This report has been commissioned by the Chair of IABC to explore prominent causes of miscommunication in a business environment. Outlined in this report are some prominent causes of miscommunication in the workplace as well as recommendations for avoiding commonly seen communication failures which can lead to crises situations. The effect of human nature on communication is explored to create awareness of employee’s tendencies when communicating in house between different hierarchical levels. The five major factors which influence business communication are examined and recommendations for their effective use are given.
2.0 Prominent Causes of Miscommunication
Miscommunication can occur in business environments simply as a result of human nature. It is our nature to sometimes feel that our opinion is of greater value than those working under us and therefore not take as much notice of it. This is a very bad view for management to take because many times people in lower roles have specialised skills which make them more qualified to give an opinion on matters. This type of situation may only arise with incompetent management but a much more common problem arises from bad news not being passed upwards in the first place, or that bad news not being taken as seriously as it should be. Housel & Davis (1977) suggest that the channel of communication plays a big role in what information is passed upwards:
“The channel that subordinates use to communicate upward will affect how openly they feel they can communicate. If a subordinate interacts with his/her superior through a satisfying channel (i.e., face to face) they will probably feel more open in their communication than if they use an unsatisfying channel (i.e., written)”.
Another aspect of human nature which pertains to miscommunication is a reader’s tendency to take the most optimistic view when receiving bad news. This is an especially dangerous as it can result in underestimation of dangers and have severe consequences as was realised by the failed launch of the Challenger space shuttle on January 28, 1986. A project manager named Lawrence Mulloy received information that an O ring (as seen in figure 1.0) on the solid rocket boosters used at launch was found to have deteriorated significantly on a previous launch. Instead of putting a launch constraint on all of the O rings in the solid rocket boosters he chose to take an optimistic view and only put a constraint on the O rings which had deteriorated in previous launches. The failed launch on January 28 was the direct result of a failed O ring which was not under a launch constraint (Winsor, 1988).
Figure 1.0 – Showing the failed O-ring location in the Solid Rocket Booster (Challenger and Columbia - Engineers, Management and a Tale of two tradgedies, n.d.).
These types of miscommunication are hard to avoid as they are a product of human nature. The best way to minimise their impact is through awareness. By being aware of a...