Barriers to Honest Communication in the Workplace
There are a number of barriers to effective communication in the workplace. It is important as a manager to identify factors which prevent honest and open discourse. When employees do not feel that they can share their thoughts and opinions freely with upper management, it indicates that there is a lack of trust within the organization. It is a manager’s responsibility to develop this trust by listening to what is being said and keeping an open mind to criticism and new suggestions for improvements in the company. Incorrect beliefs can be barriers to effective and assertive communication:
- If I assert myself, others will get mad at me.
- If I assert myself and people do become angry with me, it will be awful.
- I want others to be honest with me, but I’m afraid that if I am honest with others and say no, I will hurt them.
- If my assertion hurts others, I am responsible for their feelings.
- It is wrong and selfish to turn down legitimate requests. Other people will think I am terrible and won’t like me.
- At all costs, I must avoid saying things and asking questions that might make me look stupid.
- Assertive people are cold and hard. If I’m assertive, I’ll be so unpleasant that people won’t like me.
There are a number of other factors that can lead someone to avoid communicating their ideas:
- Fear of rejection
- Low self-confidence
- Inability to approach someone new and start a conversation
- Belief that someone in a position of authority already knows what is going on
- A belief that supervisors are not interested in the ideas of subordinates
- Inability to handle criticism
- Lack of strong communication skills necessary to share thoughts and ideas
- Fear of making a mistake
- Cultural differences in how assertive communication is viewed
- Concern that others will think that expressing ideas is arrogant
- Keeping the peace by keeping quiet
- Leaving assertive communication to someone else
- Giving up because of the time and effort required
Assertive people are able to:
- Share themselves clearly, directly, and without guilt
- Speak freely without fear of reprisal
- Respond to questions with ease
- Stick together to present a cohesive group
- Demonstrate that they are informed
- Keep records and present objective information
- Communicate clearly
- Demonstrate self-confidence
- Identify objective goals and are goal-driven
- Collaborate with others
- Demonstrate self-reliance and independence
- Persevere in spite of setbacks
- Organize to bring about change
- Demonstrate a positive attitude
- Bring a sense of pride to their work
- Hold themselves and those around them accountable
If you find that you are uncomfortable around employees who are assertive, determine the reason for this feeling. Many new managers feel that their authority is being challenged and they are new enough to their position that they are disturbed by this. Experienced managers may have gotten used to the status quo and don’t want to listen to new ideas. Anyone who operates in a supervisory capacity needs to be willing to examine their own behavior and how it improves or undermines the growth of their employees.