Obstacles/Barrier in Communication

Principle & Practice of Management

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Obstacles/Barrier in Communication

Communication Obstacles

The communication obstacles or barriers in communication process which contribute to its failure are as follows:

Semantic Barriers in Communication Obstacles

These communication obstacles arise from the linguistic capacity of the parties involved. The following are some common forms of semantic barriers:
1. Badly expressed message: Lack of clarity and precision in a message makes it badly expressed. Poorly chosen, empty words and phrases, careless omission, lack of coherence, the bad organization of ideas, awkward sentence structure, inadequate vocabulary, repetition, jargon, failure to realize the implication are some common faults found in this case.
2. Faulty translations: Every manager receives various types of communications from superiors, peers, subordinates and he must translate information destined for subordinates, peers, and superiors into language suitable to each. Hence the message has to be put into words appropriate to the framework in which the receiver operates, or it must be accompanied by an interpretation which will be understood by the receiver.
3. Unclarified assumptions: There are certain uncommunicated assumptions which underlie practically all messages. Though a message appears to be specific, its underlying assumptions may not be clear to the receiver.
4. Specialist’s language: It is often found that technical personnel and special groups tend to develop a special, peculiar and technical language of their own. This increases their isolation from others and builds a communication barrier.

Emotional or Psychological Barriers in Communication Obstacles

Emotional or psychological factors are the prime communication obstacles and inter-depends upon the emotional or psychological status of both the parties involved.
The following are important examples of emotional communication obstacles:
1. Premature evaluation: Rogers and Roethlisberger in 1952 first pointed out this type of barrier. Premature evaluation is the tendency of evaluating communications beforehand, rather than to keep an unbiased position during the interchange. Such evaluation stops the transfer of information and begets in the sender a sense of futility.
2. Inattention: The preoccupied mind of a receiver and the resultant non-listening is one of the major chronic psychological barriers. It is a common phenomenon that people simply fail to understand bulletins, notices, minutes and reports.
3. A loss by transmission and poor retention: When communication passes through various levels in the organization, successive transmissions of the same message are decreasingly accurate. It is said that in the case of oral communication about 30% of the information is lost in each transmission. Even in the case of written communication, loss of meaning might
occur as far as the appended interpretation, if any, is concerned. Poor retention of the information is again a malady, it is shown that employees retain about 50% of the information only, whereas supervisors retain about 60% of it.
4. Undue reliance on the written word: Written word is no substitute for sound face to face relationships and that employees cannot be persuaded to accept company’s view-points and policies through ‘slick’ easy to read, well-illustrated publications, unless there is a fair degree of mutual trust and confidence between the organisation and its employees.
5. Distrust of communicator: It arises out of ill-considered judgments or illogical decisions or frequent countermanding of the original communication by the communicator. Repeated experience of this kind gradually conditions the receiver to delay action or act unenthusiastically, hence making the communication unsuccessful, though apparently, it is complete.
6. Failure to communicate: It is quite an accepted fact that managers often fail to transmit the needed messages. This might be because of laziness on the part of the communicator, or assuming that ‘everybody knows’; or procrastination or ‘hogging’ information or deliberately to embarrass.

Organizational Barriers in in Communication Obstacles

1. Organizational policy: The general organizational policy regarding communication acts as an overall guideline to everyone in the organization regarding how he is normally expected to behave in this matter. The policy might be in the form of explicit declaration in writing, or as is very commonly the case, it has to be interpreted from the behavior of the organization members, particularly people at the top. If this policy is not supportive to the flow of communication in different directions then the communication flow would not be smooth and adequate.
2. Organizational rules and regulations: Organisational rules and regulations affect the flow of communication by prescribing the subject-matter to be communicated and also the channel through which these are to be communicated. The rules may restrict the flow of certain messages and may leave many important ones. On the other hand, communication through
proper channel in a specified way prescribed by these rules delays it and works against the willingness of persons to convey the message.
3. Status relationships: The placing of people in superior-subordinate capacity in the formal organization particularly in an upward direction. Greater the difference between hierarchical positions in terms of their status, greater would be the possibility of communication breakdown.
4. Complexity in organization structure: In an organization where there are a number of managerial levels, communication gets delayed, chances of communication getting distorted are more if the number of filtering points is more. This is truer in the case of upward communication because people generally do not like to pass up the adverse criticism either of themselves or of their superiors.
5. Fear of challenge to authority: A person in the organization always tries to get a higher position and prestige to satisfy his needs. Managers, in general, try to withhold the information coming down the line or going up as frequent passing of information may disclose their weakness.
6. Insistence on the proper channel: One of the basic features of superior’s exercising of the authority is that they wish to remain in communication links and they do not like any type of bypassing in communication. Communication through bypassing may sometimes be necessary, but superiors treat this as the thwarting of their authority and block the flow of communication.
7. Lack of confidence in subordinates: Superiors generally perceive, that their subordinates are less competent and capable and they are not above to advise superiors or they may not have some information coming downwards.
8. Ignoring communication: Sometimes superiors consciously and deliberately ignore the communication from their subordinates to maintain their importance.
9. Lack of time: Superiors feel, whether correct or otherwise, that they are overloaded with work and they have little time to talk to their subordinates.
10. Lack of awareness: Sometimes, superiors may lack the awareness about the significance and usefulness of communication in different directions in general or of particular subject-matter. In such a case, a communication flow is blocked.

Barriers Among Subordinates in Communication Obstacles

Two factors are more important in the case of subordinates and these are responsible for blocking communication in the upward direction.
1. Unwillingness to communicate: Sometimes, subordinates do not communicate certain information upwards, because they are not willing to do so. Thus, if a subordinate feels that he is likely to be adversely affected by a particular piece of information to his superior, he would not be willing to supply it.
2. Lack of incentive: Sometimes lack of incentive also obstructs the flow of information. It happens especially in case of upward communication