Term Paper: Communication Problems in the Workplace

Pages: 8 (2203 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Communication  ·  Buy This Paper

Communication problems in the workplace are bound to arise and businesses and employees must understand how to handle these problems. These problems often include such things as poor listening skills, poor oral communication, the inability to understand nonverbal cues, and communication problems as it relates to workplace diversity. The outcome of these problems is work related stress, which leads to a decrease in productivity, a decline in customer satisfaction and the loss of a business.

These problems can be resolved through specificity, listening, depersonalization, mediation, and temporary separation from coworkers.

Business communications is an essential component in the success of any firm (Harris 1993). Effective communication in the workplace allows for the free flow of information and the completion of tasks in a timely and efficient manner. On the contrary, poor communication in the workplace can create a plethora of problems and encourages discord amongst employees and managers (Carmichael 1996). The purpose of this discussion is to examine communications problems in the workplace. More specifically, we will focus on areas such as listening, oral communication, nonverbal communication, and communication issues as it relates to workplace diversity. We will also discuss the outcomes of communication problems in the workplace and the steps that can be taken to resolve communications problems in the workplace.

Literature Review

Listening

One of the main aspects of communication in the business sector is the ability to listen. Brownell (1994) believes that many of the students entering the workforce in the next ten years will not have acquired the listening skills to operate effectively in the workplace. Employees must have the ability to listen to colleagues and customers alike. The ability to listen and to understand what a colleague is attempting to communicate is essential for the completion of projects and the overall atmosphere of the work environment. It is also important that employees have good listening skills when dealing with customers; this is especially important in industries that are dependent upon customer relationships over time.

Cooper (1997) argues that three main assumptions about listening that have impeded upon the ability to accurately train employees in the area of business communicaitons. The first assumption is that listening is multidimensional (Cooper 1997). Although early work insisted that listening was a unitary skill, dependent simply upon the amount of information one could retain, recent research has found that listening is indeed a multidimensional skill (Cooper 1997).

The second assumption argues that listening is a behavior. This assertion implies that Listening obviously involves hearing and cognition and denotes such skills as selectively perceiving, interpreting, understanding, assigning meaning, reacting, remembering, and analyzing what is heard (Hirsch, 1986). However, in viewing listening as a mental process and an unobservable skill, researchers spend more time differentiating listening from other intellectual behavior (e.g., thinking) rather than defining what listening actually is. When listening is viewed as a communication behavior, the training agenda is changed to include social skills and social outcomes (Cooper 1997)."

The last assumption of organizational listening contends that listening is linear (Cooper 1997). This means that a message is transmitted and the result is considered. Instead, some researchers have insisted that listening is nonlinear and involves the association between behaviors of interacting persons and includes deliberate symbolic behavior intended to create a certain implication (Cooper 1997).

Cooper (1997) also asserts that there are three signs of effective listening in the workplace including giving eye contact, following directions and suggestions, and showing general attentiveness (Cooper 1997). In addition, some studies have shown that the abilities to paraphrase and understand views are signs of listening competency (Cooper 1997). On the other hand problems listening can be reflected in unresponsiveness to a message verbally or nonverbally, failing to follow directions or suggestions, talking to someone else, and not recalling previous messages (Cooper 1997).

According to Goby and Lewis (2000)"effective listening is a skill that needs to be developed as a prerequisite for successful practice of the more 'active' skills of speaking and writing." The ability to listen is essential to other communication skills because it allows for the accurate flow of information in the workplace.

Problems in the area of listening occur when the listener fails to accurately perceive what the speaker is attempting to convey. This can occur for a number of reasons including distractions, the inability to understand the topic being discussed or just a plain disinterest in what is being said. Although the inability to listen is a major problem in the workplace, there are steps that can be taken to improve the listening skills of employees. These steps include training programs that are designed to address the importance of listening skills in the workplace. Such a course would show employees how to better their listening skills so that the workplace is more cohesive and information flows freely in the organization.

Oral Communication

Maes et al. (1997) insists that oral communication is the most important type of communication skill that one can acquire. According to the authors communication problems associated with oral communication skills, or the lack thereof, are a major issue in many organizations (Maes et al. 1997). Oral communication skill are so important because they impact upon every other form of communication in the workplace (Maes et al. 1997). For instance, how can an employee listen and retain the information that is being presented if the speaker does not have competency in the area of oral communication (Maes et al. 1997). Additionally, poor oral communication impacts upon written communication such as interoffice email and memos Maes et al. 1997).

Problems with oral communication are also realized in the type of work that is produced by employees (Maes et al. 1997). Effective oral communication allows employees to know what the goals of the organization are and what is expected of them (Maes et al. 1997). When oral communication is poor workers may not complete tasks in a timely manner and the completed task may not conform to the expectations of bosses or coworkers.

Nonverbal cues

Another area of poor communication involves the inability to understand nonverbal cues. Verbal cues can usually be deciphered quite easily and may include such things as the tone or inflection of the voice. For instance, a person that is angry may speak in a tone that is condescending or loud. On the other hand, nonverbal clues are much more difficult to see and understand.

Communication and Diversity

Another communication problem in today's workforce involves the impact of diversity in the workplace. In today's workforce there are people representing various ethnic and religious backgrounds, racial backgrounds, gender, and sexual orientation (Tovey 1997). With this being understood it is easy to see how problems communications can arise. According to HR Magazine, most of the responsibility for handling of communication in a diverse workforce is often left to managers. The article asserts that demographic variances can lead communication problems and conflict in the workplace (Mendelson & Mendelson, 1996).

The primary problem with communication in the workplace as it relates to diversity has to do with the stereotypes that people have of others (Mendelson & Mendelson, 1996). The article asserts that workers bring their preconceived ideas or notions about a particular social group into the workplace setting (Mendelson & Mendelson, 1996). This can result in the inability to understand coworkers. Therefore, mangers and businesses must make a concerted effort to incorporate the diversity of the organization into the organizational goals (Mendelson & Mendelson, 1996). The article asserts that "Once diversities can be integrated with organizational goals, the knowledge people acquire from their different backgrounds may actually help to improve productivity and profits. Managers can serve as role models for others as they learn listening and communication skills (Mendelson & Mendelson, 1996)."

The authors further assert that a tactic referred to as the difficult communication (DIFCOM) process (Mendelson & Mendelson, 1996). The approach is self-contained and designed to teach communication that can be used to ractify any difficult work situation as it relates to a manager and one or more employees (Mendelson & Mendelson, 1996). According to the research there are two phases in the DIFCOM process which include a preliminary work, which encompasses an approach to altering the manager's thinking (Mendelson & Mendelson, 1996). The second phase involves a five-stage action plan to aid the in communicating well in many different difficult situations (Mendelson & Mendelson, 1996).

Outcomes of communication problems in the Workplace

There are many different outcomes that occur as a result of communication problems in the workplace. One of the most harmful outcomes is stress (Chenier 1998). High levels of stress in the workplace are detrimental because an employees' productivity can be greatly effective. The author explains that as stress increases, job dissatisfaction escalates, which may result in negative outcomes. Employee absenteeism and turnover is increased and there is reduced productivity as a result of poor job performance; poor job performance results in poor performance evaluations for the workers. Unfortunately, many supervisors do not know how to evaluate employees on their performance and this can create… [END OF PREVIEW]

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