What Are the Top 4 Communication Obstacles to Effective Teamwork?

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Effective teams resolve interpersonal conflicts with direct communication.
Effective teams resolve interpersonal conflicts with direct communication. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

The lone wolf in the workplace has become extinct for many businesses that have come to value the benefits of effective teamwork. When individuals work together on teams, this can lead to greater efficiency, enhanced creativity and stronger workplace morale. But teamwork has its downside; not everyone enjoys working in teams, individual viewpoints can become swallowed by the majority preference, and decision-making can falter into tangential, pointless discussion. Identifying the top four communication obstacles to effective teamwork can help streamline teamwork processes for your business.

Listening

Members of the team might have brilliant, cost-effective and easily implemented solutions to current problems and challenges in the workplace. These become worthless if no one is listening. Communication becomes a problem for teams containing competitive members because individuals may not want to share the spotlight with co-workers. If everyone is trying to take the stage, there’s no one in the audience. Effective teams listen to what individual members have to say, taking viewpoints and ideas into consideration when constructing solutions. Problems with listening can lead to misunderstandings about assignments, missed deadlines, professional frustration and disappointed clients.

Identification

Effective teamwork breaks down when members can’t overcome obstacles related to identification. From the very beginning, teams must communicate information about what roles are being assigned for projects. Roles such as discussion facilitator, note-taker, interdepartmental liaison, customer interest representative or legal adviser should be defined and assigned. Similarly, effective teams have a clear idea of the project or problem at hand. Identifying the purpose behind the overall effort of the team helps prioritize side projects, focus discussions and generate targeted solutions. Without communicating about these basic guidelines for teamwork collaboration, members don’t know what they’re working toward and what specific responsibilities they should assume.

Interpersonal Conflict

Team members may be professional, but they’re also human. Communication obstacles related to interpersonal conflict can be detrimental to group goals. Jealousy, infighting, bullying, passive aggressive behavior and hostility can derail discussions and group efforts toward project goals. Small miscommunication problems can lead to larger problems, including arguments, gossip, divisiveness and lack of productivity. Effective teamwork involves establishing ground rules for positive communication and addressing small problems before they evolve into larger issues.

Deliberation

At their best, teams generate robust, animated discussions about possible solutions to their assigned problems before implementing chosen strategies. At their worst, ineffective teams spend too much time deliberating, running out of time before they’re able to enact solutions. Teams may be hesitant to commit to decisions, preferring to delay action in favor of continued discussions and debates. Effective teams direct communication toward specific goals rather than becoming mired in the process of communicating. Avoid inaction by setting target deadlines for each phase of the project. As deadlines approach, move the decision-making process forward with new related assignments and tasks rather than rethinking or revisiting already agreed-upon topics.

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