‘Communication Problems’ in the Workplace Might Be Caused by Something Else

The following is a guest post by Tiffany Rowe. Tiffany is a Marketing Administrator at Seek Visibility, where she assists clients in contributing resourceful content throughout the web.


Human beings’ ability to communicate unique and complex ideas is what sets us apart from the birds and beasts. When communication breaks down so does organization and productivity. In no situation is this more apparent than in the workplace, when poor communication between co-workers, between leaders and teams, and between the business and clients foretells low profits, slow growth, and potential failure.

Frequently, we blame issues with communication on undeveloped skills, and we send those lacking communication abilities to enhancement programs – or to the firing squad. However, lack of skill is not the only cause of communication problems. Instead of immediately assuming you have an inept workforce, you might consider the following causes of poor communication and address them first.

Attitude Toward Employer and Workplace

The same region of the brain that controls motivation and determination to act also governs emotional response. Feelings often impact whether we engage with our surroundings and communicate effectively or whether we separate ourselves and fail to correspond. Thus, a poor attitude toward their workplace could easily impact employees’ ability or willingness to communicate, creating problems that impact productivity.

Unfortunately, this region of the brain is not well-connected to the regions governing introspection. As a result, we often cannot accurately explain why we feel the way we do. When asked how they feel about their employer, most employees can answer positively or negatively with certainty, but when asked for the reasons behind their attitude, employees might or might not be able to generate the correct answer.

As a business leader, you must be proactive about addressing possible sources of unease or aversion in the workforce. By asking for frequent feedback and – more importantly – listening to what workers say, you might be able to eliminate causes of poor attitudes and enhance communication and cooperation in your workplace. It is possible, but much more difficult, to identify and eliminate communication-inhibiting feelings after they develop, so the sooner you can improve your team’s emotional state, the better.

Systems Facilitating Communication Between Parties

In the Digital Age, most communication passes through some technology before reaching correspondents. In many cases, technology enhances communication, allowing people to reach one another regardless of time or space. However, technology is not infallible, and often, it is to blame for failures of communication.

Everyone has endured unsent emails, terminated calls, internet outages, and similar disruptions of the technology we rely on to communicate. In the workplace, when technology downtime occurs, employees cannot communicate in the manners they are accustomed to. Rather than seeking other means of sending messages, most will wait until their tech is back online. Unfortunately, this leaves hours of no communication, during which clients, contractors, co-workers, and others are disconnected and confused.

The best way to prevent this source of communication problems is to maintain reliable technology services. For example, Cisco Unified Communications Solutions is committed to reducing downtime with better tools and more accessible service. Additionally, you should have an appropriate response plan to help your workers remain productive and connected even during a technology outage. This plan should address both internal and external communications, as both are necessary for the proper functioning of a business.

Personal Conditions Affecting Performance

Sometimes, issues like ill-health of the employee or a family member will prevent a worker from effectively communicating in the workplace. Nearly half of all employees have experienced personal problems that have affected their performance at work, and at least 16 percent of these have struggled with absenteeism as a result of their personal issues. Undoubtedly, not being at work thwarts one’s ability to communicate.

Personal struggles are significant challenges for business leaders. On one hand, every worker is responsible for helping (or hurting) the bottom line, but on the other hand, you cannot expect every employee to neglect their personal lives for the sake of their jobs. If you believe a member of your team is communicating poorly due to a personal crisis, you must tread lightly.

Ideally, your organization has an employee assistance program that can help workers sort through personal issues and remain productive in the workplace. However, if your business is small, you might need to address your worker’s crisis-impacted performance head-on. First, you should be certain that workplace conditions are not causing or influencing your employee’s issues. Then, you should avoid asking for details about the crisis while providing access to resources that may help. It is a balancing act between compassion and fairness, but for the sake of effective communication, you must walk it.

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