Common Causes of Miscommunication in the Workplace

Common Causes of Miscommunication in the Workplace
  • Opening Intro -

    At work, you spend a large amount of your time talking with your coworkers, superiors, and clients—you are almost always communicating with others.

    However, the intended message doesn't always get across.


Conversations and various situations are ripe for misunderstandings. Here are some of the most common causes of miscommunication in the workplace.

Missing Nonverbal Clues

A very common issue at work is missing nonverbal clues from other people. This can be easy to do, especially when a large percentage of people are working from home and communicating virtually through chat rooms or video calls that limit physical context.

Nonverbal clues are easy enough to pick up, but you must know what to look for. Consider researching how people’s facial expressions, stances, and arm position tell more than what they are saying.

Poor Vertical Communication

In any company or business, vertical communication is one of the unifying factors. If superiors do not explicate company news and policy, employees can feel lost amidst a rapidly changing environment.

On the other hand, if employees do not communicate with their superiors, middle and upper management can feel disconnected from the day-to-day operations at the ground level.

To fix these issues, managers must learn how to frequently and transparently disseminate information. Lower-level employees must also gauge when and how to bring up important issues they are seeing or experiencing.

No Accountability

Many companies do not have internal mechanisms for accountability. Miscommunication can happen quickly when employees do not have safe, anonymous, and accessible avenues for discussing problems at work.

A lack of accountability can lead to everything from disgruntled employees to morally ambiguous expectations.

As an employee, learning how to handle unethical situations or well-grounded frustrations can be difficult. However, remember that change often starts with you. You must stand up for your beliefs and your dignity at work.

Incorrect Assumptions

Making assumptions about others can be embarrassing, especially when you act without the proper information. In a conversation, people often mishear or misunderstand what the other person says.

Guarding against this is difficult, especially when others are making assumptions about you or your remarks. However, you can help the situation by always assuming the best of others and asking them to clarify any confusion.

Taken Out of Context

In communication, context deeply affects how you understand information. For example, if your boss summons you unexpectedly to discuss your performance, you can expect a somewhat negative conversation.

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But, if it’s the normal time of year for performance reviews, you can expect a regular conversation with both positive remarks and areas of improvement. To avoid contextual issues at work, remember who you are talking with and what they know about the information at hand.

Understanding these common causes of miscommunication in the workplace can help you navigate awkward interactions. Reflect on how you can better communicate with and visually interpret others’ cues to ensure clarity and honesty at work.

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