8 Common Communication Problems and How to Address Them

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 10, 2022

Effective communication is vital to a team and individual's success at work. Even with well-defined channels and measures, you may experience occasional communication challenges. Learning to address these issues can help you clarify information and develop healthy relationships with your teammates. In this article, we explain why resolving communication problems is important, describe eight communication challenges and how to address them, and discuss tips for improving communication at work.

Why is it important to address communication problems?

Addressing communication problems can help ensure successful information exchange, which involves conveying messages that others understand. Practical solutions can also facilitate a more positive work culture. For example, if you solve challenges by selecting communication channels, such as e-mails and phone calls, you might help create a culture that respects boundaries. While addressing communication problems is essential, it may be best to anticipate them before they become urgent. For example, if you notice new employees don't yet understand their colleagues' preferred communication method, you can explain this during onboarding sessions.

8 communication problems to address

Here's a list of common communication challenges and how to handle them:

1. Cultural differences

As companies become more diverse and inclusive, employees from varying cultural backgrounds often work together. Effective communication in these organizations involves being understanding and respectful of cultural differences. For example, the concept of private spaces varies among cultures and social settings. By learning how professionals with different backgrounds view their private space, you can help prevent communication issues and better respect their physical boundaries.

Hosting training programs can help you anticipate and address communication issues that may occur due to cultural differences. You can also organize team-building activities and group individuals with different backgrounds to help them become more culturally sensitive when communicating. Beyond behaviour, you may also improve communication challenges due to cultural differences by making newsletters, e-mail copies, desktop wallpapers, and office decorations more inclusive.

2. Workplace attitude

A professional's attitude can also impact communication, teamwork, and task completion in the workplace. For example, respectful attitudes generally encourage improved communication. Consider various professionals' behaviour to determine whether they can help facilitate successful communication. For example, you can suggest a better way to handle discussions if you notice a different attitude than the one organization aims to encourage. Offering everyone the opportunity to express their opinions and regularly checking that discussions are productive is an excellent way to improve communication.

Related: 7 Ways to Communicate Effectively (Plus Benefits and Tips)

3. Listening

Active listening is an essential aspect of verbal communication. It involves focusing on a speaker to understand their message and respond thoughtfully. Improving your listening skills involves better understanding and empathizing with others. If select employees have active listening challenges, you can host a workshop to help improve this skill. You might also encourage behaviours, such as maintaining eye contact and visualizing a speaker's message, to support active listening in the workplace.

Read more: Active Listening Skills: A Key to Effective Communication in the Workplace

4. Written communication quality

Written communication involves using words and sentences to convey a message. Organizations can use multiple written communication methods and mediums, such as newsletters, e-mails, and memos. By checking written correspondences for grammar, spelling, tone, and clarity, you can help ensure a recipient understands your message. Consider asking a team member to read important written content and provide feedback before sending it to others. You might also use automated software to check for readability and find helpful suggestions to improve the message.

5. Communication method selection

Determining a suitable communication option for your message can help you connect with your recipient and obtain a favourable response. Here are common methods to consider:

  • Video messaging: You can schedule video calls to communicate extensive messages with teams in various locations. This method also encourages enhanced engagement among team members.

  • Direct messaging: This involves messaging your colleagues using collaboration or productivity platforms. Direct messaging often encourages immediate interactions and responses.

  • E-mail: This involves using a virtual inbox to deliver messages. You can create e-mails to communicate non-sensitive internal and external messages.

  • In-person: Meeting with your colleagues within and outside of the office is another option you can use to deliver sensitive information. This method also encourages honest communication.

6. Information oversharing

While ensuring transparency is crucial for many organizations, oversharing information might also be an issue to address because it can lead to exchanging sensitive information. Consider the importance of maintaining confidentiality at work and keeping your personal life private. For example, you can organize meetings in private and secure offices and discourage work gossip. You can also check that only the required details are in written correspondences.

7. Motivation concerns

Addressing motivation issues can also ensure successful information exchange at work. For example, if you notice a team member seems indifferent or shows a different enthusiasm level, you can talk to and engage them. Identifying the reason for motivation issues can show you care about their input in discussions. You may also refer them to another organization member, such as a corporate coach or employee relations manager. Encouraging self-motivation can also be a valuable practice.

Read more: A Guide to Self-Motivation in the Workplace

8. Partial communication

Partial communication occurs if your message doesn't contain all the details for interpretation or decision-making. While quick replies can be helpful, communicating details is also crucial. Providing a detailed answer might better help the sender make a decision. Here are questions that can help you determine whether you have a comprehensive message or response:

  • Did you answer each question clearly?

  • Do you think the recipient might still have questions after reading your response?

  • Are there better ways to communicate your message?

Tips on communicating better at work

Here are helpful practices for improving communication in the workplace:

Use paraphrasing techniques

When communicating at work, you can gain clarity by paraphrasing messages. For example, suppose a colleague asks why the previous year's statistics differ from their current values. You might paraphrase this question by asking, "To clarify, you want to know why there's a statistics change between last year and this year's values?" This way, you can ensure you understand what information they're seeking, which can inform your response.

Volunteer for public-speaking opportunities

Developing your public-speaking abilities can help you present information to a target audience. An important presentation aspect involves learning to deliver messages by clearly pronouncing your words and pausing regularly. This way, you can encourage active listening among your target audience. You can also learn tips for connecting with listeners, such as maintaining eye contact or using relatable language. By volunteering to lead meetings and work events, you can improve your verbal communication skills. Observing confident public speakers can also support your improvement and inspire you.

Know when to ask open- and close-ended questions

Open-ended questions prompt a recipient to provide more explanations and share their thoughts or opinions. In comparison, close-ended questions generally require affirmation, negation, or a brief answer. Each question type can help you obtain the information you need. For example, you might use open-ended questions to ask for feedback on a project and use close-ended inquiries to learn about a project's deadline.

Plan presentations and draft important documents

Preparing to communicate information can positively influence your overall message. For example, if you're creating a report, you might reflect on its purpose and what readers want to know. Doing this can help you completely provide the necessary details. Similarly, planning presentations by creating an outline and practising each slide can help you speak with confidence.

Read more: 5 Presenter Skills to Develop (With Improvement Steps)

Learn e-mail etiquette

Knowing how to compose and reply to e-mails can help you maintain professionalism while conveying your intended message. Here are helpful practices for e-mailing team members:

  • Include a clear subject line.

  • Send e-mails from a professional address.

  • Use professional greetings, such as "Hello" or "Dear."

  • Review your attachments.

  • Consider using spelling checkers.

  • Address your e-mail recipients correctly.

  • Maintain a professional tone throughout the e-mail.

  • Perfect your e-mail signature.

  • Use sentence case to compose your e-mails.

  • Keep your e-mail brief and direct.

  • Reflect on an e-mail's content before forwarding it to another recipient.

  • Set informative out-of-office replies whenever necessary.

  • Use a standard font type and size.

  • Reply to professional e-mails promptly.

Read more: 20 Best Practices for Professional E-Mail Etiquette

Ask for feedback

Requesting feedback from your manager, supervisor, or colleagues can help you determine what communication aspect to improve or strengthen. For example, if you recently completed a presentation, you might ask about your performance. Then, consider using their constructive criticism to set goals and improve your communication skills.

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