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Avoid Communication Breakdowns At Work

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 21 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Communication Business Communication

Whether you work for a large global corporation or a small two or three person operation, communication is one of the most important aspects of your business.

In a large multinational company, effective business communication is vital as you may have hundreds of thousands of people working for the company situated all over the globe. In this scenario, you’re also going to have offices located in several overseas countries, many of whom may have very different cultural practices and expectations to that of the country in which the company’s headquarters are based so certain elements of your business may need to follow different strategies and this may also mean a different cultural approach when it comes to communication.

Whatever the size and nature of your business, however, effective communication will be crucial to the success of the company and will involve internal communications between management and the workforce. It will also include communication between work colleagues and probably with customers and suppliers too. Therefore, it’s important to get it right.

This article will focus on two aspects of avoiding communication breakdown at work. Firstly, it will look at some of the ways technological developments and new communications devices have enabled companies to better manage their communication processes at work. And secondly, it will look at some of the ways that we, as individuals, can ensure that a communication breakdown is less likely to occur.

Business Communication

In companies which employ a number of employees, some of whom may be dotted about the country and even throughout the world, sharing clear and consistent messages with all employees is vital in business communication in order that employees are kept informed about company developments. This can be achieved in a number of ways.

Face-To-Face Communications

This gives both workers and management the opportunity to review both overall business strategy and to monitor individual performance through a whole host of means which can include:

  • Board meetings
  • Team meetings
  • One to one feedback sessions and appraisals
  • Teleconferencing

Written Communications

Written information can be crucial in keeping up with the likes of company developments, crisis management strategies, employment satisfaction surveys, new product launches and much more besides. By being able to impart information all over the world from the touch of a computer key, this helps employees to keep abreast of important events that are occurring within the company and helps to avoid communication breakdown. Methods that this can be achieved include:

  • Company intranet
  • Company ‘in house’ magazines
  • E-newsletters
  • E-mail and Text Messaging
  • Fax

Audio Communications

The telephone is still the most widely used method of communicating when a simple e-mail won’t do and people are located in different places. However, technological advancements now mean that there is a much broader dimension to audio communications than ever before. Today, we have voicemail, mobile phones and many companies even produce their own podcasts these days.

All of the methods and communications devices mentioned above will all help to avoid communication breakdown within businesses. But what about workers as individuals sat in an office or working in a factory or shop, for example? Quite often, no amount of technology will solve the problem of small, personal disputes or disagreements in the workplace so here are some tips on how to avoid them.

Don’t Assume

Miscommunication and making wrong assumptions is one of the greatest causes of communication breakdown at work. It usually tends to occur in one of two ways. Often it’s the result of a disagreement with a colleague which may have got a little out of hand. A person might misinterpret what was said to them and takes any critical comment far more personally than what was intended or, indeed, mishears what was actually said.

The other main instance of assumptions going badly wrong is where a boss or supervisor may have given you verbal instruction to complete a particular task. However, you might not have heard them correctly and, instead of asking them for clarification, you plough on regardless.

Wrong Tone of Voice & Body Language

Communication is not simply about what you say but HOW you say it too. Many communication breakdowns in the workplace occur because of the manner in which you impart some particular piece of information to somebody. This might be the tone of voice you use, your body language might come across as defensive or you fail to make eye contact. All of these factors can obfuscate what was actually being said.

The Silent Treatment

No amount of silence will ever resolve a tense an unresolved situation. It’s perfectly natural that you will have disagreements with your boss or fellow workers occasionally but the ‘silent treatment’ will only cause whatever resentment or hostility has built up to fester even more. This, in turn, can create a bad atmosphere in the workplace and, if left unresolved, what was a relatively minor dispute can erupt into a full-scale argument.

Therefore, clear communication is vital if we want to avoid communication breakdown at work. This extends to both those at the top of large multi-national organisations right the way down through the company to our own responsibilities as individuals.

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