The 5 Barriers To Effective Communication in the Workplace

What is Communication Barrier?

A communication barrier refers to any disturbance or obstacles that prevent the effective flow of information between sender and receiver. It can be caused by the sender, receiver, or the environment where the communication takes place.

Barriers to communication pose significant challenges to effective communication within organizations. A major barrier is a lack of understanding during information exchange. When messages are not properly comprehended or conveyed in a difficult-to-understand manner, misunderstandings arise.

Language, cultural differences, and expertise levels can contribute to this barrier. To overcome it, organizations should prioritize clear and concise language, provide context, actively listen, and encourage feedback.

Promoting inclusivity and diversity can also address barriers arising from cultural and language differences. By tackling communication barriers, managers can enhance effectiveness, ensuring accurate understanding and action based on the information exchanged.

5 Barriers To Effective Communication: Defining

Generally, a lack of understanding in communication exchange is a major barrier to communication. Besides this, there are many barriers to effective communication, these barriers are:

  • Organizational Barriers
  • Physical Barriers
  • Psychological Barriers
  • Semantic Barriers
  • Technological Barriers

Let’s define the major barriers to communication in detail:

Organizational Barrier To Communication

Sometimes, the organizational system and belief itself create problems in the free flow of information. It creates difficulty in transforming information to the targeted authority which also creates problems to meet objectives.

The organizational barriers involve organizational policy, rules, and regulation, a lengthy scalar chain, a one-way communication system, and a lack of confidence in subordinates, etc.

The causes of organizational barriers to effective communication are as follows:

organizational barriers to communication

Organizational Policy

Organizational policy regulated by the management regarding communication systems provides overall guidelines to the members to use a defined network. The policy may be in written form or it is understood from the behavior of the top management.

Therefore, in the absence of a supportive policy of the top management, information can not reach the direction where it is required, so the communication flow will not be smooth and adequate.

Organizational Rules and Regulations

The rules and regulations of the organization regarding the subject matter of information and the use of channels also affect effective communication. The rules may strict the free flow of certain messages and may ignore some important ones among them.

Similarly, the following specified channels as regulated by rules may be the reason for the delay in receiving messages.

Lengthy Scalar Chain

When the scalar chain is lengthy and the management hierarchy is not clearly defined, communication gets unduly delayed. In such situations, there is the possibility of communication breakdown. Superiors and subordinates might be confused as to whom to contact and convey their problems.

One-Way Communication System

In an organization, if the communication system is only one-way from the top level to subordinates, there is the possibility of the development of grievances among subordinates. Management does not get feedback on the progress of work and problems at the operating levels.

Lack of Confidence in Subordinates

Some conservative managers perceive that their subordinates are not skilled and competent to bear responsibility.

They believe that they have no idea or knowledge to give suggestions and guidance about work-related problems. Such a belief may distort the free flow of communication in the organization.

Physical Barrier To Communication

The internal structure of the organization and the layout of office machines and equipment also create barriers to the effectiveness of communication. These create difficulty for the free, clear, and smooth flow of information.

Some causes of physical communication barriers involve physical distance, the hierarchy of structure, office design, and noise.

physical barriers

Physical Distance

The location of departments and branches in different geographical and regional distances may break down the communication flow of an organization. It is difficult to communicate required information to different locations if an appropriate communication network is not developed in the organization.

Hierarchy of Structure

The hierarchy of structure creates a status difference among the members of the organization. It divides the members of the organization from the top level to the subordinate level based on their authority and responsibility.

Generally, members at the subordinate level fear and hesitate to communicate messages to the upper level. This also breakdown the communication flow in the organization.

Office Design

Office layout also creates barriers to the free and prompt flow of information. If the top-level manager sits in a separate closed room it becomes difficult for the subordinates to enter frequently to the manager’s cabin to communicate messages.


Noise from the external environment creates a problem in understanding the messages by the sender’s intentions. When the receiver is unable to understand the message he cants respond.

