Effective Communication in the Workplace

The importance of communication in the workplace is often overlooked. Effective communication is a skill that everyone can develop. Developing these skills will benefit you both inside and outside of work. Leadership has as its cornerstone the ability to communicate effectively.

Communication is a tool of management. Without it nothing gets done. Unfortunately, sometimes with it nothing gets done! The reasons?

Communication in the workplace can be challenging. There are many barriers to effective communication. However, these communication barriers can be managed if you know and understand the challenges that exist when communicating and work to develop the skills of effective communicators. The communication tips on this page will help you to do this.

The more you understand about the process of communication, how misunderstanding occurs and how communication in the workplace can and does break down the more aware you will become of common communication barriers and the more you will be able to manage the interactions you have.

The benefits are huge:

  • Build and develop strong working relationships at all levels in the organisation
  • Manage internal and external meetings well
  • Develop good influencing and negotiation skills
  • Manage your reactions positively in different situations
  • Reduce stress levels

Barriers to Effective Communication

Many people focus on what the other party is or isn't doing when communication breaks down. They place the blame on them. If you do this, you are not taking responsibility for the outcome of the interaction.

Communication Tip: Become aware of what you are doing or saying and the impact that that is having on the interaction. Are your behaviours contributing to the breakdown that may be occuring?

Think of communication barriers as roadblocks. They prevent you from, or slow you down in, reaching your desired destination. There are some common barriers to communication that act as noise and impair the accuracy of message transmission.

  • Frame of Reference
  • Stereotyping
  • Cognitive Dissonance
  • Halo or Horns
  • Semantics and jargon
  • Not paying enough attention
  • Poor timing

Communication Tip:

Always keep an open mind. How you view things is your reality, based on your perception of events. Do not prejudge people or their input. Pay attention to the words and phrases that you use to minimise the possibility of misunderstandings/misinterpretation occurring. Practice how you listen and pay attention to the other person.

High Risk Responses

In his book People Skills Robert Bolton explores 12 high risk responses that can lead to communication break down. These high risk responses have a negative impact on communication particularly in stressful situations. Your intention may be positive, however the impact is negative!

In stressful situations you should avoid the following blocks that are broken down into 3 categories a) Judging b) Sending Solutions and c) Avoiding.


Criticising. Making a negative evaluation of the other person.

Name calling. Putting down or stereotyping the other person.

Diagnosing. Analysing why a person is behaving the way they are.

Praising evaluatively. Making a positive judgement of the other person.

Sending Solutions:



Moralising. Telling the other person what they should do. Preaching to them.

Excessive or inappropriate questionning, closed ended questions.

Advising. Giving solutions to their problems.


Diverting. Pushing the other person's problems aside.

Logical Argument. This usually ignores the emotional factors involved and seeks to influence the other person based on facts.

Reassuring. Trying to stop the other person feeling negative emotions.

Communication Tips:

Become aware of how these responses effect you at times and the reasons that they had that effect on you.

Think of how your response may impact the other person and change the wording, phrasing, your body language or voice tone.

Pause before you speak. This gives you time to think about the situation, the other person or people and check your phrasing before you speak. Simple, but very effective.

Communication in the workplace is challenging. Just because you have said something or told someone something does not mean that it has been understood or that there is agreement. There are other skills that effective communicators develop. For more information see What is communication.

Communication in the workplace

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