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Barriers of Communication

Barriers to Communication & Measures to manage them

Barriers to Communication

The exist several barriers in communication. They generate confusions, conflicts and misunderstandings in the organization by creating bottlenecks, delays and distortions of the information. Several organizational problems relating to smooth working and human relations exist today in the enterprises because of these barriers. Some of such barriers are given below:

  1. Complex Organizational Structure-

    The structure of organization has a significant influence on the ability of its members to communicate efficiently and with ease. The organization structure of most of the enterprises today is complex, involving several layers of supervision, long communication lines, complex relations of staff of line, and longer organizational distance of the worker from the management. This complex nature is itself a great barrier since each manager in the line would be potential bottleneck for the flow of essential information. If the communication breaks down at any level, or one reason or the other, the difficulties are created. In order to overcome these organizational barriers, the management must consider the nature and complexity of the organization structure and determine the best channels and the most effective means of communication. Management might reduce the number of levels of supervision, shorten the lines of authority, issue more standard procedures and provide for more participative management.

  2. Barriers Relating to the Differences in the Status and Positions-

    There are wide gaps between the social and economic status of members of the organization, and in their education, experience, background, authority and powers. Differences exist in their interests and motives also. These differences create barriers in transmission of information. The information gets coloured, mixed with private interpretations and speculations, prejudiced and misunderstood. Often a company’s newspaper has been called a propaganda organ and management’s mouth-piece, and regardless how truthful and interesting the information it carries, but the workers read it with suspicion. Often the subordinates who are prejudiced give colour to the messages received from the boss.

  3. Protective Screening-

    Protective screening is a great distort of facts and is caused by the difference in positions and authority. A subordinate is likely to tell his boss what the boss likes to hear and will omit or soften what is unpleasant. To safeguard his interest, he will also like to hide his weaknesses. Everybody as a victim of protective screening to some extent even in his private life. After two or three successive screenings of this sort, information is likely to be considerably distorted. This is not true only in case of upward communication, but equally correct in case of downward and horizontal communication. Often a superior fails to pass on important information, which is likely to displease his subordinates or may undermine his own position.

  4. Language Barrier-

    Language is the carrier of all information’s and ideas. People of different levels understand, write and speak differently. A speech or statement given in English may not be understood by most of the workers. The language having the use of mathematical symbols and abbreviations, or self-coined words may not be understood by the recipients. In such cases, the communicator should use the language and words mostly used and easily understood by the receivers.

  5. Emotional and Psychological Barriers-

    Emotional and psychological factors are significant barriers in interpersonal communication. These barriers may include emotional reactions, deep rooted feelings and prejudices, absent mindedness and day-dreaming on the part of recipients, mental tensions, fear and apprehensions. These barriers sometimes do not permit the sender to express himself freely and properly or sometimes do not allow the recipient to receive the message properly.

  6. Physical Barriers-

    Communication is also retarded when proper physical facilities of communication are not provided in the organization. Lack of suitable environment (such as, excessive heat, cold or noise), absence of inter-com system, defective public announcement system, very little opportunities of meeting, conferences, social and cultural gatherings are some of the illustrations of lack of organizational facilities and which result in delay and retorted communication.

  7. Barriers on the part of Superior-

    The communication is retorted when the superior’s attitude towards communication is unfavorable, or he undermines the significance of communication. Lack of time, insistence on proper channel, lack of confidence in subordinates, fear of passing of some information and lack of communication skill and ability are some other barriers on the part of superior.

  8. Barriers on the part of Subordinates-

    Distorting delaying or destroying information are usual features on the part of subordinates to avoid punitive action or wrath of the boss. Lack of positive incentives for communication, lack of communication ability, pressure of work, ignorance of facts, fear of facing the boss, protective screening and many such factors create barriers in the effective communication.

Measures for Effective Communication

Although perfect understanding between two people is impossible, yet the following means may be helpful in more effective communication.

  1. Feedback-

    The sender must try to know whether he is properly understood by the recipient. He must be alert and on the look out for some clues or signs whether his message has been understood as he had intended. The simplest way to make certain that the communication has resulted in mutual understanding is to observe the receiver and judge his responses by non-verbal clues, such as, expression of comprehension, bewilderment; a facial expression, such as the raising of an eyebrow. This kind of feedback is possible only ion face-to-face communication. Another way of feedback is that the sender may ask the recipient to repeat complex information in his own words. This is more satisfactory feedback than merely getting. ‘Yes sir’ from a subordinate. The receiver may ask additional questions and comments, which will make feedback even more meaningful. Feedback is also obtained by simply observing whether the subordinate behaves in accordance with the communication, and if direct observation is not possible, the sender must ask for reports and results.

  2. Direct, Simple and Meaningful language and Expression-

    Since the goal of communication is mutual understanding, the sender should use a language which the receiver actually will understand directly and fully well.

  3. Effective Listening-

    Effective listening is also a great art. To understand the real meaning of the words of the speaker, the listener should listen them patiently, carefully and attentively. The listener must be careful to discover the hidden contents as distinct from the manifest contents. To remove misunderstandings some common questions, such as ‘Is this what you mean’ may be placed before the speaker. The speaker should provide adequate time and voice to the listeners for clear understanding and hearing and should try to know the pace of grasping of the receivers. The speaker should also have the patience and provide an opportunity to the listeners to speak for removing their misunderstandings. Thus effective listening enables the receiver to grasp as closely as possible the meaning of the sender’s communication; the sender on the other hand, can better respond to the receivers.

  4. Follow up Actions-

    The manager must realize that he communicates by his actions as much as he does his words. As a matter of fact, actions speak louder than words. One of the best means to give meaning to a message is to act accordingly. The manager must realize that due to his status he often is the centre of his subordinates, and he communicates through all observable actions regardless of whether or not this is what he intended. It will help to overcome barriers to communicate if the verbal announcements are reinforced by action. If the manager says one thing and does another, sooner or later his subordinates will listen mostly to what he does and not what he says. If a manager always threatens subordinates to turn them out if they do not take their work seriously, but does not do so even in a single case, the subordinates would not take his threats seriously.

  5. Be Redundant-

    Although the precision is one of the most essential qualities of communication, yet amount of redundancy helps in certain situations. For instance, if each word of the communication, is very important or the directions are very complicated, it may help if the words or directions are requited several times, and it is still better if they are repeated in different words and ways. Too much redundancy is obviously dangerous. The degree of redundancy may be determined from the nature of the contents to be conveyed, the experience and background of the receivers and such other factors.

  6. Know Precisely the Message to be Conveyed-

    The sender should acquire complete knowledge about the message to be conveyed and systematically arrange his ideas before communication. He should possess some reserve knowledge and should try to anticipate the probable questions and doubts on the part of receivers and should possess ready answers for such queries. He must clearly know what information has to be shared in common, what is redundant and what is not be shared. Confused, nervous and vaguely informed managers can never be successful in communicating.

  7. Use of Expediters-

    When the manager expects that the message may move slowly through the standard channel, or when an important order may get lost or side-tracked in some department, he may appoint some expediters to move the message quickly free from all formalities and to cover come all bottlenecks. This practice is especially good under emergencies and for the busy executives who lack time.

  8. Use of Sensing Units-

    The managers should provide for some sensing units and persons to inform matters which remain unreported, deliberately concealed, but are of great significance. This direct and confidential information may be of great help in early understanding the impending difficulties and finding solutions in time.

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