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Home » Articles » 7 causes of miscommunication in the workplace and how to avoid them

7 causes of miscommunication in the workplace and how to avoid them

Even the most efficient and productive team is bound to encounter several hiccups in the workplace.

Every day, causes of miscommunication slip in during a conversation, which others may or may not perceive as a minor mistake.

Addressing the mistake is a good way to avoid miscommunication and further conflicts. But is it possible to avoid them altogether?

Written and verbal communication systems in the workplace

Emails, meetings, and coaching sessions are all part of the communication system in a workplace. Both written and verbal communication can take place as informal and formal.

Written communication refers to emails, memos, and chat messages between at least two participants.

Formal written communication can be used as official documentation, especially when the initial conversation is informal in nature or verbal.

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Verbal communication is done in person, over the phone, or through a video conferencing app. One of the advantages of verbal communication is that correspondence is instantaneous.

On the other hand, one disadvantage of this communication system is that without any written documentation, the message could be forgotten or misinterpreted.

The written and verbal communication system in the workplace

In the workplace, documentation is important as it can serve as evidence or as an official acknowledgment of whatever transpired.

Too much or too little communication will inadvertently lead to misunderstandings. To facilitate a positive workplace environment, everyone is encouraged to cultivate a work culture that is built upon communication best practices.

7 common causes of miscommunication in the workplace

Once miscommunication occurs, both parties in any workplace relationship must address the cause to avoid further conflicts and prevent it from happening again.

Here are the seven most common causes of workplace miscommunication to be aware of.

1. Unclear message

One of the main goals of communication is to send a message clearly and concisely. But when we fail to address the topic, the subject, or the point of the message, this will lead to a misunderstanding.

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This causes poor communication between managers, team members, and even the executives in the workplace.

2. Lack of context

When in the workplace, context is a must. Any reports, analyses, and even guides are useless when taken out of context.

Lack of context when communicating with someone is a major cause of miscommunication, as the listener may assume one thing and the speaker another.

These communication barriers lead them to “agree” on certain terms without fully understanding what is being said.

7 main causes of miscommunication in the workplace

3. Poor management

From withdrawing information because it’s “above the pay grade” to delegating tasks improperly, poor management is another major cause of miscommunication in the workplace.

Not only that, but incapable managers and power-hungry administration are also common reasons why employees exit the company.

4. One-way communication

One-way communication happens when the speaker doesn’t open the floor for further discussion.

As we all know by now, discussing topics and differences is important to cultivate a warm and welcoming team culture and work environment.

If the speaker isn’t allowing for comments and suggestions, most will feel invalidated, and it will cause a negative ripple effect on the company.

7 main causes of miscommunication in the workplace

5. Demoralized staff

Low productivity rates are a telltale sign that your staff members are demoralized. While this can be fixed, prevention is better than cure.

In a department that thrives on apathy, there is a higher chance of miscommunication, affecting the quality of work and their personal lives.

Employees spend most of their time in the office, so ensure they are well taken care of.

6. Negative reinforcement

Sadly, some work environments implement negative reinforcement to ensure employees maximize their time while working. Scare tactics and intimidation are common examples.

Negative reinforcement is one of the most problematic causes of miscommunication as it breeds a toxic work environment.

7. Limited feedback

When it comes to a professional environment, feedback is what makes employees learn how to be the best version of themselves.

On the other hand, limiting the feedback to just a few words and baseless criticism will demoralize employees as they aren’t given any instructions on how to be better at their jobs.

That said, feedback is not about spoon-feeding information. It’s about turning comments and ideas into an actionable improvement plan.

How to avoid the causes of miscommunication in the workplace

We, as a part of an organization, can do certain things to lessen the chances of misunderstandings in the workplace.

Below, we’ve listed the best ways to prevent workplace communication. Deep-rooted issues, of course, need to be addressed and discussed among different parties for these to work.

Two-way communication

This is the complete opposite of one-way communication. Two-way discussions foster healthy communication between coworkers, managers, and executives of an organization.

Providing an avenue for everyone to speak and communicate effectively through monthly meetings or emails helps cultivate new ideas, fresh perspectives, and transparency.

Positive reinforcement

Employees are more likely to be productive and efficient with their daily deliverables with positive reinforcement. This method of avoiding causes of miscommunication is proven even outside of the workplace.

Positive reinforcement rewards certain behaviors, making them more likely to happen in the future.

Boosting employees’ morale

From rewarding excellent behavior to instilling a positive work culture, boosting employees’ morale is often linked to lesser chances of miscommunication in the workplace.

Doing team-building exercises is a good starting point to boost everyone’s morale every once in a while.

Clear goals and objectives

Setting a clear set of goals and objectives—even within a department is another way of avoiding misunderstandings in the workplace, especially in daily operations and task delegation.

This way, every team member knows what they have to do and how they function inside the department.

How to avoid the causes of miscommunication in the workplace

Reforming the organization

Reform is not an easy feat for any company. It takes months and even years of internal reorganization for employees to shift the paradigm.

If and when the reasons for inadequate communication are deeply rooted within the management team, reforming is the last possible option.

Is callout culture another cause of miscommunication?

The callout culture stemmed from the depths of social media, and — believe it or not — it’s been a trend in some workplace departments as well.

An example of this is singling out employees or team members who did poorly in a task or had a slight mishap with their deliverable.

More than being a cause of miscommunication, a poor communication culture does not give the affected party a chance to express their side through the right communication channel.

This phenomenon leads to a hostile work environment bred by public humiliation instead of accountability and responsibility.

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