Communication Problem within the Workplace
The working environment is a place where relationship among employees is highly valued. The occurrence of problems in the workplace that are related to the ineffective communication or disruption in the communication process is inevitable. Hence, communication is a crucial factor to organizational success. An efficient and effective communication between the members of the organization enhances professionalism, productivity, and better working relationships.
Communication is one of the common problems of businesses. It is becoming a barrier to the success of businesses. Poor communication may involve interpersonal conflict, misunderstanding among employees, and conflict between executives and subordinates. Poor communication is also affecting the other aspects of the business such as productivity, quality of the products and services, and formation of diversity in the workplace. The types and causes of poor and ineffective communication greatly contribute to how communication is going to affect the workplace environment (Smith). For instance, difficulties resulting from communication problems, such as ineffective relationships and inefficient flow of messages from supervisors and subordinates are detrimental to business operations. Nevertheless, communication problems are dilemmas that are quite easy to solve. There are people who are not born communicators but they can easily learn the art of communication (Smith). This paper aims to determine the causes of communication problems within the workplace.
Scarcity in Information
In some workplaces, employees find it difficult to obtain pertinent information that they need to carry out their jobs. This may be attributed to companies that purposefully withhold information from their employees or are unaware that their employees require such information. Consequently, the workers search for the information that they need from external sources. This particular communication dilemma occurs because people who are holding the information are unaware of the situation and the state of the knowledge deficit (Harlig). For example, it was reported that there are companies that do not provide information on how to use computer software programs as they expect that the employees already know them. Handling software applications can be quite complicated. Thus, when employees do not know how the applications work, it could greatly affect their production (Harlig).
It is undeniable that there are people who are good in expressing themselves and their thoughts in a manner that people would most likely understand. Their style encourages other people to listen. Problems arise when people judge other by the way they speak and not by the content of their message. Through the manner of speaking, people may encounter difficulties in understanding the message of others who employ a communication style that is different from theirs. People may also come to believe the things about another person’s character and motive based on his or her communication style (Harlig). Consequently, people make assumptions regarding other people’s personality and behavior. However, these assumptions may be incorrect and may become barriers to a successful and effective interaction. An example of this dilemma is the formulation of assumptions by some employees regarding other employees. Employees judge people through the manner of their speaking, and when they do not like another employee’s accent or manner of speaking, they assume that they will not get along with him or her.
It is true that men and women differ in terms of how they communicate. The differences do not merely lie on the message they send but also on how they act while conveying the message (Harlig). There is a difference in the actions that men and women do while conversing with others. For instance, most men sit in manner that they take more space than women. This particular action reflects their domineering nature. Most men also do not interrupt when someone is speaking; they just let the person to finish before they give out their reactions. Most women, on the other hand, sit in a prim and proper manner which depicts their femininity and suggests their few contributions to the discussion. Women also would like to hear simple utterances such as “uhm,” “uh huh,” etc. to be reassured of being understood by their audience.
The serious conflict among male and female employees occurs in the workplace when female employees do not respond appropriately to the orders of their male supervisors. Another problem is when male supervisors tend to dominate their female co-workers bearing the same position due to the manner by which the latter convey their message (Harlig). Such instances lead to misunderstanding and even hostility between the male and female employees. This may become a hindrance to the fulfillment of their duties and responsibilities.
Native Language Differences
At present, the huge part of the U.S. labor force consists of people from various nations who migrated to the U.S. As a result, the number of workers who belong to other nationalities increased (Harlig). Some of these people have low proficiency in English. Thus, the difference in language hinders effective communication and that may lead to severe problems in the workplace.
The increase of non-American employees in the workplace also brought about cultural diversity in the working environment. Thus, a company that consists of people from various cultures tends to have problems in communication among its employees, as they experience difficulties in understanding the actions and attitude of people with a different culture. Hence, it is highly important to manage cultural diversity in the workplace in order to establish unity and resolve other problems resulting from it (Harlig).
A particular example of this communication problem is misinterpreting the information conveyed by superiors to subordinates due to language barriers. A person coming from different nationality is using his native language that may be incomprehensible to other people that give them a difficult time understanding orders and instructions from other people. Grapevine
Another one of the communication problems in the workplace environment and considered as one of the destructive dilemmas is the formation of grapevine which is a form of informal communication that travels neither upward, downward or horizontally and the source can be either subordinates or superiors. Informal communication such as grapevine has always existed in the working environment. Grapevine can be destructive at times, especially when the content of the message is malicious. Rumors and slander can be categorized as grapevine for it travels informally around the workplace.
Therefore, grapevine should not be neglected by managers and supervisors for sometimes business concerns travel around the workplace in an informal manner and do not reach the ears of the people in the higher positions. Although some of the topic in informal communication is not business-related, research reveals that almost 80 percent of the content of grapevine somehow pertains to business. Informal communication should not be dismissed because by listening to grapevine allows the managers to grasp the views and concerns of employees toward the company (“Heard it on the Grapevine”).
An example for this type of communication problem is the rumor in the Bendix Corporation. In October 1980, Mary Cunningham, who joined the company for 15 months as Agee’s executive assistant, was promoted twice as vice president and chief corporate planner. Rumor went around the company speculating that her promotion was due to the romantic relationship she had with the company’s CEO. The rumor was strengthened by the sudden divorce of Agee and his wife for 23 years. Due to the destructive effect of the rumor in the company, Cunningham was forced to resign (“Bendix Abuzz”).
Solving Communication Problems
In attempting to solve the various communication dilemmas, it is important to understand first and determine the exact communication problem. Before attempting to solve a problem, the difficulties of the organization must also be assessed (Harlig). Another way to resolve communication problems is to hone one’s communication skills. Managers and supervisors could clearly benefit in honing their communication skills. They will be able to manage their subordinates properly, handle well interpersonal conflicts and misunderstandings with their subordinates.
