Top Ten Communication Problems in the Workplace

by Shelley Frost; Updated September 26, 2017

Workplace communication is essential to teamwork. Identifying the specific breakdowns in communication at your workplace helps you correct the issues to get employees to communicate effectively. Restoring the lines of communication helps improve productivity by allowing employees to work well together. Observe the communications that take place in your workplace to figure out what is going wrong.

Lack of Standards

Without communication standards in the workplace, you lack consistency on how and when employees communicate. Establish a communication policy to standardize the methods used for communicating with both colleagues and customers. Avoid relying too heavily on one type of communication. For example, using only verbal communication makes tracking conversations and information difficult.

Communication Barriers

Differences in background or experience causes barriers between some employees. Without some common ground, employees may find relating to or understanding what other staff members are talking about difficult. Cultural differences may also cause difficulties in non-verbal communications, causing mixed messages.

Mixing Work and Personal Communications

Some employees tend to mix personal lives into the workplace communications. Personal communications detract from the professionalism in the office, which sometimes leads to gossip in the workplace, leading to decreased morale or even accusations of harassment.

Misinterpretations and Assumptions

Communication is open to interpretation and is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. People often make assumptions based on the information they hear or read, whether or not they hear or read it correctly. Nonverbal cues also lead people to make assumptions that can impede communication. For example, an employee who avoids eye contact may cause others to assume she is hiding something when she may simply feel inferior or shy.

Poor Listening Skills

Sharing information is only part of the communication process. Strong listening skills are essential to effectively communicating and understanding the message being shared. Employees who fail to listen or who don't know how to actively listen to their colleagues are likely to miss information or not know what is going on.

Lack of Factual Communication

Factually-based communication is essential to effective communication in the workplace. If employees communicate false information or share information they aren't sure about, they are likely to cause delays in task completion. Managers who share false information or share information without verifying it first are likely to upset the employees.

Failure to Disperse Communications

Dispersing workplace communications often relies on a chain of employees sharing the information with others. In some cases, the relay of information is interrupted, leaving certain employees out of the loop. The breakdown in communication may lead to wasted time, missed meetings, duplication of work, or other disruptions of the work flow.


Very little communication is actually private, especially in a workplace environment. Verbal communication is easily overhead by others in the office. Email messages and instant messaging on the computer are susceptible to hacking. Other employees may read over your shoulder and see confidential communications. Leaked confidential information creates a liability issue and may hurt business.


Negative attitudes interfere with the communication process in the workplace. In some cases, two employees may dislike one another or distrust each other, creating a wall between the two when they try to communicate. Other employees simply take an indifferent attitude toward work in general, causing them to not care about what is said during normal workplace communication.

Lack of Follow Through

Once information is dispersed in the office environment, specific actions take place based on the communications. For example, after a meeting to discuss the direction of a project, the attendees likely need to complete tasks based on what you discussed in the meeting. If the communication doesn't leave employees with a clear sense of how to follow through with actions, you are likely to see a breakdown and unfinished work.

About the Author

Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience come from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.