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Barriers to Effective Communication: Definition & Examples

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  • 1:19 Physical Separation Barrier
  • 2:45 Status Differences
  • 3:35 Gender Differences
  • 4:50 Cultural Diversity
  • 5:31 Language
  • 7:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Lombardo
Companies need to be aware of potential barriers to communication. In general, physical separation and differences in status differences, gender, culture and language can potentially either block or distort effective communication.

Definition of Barriers

Many companies develop difficulties within their organization due to communication issues. There are five key barriers that can occur within a company: language, cultural diversity, gender differences, status differences and physical separation. These barriers to communication are specific items that can distort or prevent communication within an organization.

The ability for a company to recognize the communication issues and come to a resolution can drastically improve working conditions, sales and organizational culture. Let's look at communication barriers through examples at Paint Your Face Cosmetic Company.

Paint Your Face Cosmetics is a makeup company that sells products globally. They recently have had numerous excellent ideas for new product development but, for some reason, have been unsuccessful with bringing the final product to the marketplace. Additionally, there have been some problems with issues in the departments being hidden and not resolved, trouble within sales meetings, issues between office locations and difficulties with language barriers. The CEO has a feeling that there are some serious communication issues happening with the organization.

Physical Separation Barrier

A Paint Your Face Cosmetics product development specialist in Europe came up with a new idea that used yogurt as a key ingredient for hair color products. The specialist spent time emailing the marketing manager in the U.S. with the idea, recipe and product description. The market manager had difficulty getting her answers to product questions back from the specialist in Europe. There were numerous nonverbal cues that were missed due to the use of emails only. The final email response was interpreted by the specialist as that the manager did not like the product when, in fact, the manager did like the product but only had some concerns about price. The product idea was in danger of being lost.

The CEO was able to intercede and suggest that the two employees establish a regular meeting via a video conferencing system to iron out the details of the product creation. Once the two employees were able to talk face to face, the product idea was able to move into final development very quickly.

The main issue in the previous example was a communication issue due to a physical barrier. The two employees had a physically-separated work environment that led to difficulty in finishing the idea. Technology is usually the key to solving this barrier. Emails, phone calls, video-conferencing and webcams can help eliminate the barrier and provide closer communication.

Status Differences

Status differences have also caused barriers to communication within Paint Your Face Cosmetics. This type of barrier exists due to differences in organizational hierarchy where employees have difficulty communicating either up or down the corporate ladder. This difficulty can be eliminated by managers who are excellent at relating and understanding their employees.

The vice president of finance, Adams, realized that his employees were hiding work problems and trying to solve them by themselves. They were afraid to admit mistakes and bring issues to his attention. Adams was able to intercede and communicate that his door was always open for the discussion of issues. He also told the employees that they could use text and email to contact him at any time if they needed his assistance.

Gender Differences

The differences in how males and females tend to communicate have been studied through research. It has been found that males tend to converse sitting side-by-side, while females enjoy a more face-to-face exchange. Males don't feel the need or even want to be close by someone when speaking, whereas females prefer a more personal, close setting for communicating.

Paint Your Face Cosmetics has many female sales managers. They recently hired two male managers for the Western region. Some barriers to sales communication soon developed as gender-specific differences occurred in preparation for the national sales meeting.

Paint Your Face Cosmetic's sales manager Amanda felt that the two new male managers were being rude when she was trying to plan the convention. They took the seats furthest away from her at a large conference table. She had set up a small chair and table to the side of the conference table to talk face to face about the plans. Issues such as this can be rectified if both genders are made aware of communication preferences. Amanda and her co-workers attended a gender-specific training class to improve overall communication within the sales department.

Cultural Diversity

Paint Your Face Cosmetics has had the largest barriers in communication with their global satellite offices regarding cultural diversity. This is the acceptance of individuals' different cultures, talents and abilities. Each office has a vastly different cultural environment, with different work behavior. For example, the Spanish office takes two-hour siestas, or breaks, during the day to re-energize. This has led to frustration from their U.S. counterparts when they call and have to wait hours for an answer. The CEO has decided to implement sensitivity training in each global office to make employees aware of different work styles and cultures.

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