Open Communication in the Workplace: Overcoming Common Challenges

Open Communication in the Workplace: Overcoming Common Challenges
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Communication is the cornerstone of every organization’s success. Meeting deadlines, productivity, and employee engagement are just a few aspects in which effective interactions among employees and management are key to keep an improved performance.

Nevertheless, open communication in the workplace comes at a high cost as it requires the commitment of every part of a company to overcome the usual communication challenges.

The importance of open communication in the workplace

A team’s productivity and effectiveness are linked to how proficient their communication processes are, simple as that. Despite its importance, many overlook how essential open communication in the workplace is for successful project management and a healthy work environment.

Improved workplace communication is a must in every aspect of a company’s daily routine. From onboarding to project planning and delivery, open communication in the workplace allows all parties to better understand their role and expectations, ultimately leading to a more engaged and productive team. 

The benefits of open communication go beyond employee engagement and team building throughout your company; boosted morale and increased productivity lead to better services and products, as well as it will give your employer branding more elements to make it more convincing and compelling. 

Common communication challenges in the workplace

Aside from ignoring its importance, other issues hinder open communication in the workplace. These can be related to different aspects, background and ideas differences, personal traits, mistrusting coworkers, etc. 

While these issues may seem trivial and easy to solve, not addressing them will slowly erode your company culture. Here are some of the most common communication challenges in the workplace. 

Ego and attitude

Professionals’ attitudes are one of the main communication challenges companies deal with. How a person usually behaves or interacts with others impacts discussions. 

For example, employees with a respectful attitude toward their coworkers will encourage improved and successful communication. On the other hand, if within your team, there are people who take over conversations or refuse to “lose” an argument, these will likely hinder communication as egos and attitudes lead to resentment, misunderstandings, and friction. 

Solution: As an employer or manager, suggest better ways to handle discussions and disagreements. Remember, soft skills like conflict resolution skills are game changers in the workplace, so give your workforce specific training on these topics. If you’re a worker, keep in mind that productive conversations give perspective and help you grow, and in order to keep them effective, everyone should be able to express their opinions. 

Passive listening

This is another considerable communication challenge that’s often overlooked. Passive listening refers to when a person is simply hearing what others say without truly understanding or empathizing with it. When people fail to listen, misunderstandings and friction will eventually pop up, leading to a lack of creativity and productivity in your workforce. 

Solution: Active listening is an essential aspect of fostering open communication in the workplace. Whether you’re an employer or employee, make sure to improve your communication skills and encourage behaviors that support active listening, such as maintaining eye contact and visualizing a speaker’s message. 

Cultural differences

As diversity in the workplace remains a growing trend, it’s more common to have people from different cultural backgrounds working together. While this brings many benefits in the long run, in the beginning, employees and managers will be required to understand and respect cultural differences to avoid the risk of unconscious bias in the workplace

Solution: Cultural awareness is the most effective way to overcome this communication challenge. Whether with training courses, team building activities, or certifications, make sure to foster awareness of the importance of being empathic with coworkers from various backgrounds. 

Oversharing information

Transparency in the workplace indeed plays an essential role in keeping communication open; nevertheless, there’s a thin line between keeping everyone in the loop and oversharing information. Whether it’s having too many information channels to keep up with—email, intranet, corporate social media, and chat—or the threat of exchanging sensitive information, be sure to be aware and evaluate your communication flows. 

Solution: You can approach this communication challenge on two fronts. From the technical side, investing in communication software helps employees and managers bypass channel crowding so they only send and receive the relevant information. Pop-up alerts and notifications are another superb complement to avoid skipping essential info. 

From a human standpoint, increase awareness about filtering before disclosing and spreading delicate information. Remind your workforce that private or confidential matters must be treated with delicacy and to only keep the involved individuals on track.

Lack of motivation or interest

Motivation issues are another common communication challenge. Imagine this scenario: during one meeting or brainstorming session, you notice some team members are indifferent and not jumping into the discussion. If you notice this problem or that employees are ignoring your messages, these workers probably lack interest in their projects and tasks. 

Solution: While there are some tools to increase engagement among your team, the best approach is to talk to any team member who seems indifferent or needs more enthusiasm. Alongside them, identify the reasons for their motivation issues and genuinely show them you care about their insight during discussions. Also, don’t hesitate to invest in self-motivation assets or even a corporate coach or employee relations manager role. 

Communication channel selection

On a more technical side, a common communication challenge is using the wrong method for delivering your message. Using the most suitable option will increase your chances of having more open communication in the workplace, connecting with your recipient, and getting a favorable response. 

Solution: Evaluate your message or the conversation you expect to have, and with that in mind, determine which channel is the best to achieve it. Here are a few common communication channels you could use depending on your needs and objectives. 

Workplace communication skills

Fostering open communication in the workplace goes beyond putting into action the solutions to each issue you face in a day-to-day routine. Even if you’re in a healthy work environment with no communication challenges, there are several communication skills you can promote among your workforce or even source in candidates’ profiles to improve interactions and conversations.

  • Open-mindedness: Open-minded job-seekers and workers are more willing to receive new information and reshape their opinions and ideas. This kind of flexibility improves open communication as it makes it easier to work with them. 
  • Confidence: This is another highly sought soft skill in candidates’ resumes since it means they’re assertive and self-confident communicating, as well as an indicator of a certain level of competence. 
  • Empathy: As mentioned above, being empathic allows people to connect with the feelings and ideas of other individuals, making workplace communication fluent and effective. 
  • Emotional intelligence: Overall, one of the most valued abilities when it comes to social skills is being able to recognize and manage your emotions. This skill is a game changer because it makes people less reactive and a much better communicator.  

As you can see by now, there’s more than one way to Rome. Whatever scenario fits your situation, be sure to take on improving open communication by tackling each communication challenge as it becomes noticeable, promoting and acquiring specific soft skills that will contribute to this aspect, and focusing your recruitment efforts on attracting candidates who fit your atmosphere and processes.

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Contributed by Luis Arellano

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