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Chapter: Principles of Management : Directing

Barriers to Effective Communication

Barriers to communication are factors that block or significantly distort successful communication. Effective managerial communication skills helps overcome some, but not all, barriers to communication in organizations.

Barriers to Effective Communication


Barriers  to  communication  are  factors  that  block  or  significantly distort  successful communication. Effective managerial communication skills helps overcome some, but not all, barriers to communication in organizations. The more prominent barriers to effective communication which every manager should be aware of is given below,


a) Filtering:


Filtering refers to a sender manipulating information so it will be seen more favourably by the receiver. The major determinant of filtering is the number of levels in an organization's structure. Sometimes the information is filtered by the sender himself. If the sender is hiding some meaning and disclosing in such a fashion as appealing to the receiver, then he is "filtering" the message deliberately. A manager in the process of altering communication in his favour is attempting to filter the information.


b) Selective Perception:


Selective perception means seeing what one wants to see. The receiver, in the communication process, generally resorts to selective perception i.e., he selectively perceives the message based on the organizational requirements, the needs and characteristics, background of the employees etc. Perceptual distortion is one of the distressing barriers to the effective communication. People interpret what they see and call it a reality. In our regular activities, we tend to see those things that please us and to reject or ignore unpleasant things. Selective perception allows us to keep out dissonance (the existence of conflicting elements in our perceptual set) at a tolerable level.


c) Emotions:


How the receiver feels at the time of receipt of information influences effectively how he interprets the information. For example, if the receiver feels that the communicator is in a jovial mood, he interprets that the information being sent by the communicator to be good and interesting. Extreme emotions and jubilation or depression are quite likely to hinder the effectiveness of communication. A person's ability to encode a message can become impaired when the person is feeling strong emotions. For example, when you are angry, it is harder to consider the other person's viewpoint and to choose words carefully. The angrier you are, the harder this task becomes. Extreme emotions such as jubilation or depression - are most likely to hinder effective communication. In such instances, we are most prone to disregard our rational and objective thinking processes and substitute emotional judgments.


d) Language:


Communicated message must be understandable to the receiver. Words mean different things to different people. Language reflects not only the personality of the individual but also the culture of society in which the individual is living. In organizations, people from different regions, different backgrounds, and speak different languages. People will have different academic backgrounds, different intellectual facilities, and hence the jargon they use varies.


e) Stereotyping:


Stereotyping is the application of selective perception. When we have preconceived ideas about other people and refuse to discriminate between individual behaviours, we are applying selective perception to our relationship with other people. Stereotyping is a barrier to communications because those who stereotype others use selective perception in their communication and tend to hear only those things that confirm their stereotyped images.


f) Status Difference:


The organizational hierarchy pose another barrier to communication within organization, especially when the communication is between employee and manager. This is so because the employee is dependent on the manager as the primary link to the organization and hence more likely to distort upward communication than either horizontal or downward communication. Effective supervisory skills make the supervisor more approachable and help reduce the risk of problems related to status differences. In addition, when employees feel secure, they are more likely to be straightforward in upward communication.


g) Use of Conflicting Signals:


A sender is using conflicting signals when he or she sends inconsistent messages. A vertical message might conflict with a nonverbal one. For example, if a manager says to his employees, "If you have a problem, just come to me. My door is always open", but he looks annoyed whenever an employee knocks on his door". Then we say the manager is sending conflicting messages. When signals conflict, the receivers of the message have to decide which, if any, to believe.


h) Reluctance to Communicate:


For a variety of reasons, managers are sometimes reluctant to transmit messages. The reasons could be:-

They may doubt their ability to do so.

They may dislike or be weary of writing or talking to others.

They may hesitate to deliver bad news because they do not want to face a negative reaction.


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