reluctance to cooperate,
- An increase in the stress level of individual employees,
- A decrease in motivation to work translates into lower productivity,
- Possible financial losses (also wasting the resources you have and the emergence of additional costs that could be avoided),
- Negative external image if the company’s problems reach the public.
Communication breakdown – summary
Given the various types of consequences of communication breakdown in an organization indicated above, companies in various industries need to invest in effective communication. They should do so in two areas in particular: in terms of both implementing an appropriate communication infrastructure and developing communication skills in their employees (e.g. with the help of various types of training, including plain language). This is the only way to ensure that information is communicated in the right way – whether between members of the same team or between departments or different levels of the hierarchy.