Team Communication in Organizations

Team communication typically begins with task assignments and directives from company and team leaders. Such assignments involve top-down team interactions. Within the team, one -on-one and small group interactions drive information sharing and collaboration on task completion. Teams also share information and back- and forth – discussions through electronic and paper documentation. In a customer service setting for instance, each customer’s account contains call reports so each service team member can see the dialogue that has taken place.


Effective communication is the key to high performance and productivity in a work team. When each person clearly understands his role, listens well to instruction, offers updates and insights, aware of what has been done and what remains to complete.

As far as communication in a team setting is concerned, the following are the benefits derived from it:

1. Identity and cohesion: An indirect result of communication is the development of a sense of identity and cohesion. As team members shares ideas, engage in professional debate and work toward resolutions, they form important bonds that strengthen their problem -solving abilities as a unit.

2. High engagements: Effective communication contributes to high engagement among team members, which leads to happier employees and strong performance. High energy levels and a commitment to look for new opportunities and ideas are tied to high engagement as well.

3. Strong performance: When team members interact regularly, they tend to lay ideas and challenges on the table for group discussion. Doing so allows for piggybacking and building of good ideas into great ones. It also creates opportunities to nip potential problems in the bud.


A primary limitation of communication in teams is time. In situations in which time is of the essence, team collaboration can impede a more swift decision made by an individual. Thus, a quick decision by an experienced, autonomous leader’s works better under such circumstances.

Other limitations to team communication are:

1. Office structures: Effective communication typically requires an office arrangement that simplifies opportunities for engagement. An open floor layout without walls and with team members in close quarters works best.

2. Conflicts: Teams go through stages of development, beginning with initial formation. Conflicts between and among employees can occur at any point, but they are especially common during early forming stages before workers build rapport and respect. The ability of team leaders to encourage interpersonal debate and to stifle personal tension is valuable in overcoming conflicts.

3. Communication barriers: Diverse work teams bring broad perspectives, but language and cultural barriers can impede constructive communication. Training on cultural awareness and sensitivity and translators are sometimes needed to overcome these barriers.

Strategies for Effective Intercultural Communication

In today’s society, diversity in the workplace is a fact of life. The probability of organization members coming from diverse cultural backgrounds, as well as customers and clients coming from diverse cultural backgrounds is very high. That said, the way in which organizations communicate, both internally and externally, must reflect this changing demographic, because communication is greatly affected by culture.

Becoming an effective intercultural communicator does not just happen by chance. To the contrary, in order to become an effective intercultural communicator, one must be motivated, and take the necessary steps to do so. These steps include becoming transcultured, asking oneself what preconceived notions about the other person’s culture may hinder the communication process, letting go of any ethnocentrism, and simplifying the meaning of culture to understand the communicator for who they are as a person. While following these steps can help one increase their effectiveness as an intercultural communicator, it is imperative to remember that just as communication is an ongoing process, becoming an effective intercultural communicator is also an ongoing process that takes work.

In order for effective intercultural communication to be achieved, there has to be a shift in consciousness and the identity of the self on the part of the communicator-a hybridization of consciousness and identity, meaning that the communicator must make a conscious effort to open one’s self up to understanding, which may actually alter the communicator’s identity.

Becoming an effective intercultural communicator also involves making a conscious effort to avoid communication dissonance. Prior to interacting with a person from another culture, or during the communication exchange, one should ask oneself the following questions to ensure that no preconceived notions or biases exists that may hinder the communication process:

* What preconceived notions do I have about this person based on social identity characteristics (whether we seem different or similar)?

* Are those notions positive, negative, or neutral?

* What’s the source of those preconceptions?

* Will my preconceptions facilitate or impede communication?

* Am I open to learning about this person and myself during this interaction? Why or why not?

* Am I willing to be changed as a result of this interaction or experience?

* What communication tools can I use to try to create genuine communication

The next step to increased effective intercultural communication is to attempt to let go of any ethnocentric feelings you may have. While many of us may feel as though we do not have any ethnocentric feelings or ideas, that is, esteeming one’s nationality, culture, or ethnicity above another’s, taking a moment to truly examine one’s way of thinking could reveal otherwise. In a multicultural setting, simply assuming that one’s own culturally-accepted gestures or style of communication is appropriate to use amongst others is a form of ethnocentrism. Therefore, one must strive to be aware of the accepted verbal and nonverbal communication for various cultures, and not esteem verbal and nonverbal communication in one’s owns culture over others. This is similar to cultural relativism, in which all social practices are equally good. However, unlike cultural relativism, the goal of effective intercultural communication is not to state that all cultural practices are good, but to strive to develop an intercultural consciousness and understand others in order to enhance communication to increase understanding amongst all communicators.

Another way to improve intercultural communication, both internally and externally, is to simplify the situation. Culture is a very complex topic, but viewing culture as simply a community of practice, histories of community of practice, a way of doing things, and as a community in general can help organization members find ways to communicate in a more effective manner with diverse organization members and customers and clients. The key is to understand the individuals’ communities and to communicate with them in a way that would be acceptable or appreciated in their community. To understand what is culturally acceptable in another’s community, one must make it his or her responsibility to become aware of what the social norms are in the other person’s culture. This could include minor research or casual observation. However, jumping to conclusions could be detrimental and result in communication dissonance. To avoid jumping to conclusions, one should take cues from the other people he or she is communicating with, or if the relationship is close enough as in a co-worker-to-co-worker relationship, sometimes it is OK to simply ask what styles or methods of communication are preferred or appropriate in various situations.

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
  • Nervousness
  • 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.