Barriers to Communication: Mutual Distrust, Badly Expressed Message, Screening or Filtering, Inattention, Unclarified Assumptions, Resistance

Doorsteptutor material for UGC is prepared by world's top subject experts: Get complete video lectures from top expert with unlimited validity: cover entire syllabus, expected topics, in full detail- anytime and anywhere & ask your doubts to top experts.

Download PDF of This Page (Size: 189K)

Barriers to Communication

Communication is a pervasive activity; it is often unsatisfactory in practice. The interchange of ideas and information is blocked by several barriers. The barriers to effective communication are described below:

Barriers to communication

Barriers to Communication

Barriers to communication

Badly Expressed Message

Often the message is expressed in poorly chosen words or empty phrases. There is lack of coherence, inadequate vocabulary and inappropriate language. This lack of clarity and precision leads to unnecessary clarifications, costly errors and misunderstanding. Often the translation of the information is faulty and the message is irrelevant. This language or semantic problem may also arise because different people interpret the same words or symbols differently due to difference in their education, perception and background. This semantic barrier can be overcome by broadening the outlook of every manager so that he can understand the mind of other persons.

Screening or Filtering

Successive transmissions of the same message may be rendered less accurate because of its filtration. At each level the message is screened by the receiver and only such information is passed further which gives a favourable impression of the sender. This premature evaluation of the communication distorts the message. Some managers fail to communicate due to their laziness or on the assumption that everybody knows. A manager must develop cooperative relationship with his subordinates. he should listen to and understand their attitude to avoid filtering of information.


Sometimes, people fail to read bulletins, notices, minutes and reports. They do not listen the communication attentively. Subordinates may believe that the information is not important enough to communicate. Such errors of judgment make communication ineffective. Superiors have the tendency of non-listening. There may be lack of motivation to communicate due to poor facilities or delay in transmission.

Unclarified Assumptions

When the assumptions underlying the message are not clarified, misunderstanding may arise between the sender and the receiver of the message. For instance, a customer sends a message that he will visit the vendor’s plant at a particular time assuming that the vendor will provide transportation, boarding and lodging facilities. But the vendor assumes that the customer is arriving to attend a wedding and will make a routine call at the plant. These unclarified assumptions will spoil their relationship.

Resistance to Change

Changes affect different people differently and one may take time to think through the full meaning of a message. A manager should provide sufficient time and assistance to enable employees to adjust themselves to change. Human beings by nature prefer to avoid disturbances in their daily routine and generally resist new ideas. They want to maintain the status quo. Everybody likes to receive that information which confirms his present belief and tends to ignore any thing that is contrary to such belief. When the communication involves a change that seriously affects employees, they may not take the message seriously.

Mutual Distrust

Effective communication is impossible when there is lack of confidence and mutual understanding between superior and subordinates. Ill-considered judgment or illogical decisions may prompt subordinates to delay action. In the absence of an open mind and willingness to see things through the eyes of others, people perceive same things differently. Management should create an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence to enable people to appreciate each other’s point of view.

Status and Position

Subordinate may not disclose the facts fully because of the fear of the consequences of such disclosure. They may deliberately mislead the superior or may hesitate to seek clarifications due to the feeling that it will lower down their prestige. Superiors tend to keep maximum possible information with them to avoid listening to the subordinates. The barrier created by differences in status or position and fear can be removed through a free and fair two-way flow of information throughout the organization.

Complex Organization Structure

An organization structure involving several layers of supervision, use of staff specialists and a long chain of command is a major barrier to effective communication. Communication may break down at various levels of supervision. Organizational distance between workers and top management inhibits a free and fast flow of information and ideas along the chain of command. Management must improve the organization structure to remove this barrier.

Developed by: