The Most Ineffective Communication Techniques in the Workplace

by Anne Hirsh; Updated September 26, 2017

Understanding ineffective communication techniques can help you improve your communication skills in the workplace. Some of the most ineffective techniques, such as yelling in anger, ridiculing others or simply not listening may seem obvious, but sometimes they occur in subtle ways. Communication involves body language, listening and actively discussing topics, as well as the words you speak or write for others.


Any communication technique that makes others feel invalidated is ultimately ineffective. Invalidating others includes interrupting, changing the subject or physical actions that show your attention is somewhere other than on the speaker. Skimming email communications can also be a form of invalidation. For example, if a colleague sends you an email discussing several points on a project and you only respond to one, the message you are sending your colleague is that her email was not important enough for you to read and consider the entire message.

Inconsistency and Lies

Outright lies are ineffective not only because they contain misinformation, but also because they break down trust. Once colleagues or employees learn that you have lied, all future communications will be subject to distrust, making them ineffective. Even if you are not lying, mixed messages or inconsistency will make communication ineffective. For example, if you change your mind frequently, telling others that a business goal is one thing at one point, then changing it without strong rationale, other communications on similar topics will be seen as subject to change. Saying one thing while your body language speaks otherwise also severely reduces the effectiveness of your communication. For example, saying, "I'm really impressed with your work" while your facial expression, tapping foot, or wandering eyes communicate the message "I'm bored" or "I don't care" can amount to a lie in your colleagues' eyes.

Jargon and Catch Phrases

Trendy catch phrases or repeated clich├ęs can muddy the message you are trying to communicate. Rather than using phrases such as "Think outside the box," try to be as specific and clear as possible. For example, if you want unique ideas, give your employees and colleagues examples of how people in other industries have presented major innovations. Using jargon, such as acronyms that are not common knowledge to all your employees, can cloud understanding and make others feel excluded from the conversation or ridiculed for not knowing what you mean.


Focusing the conversation on yourself is an ineffective communication technique because it distances others from the subject. It can also make others feel excluded. Instead of phrases such as "I want this project finished by March 13th," consider a more inclusive way of stating the same thing, such as "We have a March 13th deadline for this project. What do we need to achieve to meet that goal?" This not only includes your colleagues in your language, but also begins engaging them in a discussion about the project in a way that allows them to express their own concerns.

About the Author

Anne Hirsh has been writing and editing for over 10 years. She has hands-on experience in cooking, visual arts and theater as well as writing experience covering wellness and animal-related topics. She also has extensive research experience in marketing, small business, Web development and SEO. Hirsh has a bachelor's degree in technical theater and English and post-baccalaureate training in writing and computer software.

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