Communication gap at workplace: causes & solutions

Communication is the beat that works through the very heart of an organization. Communication which is ineffective or even absent within an organization can cause a communication gap at the workplace., and lead to serious issues down the line.

By definition, the communication gap in the workplace is the misinterpretation of information or the complete lack of communication within the company. Such a phenomenon can occur between employers and employees or between employees of different ranks.

By looking at the various reasons for this communication break down gap between the different stakeholders, we should be able to address and resolve the issues and consequently put in place a communication strategy or guidelines that benefit the participants and the company as a whole. It sounds straightforward.

Reasons for the communication gap at the workplace between employees

Interemployee communication is vital for productivity and also the moral of a business. Communication gaps between employees may eventually sabotage the growth of a company, so such a company issue should be addressed very carefully and seriously. The causes of employees not being able to communicate qualitatively or even at all might be:

Experiencing fear

Whilst often seen as being an issue associated with speaking to employees of a higher rank, this is not always the case. In any situation where a member of staff is afraid of the reaction of another, then this is problematic. Examples could be that the staff member is accused of something, isn’t taken seriously, or is ridiculed – in which case that person is unlikely to communicate further, they could withhold information and not feel confident about expressing themselves or their opinions. In any situation where fear is a factor, it can very quickly lead to serious problems such as a bullying culture, staff discontent, separation of staff into small groups or cliques, and a generally unpleasant atmosphere. This will affect individual employees and productivity and efficiency as a whole.

Experiencing doubts

Employees at work usually interact with each other during the day and should be encouraged to. This social interaction is important but are they confident enough to discuss company-related topics? Often, employees might be unsure if company information should be shared with their colleagues or they simply believe that such information is not within their colleagues’ remit. In reality, employees would love to be informed about projects and news related to their own company. Knowing such information boosts their motivation, engagement and sense of being part of something bigger than themselves.

Wrong attitude and body language

Communication gaps are not always structural problems within a business. Individuals can have communication problems too. The tone of voice, facial expressions, body language – not everyone is the same. It is human nature to communicate more naturally with some colleagues than others, develop rapport, and share common ground. When you have a group made up of individual personalities, there is always going to be potential for misunderstandings or misinterpretations.

Inappropriate channels or timing

It’s not always possible to talk directly to fellow employees, especially as businesses are often spread over large sites and involve remote workers. In such cases different channels of communication are essential. If the employees are not comfortable with the communication channel in operation, perhaps because of lack of training or fear of the new, then this will inevitably lead to less frequent and less successful communication.

This is similar regarding the timing of communication, any communication that is not timely, lag, comes too late, can cause practical productivity and progression problems but also leave the worker feeling disenfranchised and out on a limb.

What can employers do?

If we’ve established what we think the problems are then we can look at putting systems in place to address these fundamental issues. There are tried and tested steps to help bridge this communication gap which when implemented should result in greater job satisfaction, productivity, and overall company growth.

1. Recognize the causes

The first step is often the most important and most difficult – you need to identify the factors that have caused this communication gap to emerge. Which employees are responsible for not transmitting the information? What are the reasons they failed? Which are the ineffective channels involved? Explore all possible factors that could lead to the existing communication gap, be completely honest with yourself, and be open-minded about the possible factors involved. Then move on to resolving.

2. Analyze different solutions

Depending on the scope of the communication gap and the factors that caused it, analyze different approaches that can help resolve the issue. Dig deeper into the problem so you can evaluate the resources necessary for fixing it. This could involve such things as organizing training seminars, invoking team-building practices, changing your communication channels, or even addressing particular staff directly with your concerns. There are consultant professionals in the field who could be of great help. This is where you as an employer have to step up to the plate and take action for the long term good of your company.

3. Follow up

The solutions are often seen as the hard part and once they are enacted it is easy to sit back and relax. This foolhardy, it is rare that you can fix all the issues in one sweeping movement. Even if everything seems fine at first, there’s a more than fair chance that things could drift back to how they were. Making sure the problem no longer exists requires that you continuously follow up with your employees to see how communication is going after the measures you’ve taken. If the problem still exists, readjust your strategy and test out other approaches to address the issue.

Communication gap at the workplace between employers and employees

Communication gaps at the workplace between employees and employers occur even more often than communication gaps among employees but the reasons are similar.

On the one hand, the fear of the superior figure in the company hierarchy might stop employees from addressing a company issue that needs attention. You can be seen as “a know-it-all”, stepping above your station. Even seen by fellow colleagues as someone who is always running to the boss, sees themselves as better than the rest, etc.

On the other hand, the employer might feel that sharing company information with his employees is unnecessary or they can misuse this information. Keeping sensitive company information to yourself is wise – it might save unpleasant consequences but keeping company news, projects, and campaigns from your workforce do you more harm than good.

Here is what you can do when you identify the communication gap between your workforce and yourself.

Encourage employees to speak up

Eliminating fear and mistrust is an important prerequisite for smooth communication between your employees and you. Assuring employees that their voice will be heard will motivate them to express their opinions, speak up when they identify a problem, share their own ideas for improvements, suggest strategies for increased productivity, and give feedback for company-related matters. It helps create an in for one mentality that will serve as a path to success.

Listen

When encouraging your employees to speak up, you need to actively listen and take into consideration their concerns, ideas, and feedback. If you can, establish an open-door policy that will break down the barriers between your employees and you. Be aware that there might be differences in the way young employees and older employees might want to speak with you. While young employees are okay with using technology, older employees would usually prefer to speak face-to-face. The most important aspect of this is to make them feel comfortable and confident enough to be open and honest with you. It may take time to become an established procedure but the information you will get is absolutely invaluable.

Be transparent

It’s important to be open to your employees. Being transparent and honest about things that are happening in the company builds trust and boosts the loyalty of your employees and is a sign of confidence in your own skills. When sharing information and news, encourage your employees to ask questions and answer them in a calm, friendly manner. Share positives, as well as negatives, far too often are meetings seen as being inevitable to deliver bad news.

Transparency within the company is a key factor to bridge the communication gap at the workplace and to make employees feel respected.

Closing words

Communication gap at the workplace is an issue and one that can have a negative impact on all areas of the business, from productivity and efficiency to staff morale and retention. The good news is that once you’ve identified the factors that are causing it, you are well on your way to solving it. If you find it hard to understand what the reasons are for the communication gap, you can always consult a professional in the field who will also help you come up with a strategy to solve the issue. We hope we’ve been helpful with this guide.