Psychological Barriers To Effective Communication

Psychological barriers are generated due to human perception, lack of skill, and negative thinking of top-level managers. Such psychological factors create difficulty in the productive flow of information and create problems in meeting objectives.

Some common psychological barriers are distrust of the communicator, superiority complex, individual perception, premature evaluation, no attention, etc. A brief explanation of these psychological barriers to communication is given below:

psychological barriers

Distrust of Communicator

Many subordinates do not believe in the superior’s messages thinking that they might change, cancel or modify their own views and ideas. In such situations, even genuine and honest communication by such superiors is not taken seriously by subordinates.

Superiority Complex

The superiority complex of higher authority also creates barriers to effective communication. Such managers feel superior and would not like to talk and communicate with subordinates thinking that it is below their worth.

Individual Perception

Perception is the process of understanding and interpreting things, events, and people. Two people may not have the same perception of any event or thing. Most misunderstandings and conflicts occur due to perceptual differences.

Premature Evaluation

Premature Evaluation is concerned with evaluating the subject matter before getting detailed information. Generally, employees at the subordinate level go for premature evaluation of communication. It may develop a misunderstanding and conflict between superiors and subordinates.

No Attention

Sometimes, some people do not pay proper attention to communication. The reason behind it may either be tension due to personal problems or overburden with other new issues. In such a situation, the main purpose of communication can not be fulfilled.

Semantic Barriers To Effective Communication

Semantic barriers are created due to the use of difficult and insensitive language by the sender. In such cases, the receiver will not consider the message and due to that objective of communication can not be gained.

Also Read: Leadership in Management: Definition, Features, Functions, Qualities, and Styles

Some semantic barriers to effective communication are harsh language, vague language, misleading translation, technical language, the use of jargon, etc.

semantic barrier

Harsh Language or Poor Language

The use of harsh or poor language will emotionally affect the sentiment and ego of the receiver. Due to this, receivers try to resist the sender and may not provide any response. An egoistic receiver may respond in a negative way, which may be the reason for misunderstanding and conflict.

Vague Language

The use of complex, multi-meaning words and proverbs creates confusion in the mind of the receiver. He may create the information differently and also respond differently. Such a wrong interpretation and response will not meet the objective of the sender.

Misleading Interpretation

Wrong translation of messages received also creates barriers in communication. For example, middle-level managers receive guidance from the top level which has to be translated by them in simple language for the use of first-line managers. But, if they translate the messages in the wrong way it creates confusion for the first-line managers.

Technical Language

Some managers use technical terms in communication. These technical terms may be drawn from accountancy, economics, engineering, production, etc. The use of such technical terms creates confusion for ordinary receivers, therefore they do not provide any response to the sender.

Use of Jargons

Jargons are the special words used in communication. Due to the use of special words, ordinary receivers can not catch exactly the message delivered by the sender. This creates barriers to the objectives of the communication.

Technological Barriers To Communication

Technological barriers are formed due to the defect in the technology used and overload in the information. Due to such, the receiver cannot respond in time, and due to this, the objectives of the communication can not be met.

Causes of technological barriers to communication involve mechanical barriers, loss of transmission, information overload, insufficient time allowed, etc.

technological barrier

Mechanical Barriers

In some cases, mechanical devices used in the communication process may suffer from mechanical defects. For example, technical faults in the telephone lines, defects in computer software, internet network problems, etc. create serious communication problems.

Similarly, messages conveyed through peons or other messengers may not convey the same message as prescribed by the sender.

Loss of Transmission

Generally, a verbal message when it is in the course of transmission may lose some of its main contents. Similarly, due to the limited memory power of the receiver, there is also a possibility of a loss of content of the message.

Information Overload

A manager may receive information from various sources. Such information is the basis of office operation. In fact, because of advances in communication technology, the difficulty may arise not from the absence of information but excessive information. In such a situation, he can not digest adequately all messages directed to him.

Insufficient Period Allowed

The pressure of time is an important barrier to effective communication. Some messages need a quick response. However, due to a lack of sufficient time, managers may not be able to analyze information in detail. In such a situation, he may respond to a message without considering the subject matter and its impact.

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