By improving their communication skills, they can also establish personal contact with other people, especially with their employees (Smith). In today’s modern society, there are various media that can be utilized in performing personal contact. The classic dyadic form of communication can be done by the superiors with their co-workers during lunch. Mediated form of communication is used to engage oneself in personal communication using devices such as the telephone and electronic messaging. A study reports that effective communication is best achieved when verbal and written instructions are used. Verbal instructions reinforced by written instructions are more effective as the message tends to be inculcated in the minds of the employees (Smith).
In a workplace, it is important that the message is clear and can be easily understood by the employees. As money is involved and running every minute in a business, a flaw or a small mistake may be equivalent to a significant loss in profit for the company. Hence, employees, especially the managers, should not assume that everyone understands what they said. They should ask whether everything is clear and if further information or explanation is needed (Smith).
It is also important that the managers and employees provide meaningful feedbacks. Communication is a two-way process, and feedbacks are necessary to achieve effective communication (Smith). Subordinates can voice out their views and concerns with regard to the company and their superiors. In this way, the managers and supervisors could solicit feedbacks from the employees concerning company policies and how to make their jobs easier and satisfying. In turn, managers and supervisors can also give out constructive criticisms on their subordinates or their assessment for the improvement of goods and services.
It is highly important that managers and supervisors find the time to conduct meetings and to keep the communication lines open between the superiors and the subordinates, regardless of how busy they are with their workloads. A manager should know what is going on with the company and the difficulties of their subordinates (Smith). This can be done in the form regular meetings and informal communication means such as phone calls or instant messages.
Conflict is inevitable in a workplace, and when the conflict already arises from misunderstanding and other business-related problems, the managers should try to minimize the impact of conflict and maintain the productivity of the workplace. However, with effective communication, effect of conflict within a workplace can be minimized (Stoppler). One of the elements of effective communication is clarity and precision. For instance, when voicing out complaints, the employees should be specific, as vagueness tends to worsen the problem (Stoppler). Another element of effective communication is respect. Subordinates should acknowledge and the authority of managers and treat them with respect, in the same way that managers should respect their subordinates and use their authorities within the boundaries of their responsibility. In a workplace, employees should also limit their involvement in issues to which they are not directly involved or has no direct participation. There is a tendency that employees will further mess up the situation instead of helping in resolving the problem (Stoppler).
Employees and managers alike should also maintain a professional attitude in solving conflicts, especially when dealing with communication problems. They should resolve the problem not for personal interest but for the interest of the whole company. They should also keep an open mind and be able to listen to the views of other people. They should also clarify what other people have said before they give out their own opinions about the issue (Stoppler). Communication problems sometimes just spring from misunderstanding. Sometimes, people just misinterpret the message of another due to noises and hindrances in effective communication.
Communication problems are inevitable in a workplace. There are problems existing in the work environment that evolved from ineffective and inefficient communication. Communication problems are dilemmas that are solvable but could be destructive at times when neglected. Communication problems take many forms such as gender differences, language and cultural differences, and grapevine. The various communication problems vary in impact depending on the extent of the communication problem. Communication problems can be addressed by developing one’s skills in communication and convey messages effectively. Resolving conflict is also important to maintain productivity and quality of the business.
Effective communication is vital in a business and other institution. Communication is utilized to convey important messages and information that are vital to the company. Communication is used to perform transactions and deliberation of important issues and relevant ideas that needed to be discussed by the whole company. Through effective communication, employees and managers alike will be able to maintain harmonious relationship with co-workers, and the good working relationship will have a positive impact on the company’s overall performance. A company which has effective communication will also achieve unity and efficiency.
The paper aims to determine the causes of the communication problems within the workplace environment based on the perceptions of the subordinates, supervisors and high executive officials to be able to resolve the various communication dilemmas.
The approach best suited to the research is Qualitative approach. The essential features of Qualitative Research are the choices of appropriate methods best suited to use in the study, the incorporation and analysis of different perspectives and the variety of approaches and methods.
The study’s main purpose is to resolves the communication problems taking place in the workplace. In order to collect qualitative data from the informants, the researchers decided to perform Focus Interviews with the employees, supervisors and high executive officials.
Data Gathering Method
Focus Interview was selected for it is appropriate in gathering qualitative data for the study. This method answers the primary concern of this study.
The study used Focus Interview on collecting data from employees, supervisors and high executive officials. Through this method, the researchers will be able to gather different opinions and perspectives pertinent to the study.
Researches will use focus interviews (FI) to different informants based on the study’s main objectives. Focus Interview, the Interview guide composed of questions such as the respondents’ personal profile. Other questions will be asked pertaining to communication problems in the workplace.
“Bendix Abuzz”. Time. 6 October 1980. 5 September 2008 <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,954585,00.html>.
Harlig, Jeff. “Effective Workplace Communication?: It’s More Than Just Talk”. [email protected] May/June 1999. 5 September 2008 <http://www.words-at-work.com/goodcomm.htm.>
“Heard it on the Grapevine.” 2 April 2001. Southeastern Louisiana University. 5 September 2008 <http://www2.selu.edu/Academics/Faculty/srobichaux/GBBT234CH1b.html>.
Smith, Shawn. “Remove your Workplace Communication Barriers: They are Costing more than you Think!.” Next Level Consulting. 2003. 5 September 2008 <http://www.nextlevel-consulting.com/articles/management/article06.html>.
Stoppler, Melissa Conrad. “Office Conflict Resolution: 11 Communication Tips for a Healthy Workplace”. MedicineNet.com. Ed. William C. Shiel, Jr. 24 July 2008. 5 September 2008 <http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=60206>.