Noise factors that affect communication are more than simply loud noises. The term refers to many kinds of roadblocks or types of interference that prevent people from effectively exchanging messages. Some noise factors are easily managed, but others are difficult to overcome. More challenging types of communication noise, or interference, may prompt companies to offer training and support systems that help people learn to reduce or remove these noise factors.
Noise factors in communication range from literal noise (traffic, machinery, ringing telephones) to cultural noise, where cultural differences block people's true understanding of each other.
It may seem like common sense, but one of the often overlooked noise factors in communication is literal noise. Offices located in the midst of busy areas of congestion – perhaps with airports, bus terminals or train stations nearby – do not lend themselves well to communication. Employees of an organization with an office near another company that manufactures products or operates equipment may experience noise barriers.
Linguistic interference is a fancy name for what amounts to language differences that impact communication. As the U.S. population becomes increasingly diverse, employees are more often working with people who speak different languages primarily, or entirely. Dennis O'Neil of Palomar Community College notes in his "Learning Language" overview that becoming multilingual makes an employee more valuable and better equipped to overcome linguistic interference.
Cultural noise factors in communication are very common given growing workplace diversity. As much as language differences interfere with effective communication, so do different ways of viewing the world and certain situations. Many companies offer diversity training, which is largely intended to teach cultural awareness and to train employees to show sensitivity to others. When people view a problem or a situation in very different ways, it becomes difficult for them to work through those issues.
Sometimes it is the tools of communication that create noise, or cause interference. This is especially true as more technology infiltrates 21st century workplaces. As face-to-face communication has become less typical, people often have to rely on mobile devices, web conferencing solutions or digital media for communication.
Capabilities for using these various communication devices vary, and two people trying to communicate through them may have completely different abilities, making effective communication challenging. Misuse, or poor use, can cause communication delays or lead to frustration that inhibits free-flowing communication.