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What Hinders Effective Communication in the Workplace?

by Scott Morgan, studioD

Effective communication is an essential nutrient for any business. Unfortunately, the lines of communication are also fragile and can break down for several reasons. A few words misstated, misinterpreted, or misheard between colleagues and co-workers can derail a project, a promotion or a new program without anyone even knowing what went wrong until it's too late.

Say What?

Even basic words have so many meanings and so many ways to be interpreted that it's easy to misstate or misconstrue what someone means. But things can get worse when co-workers or bosses use jargon or 10-dollar words that some colleagues might not understand. Worse still is when a communique between colleagues is riddled with incorrect grammar or misplaced punctuation that changes the context of a written statement. And sometimes thick accents or mispronunciation confuse co-workers and thwart communication.


Trying to convey a message over the phone can be quite difficult when a group of co-workers is talking loudly right next to you by the break room. Likewise, trying to talk over the sound of construction or lawn maintenance machinery outside your window can be the very definition of futility. Noise not only agitates those trying to talk or hear over it, it can cause some words or thoughts to get lost in translation.

Unprofessional Appearances

Perhaps you receive a memo that's smudged or crumpled or its print is so small that you can't effectively read it. At best, your efforts to decipher the message will be time consuming; at worst, you will not understand the message at all. Neatness in presentation counts for a lot in business, and that includes the appearance and professionalism of the speaker. Someone who is unkempt, smells bad, or has irritating mannerisms might compel his colleagues to keep away and thus lose valuable messages.


A customer needs a simple question answered. But, instead of getting answers, she is sent through the telephone maze, talking to person after person until she finally gives up and stops being your customer. The very structure of a business can badly hinder communication -- and not just among your customers and clients. Colleagues on deadline, new employees and even seasoned managers can get lost in bureaucratic limbo, where valuable messages vanish forever.

About the Author

Scott Morgan is an award-winning reporter and editor who has covered central New Jersey since 2001. He has worked with the Princeton Packet Newsgroup, US 1 Publishing, "Unique Homes Magazine" and Community News Service. Morgan also serves as a professional speaker and teacher. He holds a bachelor's degree in humanities from Thomas Edison State College.

Photo Credits

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