Miscommunication in the Workplace: Common Causes and How to Avoid Them


Does Your Business Writing Contain the 7 Cs of Effective Communication? What is miscommunication in the workplace?

What is miscommunication in the workplace?

Workplace miscommunication refers to misunderstandings that occur when team members don’t communicate effectively, and their audience doesn’t understand their intent or meaning. Naturally, miscommunication in the workplace can throw business out of whack at potentially high cost, with consequences ranging from dissatisfied employees and high turnover rates to costly missed deadlines.

By contrast, effective communication is essential for a productive, positive workplace. It facilitates better performance for your team and fosters a healthier bottom-line for your business.

So, don’t let workplace miscommunication throttle your productivity. Learn the common causes of miscommunication at work and how to avoid them!

How to solve miscommunication in the workplace: example strategies

1: Don’t Make Assumptions

This is the most common cause of miscommunication in the workplace. It can be particularly troublesome if you assume that someone knows the same technical terms, knows what to do in a given situation, knows that a particular need is obvious, or knows that others view a problem the same way you do. Those things might be true…or they might not. Do you know for sure? Don’t assume.

Solution: Never assume anything. You may feel as though you’re stating the obvious sometimes, but it’s much easier to be crystal clear in the first place than to unravel a mistake later on.

2: Don’t Convey Confusing Body Language

Somewhere between 60% and 90% of all communication is nonverbal, according to the University of Texas Permian Basin. In other words, a huge percentage of the amount of information you communicate is non-verbal. Sometimes gestures, facial expressions, posture, and tone of voice may convey more of what you mean than your actual words. This can cause problems if your body language is confusing, out of sync with what you’re saying, or is totally absent (as in written communications) and its absence means the audience doesn’t have access to key information.

Solution: Leaders with good communication skills consider body language in every interaction. This requires focus; you can’t allow personal thoughts or upcoming events to distract you. Eye contact, open body language, and a positive tone help avoid inadvertent non-verbal signals. If you won’t be present for written communication, make sure the document stands on its own.

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3: Don’t Limit Yourself To Only the Bare Necessities

It may save time to communicate only the essentials with your workforce, but then you end up with two scenarios. First, attentive workers may interrupt you by asking questions you could’ve covered in the first place. Second, less studious workers may just plow ahead but end up completing their work less correctly. Either scenario creates the potential for more miscommunication in the workplace.

Solution: To ensure the best results possible and save time making corrections, give your team all the information they need up front.

4: Don’t Make Typing Errors

Contradictory dates and times, incorrect links, and misspelled names in emails confuse and may even offend recipients. Once misinformation starts circulating, correcting the confusion wastes time and resources. Simple errors make for the dumbest miscommunication and are best avoided altogether.

Solution: Always double-check any written materials before submitting, publishing, or hitting send.

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5: Think Critically About Your Communications

Sometimes miscommunication in the workplace happens because we don’t think through the implications of our speech or writing, and it has effects we didn’t anticipate or intend. Addressing this kind of miscommunication demands critical thinking, or the ability to gather information, assess the situation, and reason logically.

Solution: Ask the right critical questions when writing.

For more guidance in critical thinking, read our white paper “Critical Thinking: The Parent of Good Writing” (no registration required).

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