Barriers to Communication

There are various barriers to good and effective communication. But the main barrier is the fact that many organizations really do not provide or encourage two-way communication. There are other barriers causing breakdowns, distortion or rumors. If these barriers are removed, a considerable degree of effectiveness and accuracy can be achieved in communication. The following are the important barriers to communication.

1.      Barriers in organizational structure: A rigid and ultra-formal organizational structure creates problems of re-communication. Ulrich and Booz have stated that good communication exists where anyone in the organization is free to contact whoever can help him with his problems. Long lines of communication, great distance of subordinates from superiors, lack of proper and regular instructions, and overloading of work at certain levels of authority may also create barriers of communication. 

2.      Semantic barriers: Semantics is the science of meaning. The receiver of the message should perceive and understand the message in the same sense in which the sender has communicated it. As words will have different meanings, they may be understood in different senses by different people.

3.      Difference in status or rank: Difference in rank and status is always a source of mis-understanding. The placing of persons in superior and subordinate relationships may inhibit a free flow of information, ideas, suggestions and questions. What the superior sees in his position as responsibility, the subordinate sees as power. Sometimes, mild c1iticism or a small piece of advice given by a superior to help a subordinate may be taken as a strong reprimand. The greater the rank difference, the greater will be the distortion. Factors which increase the rank barriers are unavailability at short notice, special executive chambers, elaborate offices, etc. The superior with his status may feel that he cannot fully admit to his subordinates those problems, conditions or results which may reflect adversely on his ability and judgment. 

4.      Badly expresses messages: Messages which are vague, abstract, lack coherence. have poor sentence formation, are repetitive, etc. may affect the quality of the communication. 

5.      Faulty translation: Language is an important barrier. Every type of information has to be translated into understandable pieces of information.

6.      Loss by transmission and retention: In oral communication, 30 percent of the information is lost in each transmission. Even in written communication, there may be poor retention.

7.      Distrust of the Communicator: If a superior has no trust and confidence in his employees, he will tend to listen to them in a prejudiced or biased manner. Ultimately, this may result in inaccurate responses and ineffective communication.

8.      Faulty listening: Telling will be meaning unless someone is listening to it Listening requires thinking, processing and understanding the message. One must have patience, interest and active participation in listening.

9.      Emotional approach: When a communication is packed with emotion, there will not be any objectivity in it.

10.  Resistance to change: When new ideas are introduced, they may not be welcomed by employees as they may prefer to maintain status quo. Change in timing or methodology may not be received immediately and accepted well.

11.  Overloading of communication: Overloading of communication channels may create a traffic jam in the channels resulting in noise and irrelevant messages, as happens often in telephones.

One can overcome all such barriers by planning the communication system properly, and by recognizing the human elements involved_ in it. Messages must be direct and simple; the language should be understandable; provision for a good feedback system has to be made; listening should be proper and effective; and there must be coherence, clarity and consistency in communication.