5 Barriers to effective communication and how to break them down

Guest article submitted by Peninsula

Communication is one of the most important parts of a successful business. As a manager, one of your duties is to be a cornerstone of leadership and motivation.


As a boss, you must understand effective communication. It can drive your business culture.


When effective communication hits barriers, a team can lose morale, it can experience slackness in productivity, it can lose its creativity, its shine.


And if all these aspects of a business are suffering, customer service will suffer, too.


So, here are five barriers to effective communication, and what you can do to tackle these barriers.


The language barrier

Sometimes a business hires someone with the skills and experience required for a vacant job role but the new hire speaks minimal English, or English as a second language (ESL). A lengthy written email communication, or jargon-filled end-of-quarter speech, is going to be white noise for somebody who speaks a language at a beginner’s level.


In addition to missing or misunderstanding company updates, ESL staff could struggle to form new working relationships, feel shy about attending team-building or out-of-office events, or even struggle to stay motivated if they believe they are unable to communicate their ideas and needs to their line manager or colleagues.


But in a world where businesses hire talented employees from all over, how can you make sure that you are taking steps to integrate skilled ESL workers into your team without them missing out and losing their morale?


How to break it

Make the effort to learn key phrases in the native language of your ESL employees, and encourage this practice among your management teams, too. This will show the employee that you are empathetic to their situation.


Invest in training for the ESL to improve their English. By showing them that you care, you will gain their loyalty, as well as increase their motivation and productivity. If any current staff speak the ESL recruit’s native language, encourage communication between them.


The clarity barrier

Whether you are a CEO providing an end-of-year presentation that is full of charts and graphs that only you and your finance team understand, or you are a line manager explaining the company’s computer program to a recruit, one of the big problems with clarity is jargon. Everyone is guilty of falling back on jargon sometimes—after all, in the right situation, using technical terms can demonstrate your knowledge of a topic.


However, when your goal is to give staff a simple message (long or short), tricky or unfamiliar language is going to be an obstacle. Some staff will be trying to remember what the tricky term you just used means, and zone out of the point you were making, and some others will become disinterested if they come across words they do not know.


How to break it

Keep any written communications short and use bullet points where possible to summarise.


Tailor your messages to the people you give them to. Use examples or analogies where needed to create a story if there is a moral or message to what you are saying. Make it memorable.


The inconsistency barrier

Some businesses are open 24/7, with staff working different shifts. As a manager, you should maintain a high level of motivation from the beginning of your day until the end.


For example, let’s say you are about to leave the office at 6pm, just as a fresh shift of your staff are arriving to work—all of whom are contributing to the growth and success of your business. You are tired, hungry, and want to get home—but you need to keep your energy levels high around your staff. But how?


How to break it

Greet them, be friendly, be patient, remember that your tiredness must not rub off on anybody. You are a leader, and low energy levels are infectious. If you begin your own work shift every morning with a briefing for staff members, can you do something similar with the evening shift?

You could try working across the different shift patterns to spend equal time with your different employees. You will learn more about your staff and earn more respect.


A manager who can show round-the-clock motivation will inspire employees. If your business is important to you at 9am and 9pm, show your staff that they are, too.


The feedback and approachability barrier

In an age where people can anonymously search jobs at a moment’s notice using their smartphone, keeping talented staff happy is important for the success of a business.


Staff will not stick around if they do not feel valued. Staff will not stick around if they feel like their opinion is not important. Staff will not stick around if they think that a rigid boss is squeezing all he or she can out of the workforce with no new bonuses or rewards.


A closed-door policy for a boss creates a gap that an employee does not know when or how to cross.


Ignoring the opinions of your staff will make them unhappy. Unhappy staff will give bad customer service.


How to break it

Simple. Invite feedback. All your staff have an opinion—embrace them. Try to see your business from each different point of view. What could you, their leader, improve in their eyes?


An open-door policy for bosses who have their own office gives staff the opportunity to approach them—whether it relates to work or simply to further a relationship with a quick “hello”.


Have a suggestions box. These work well because they can be anonymous and they remove the fear that a shy employee can feel when asking something of a boss.


Make it clear that you will empty the box at regular intervals and hear all suggestions.


While on-site parking might be a difficult suggestion to accommodate if no carpark exists already, a suggestion for allowing employees to split their lunch hour into two thirty-minute breaks, if they so choose, could have very positive effects if implemented. Plenty of research supports the need for employees to have more than one break during their shift.


You are showing your staff that their opinions matter and that you will go ahead with ideas that are reasonable and can benefit the business.


The listening barrier

Workplace toxicity will spread in your workplace if employees feel disrespected when they speak—this can happen in many ways.


Lack of attention or interest, distractions, interruptions, using negative body language, no eye contact—these are all quick ways to reduce the confidence, motivation, morale, and productivity of staff. If you do not listen to your staff, why should they listen to you?


How to break it

Lead the way in how you listen to your team, and, if they feel respected, they will replicate your behaviour with each other.


Do not interrupt somebody when he or she is talking. Use your body language to show that you are listening. Hand gestures, eye contact, eyebrow movement. Your posture is important, too. Are you slouching? Remember, low energy is bad.


Engage your staff with daily updates. Some companies use informal group huddles each morning, where everyone can say anything they need to before the day’s work begins. Techniques such as this one can lead to a greater sense of community within a workforce.


Celebrate success—show that you are proud of your staff when they hit their targets.


Lead by example

This is a basic belief, but it is timeless.


Break down language barriers. Speak with clarity. Be consistent. Encourage feedback across the company. Listen with intent.


Effective communication can reduce absence and prevent your talented staff from wanting to look elsewhere.


Your team will take communication cues from you, their boss. You assert what is and is not acceptable. Lead the way with positivity and communication.

Alan Price is CEO of BrightHR and Elected Director & Trustee for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development – CIPD.

About the AuthorAlastair Brown:


Alastair Brown is the chief technological officer at BrightHR. An enthusiastic and motivated professional with twenty seven years’ experience in Information Technology. He has strong leadership and motivation skills, leading by example which has helped BrightHR experience transformation through technology and process change.


Follow @BrightHR

See https://www.brighthr.com


Follow @BrightHR

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