Breaking communication barriers: Fostering inclusivity in the workplace

Breaking communication barriers: Fostering inclusivity in the workplace

The corporate world is open to anyone and everyone. This creates a culturally diverse crowd and environment in the workplace. This brings various creative ideas and benefits to the workplace boosting the company's performance. However, to unlock this power, communication within the workplace must be conducted where all employees irrespective of their cultural background can access the information. This can be achieved through inclusive communication fostering a diverse and supportive workplace culture.

Inclusive communication is crucial for organizations to increase productivity and trust while mitigating conflicts. Such communication can be achieved after tackling common communication barriers within the workplace. These communication barriers may induce distance which hinders inclusivity and collaboration within the workplace. Let us learn more about it.

Understanding communication barriers:

Communication barriers can induce a disconnect or distance preventing the message from being correctly conveyed. These barriers could be present in all everyday interactions be it texts, emails, meetings, and announcements. Communication barriers have a significant impact on personal and professional lives. These need to be addressed and proper measures must be taken to ensure future communication is free of such barriers promoting inclusivity and support throughout the workplace.

To better understand communication barriers, let us take a look at some common communication barriers a diverse workplace may come across:

Cultural barriers: With globally diverse teams, cultural differences can be significantly more pronounced. Cultures become a sign of identity, and hurting one’s cultural identity can negatively impact an employee’s feelings of belonging to the organization. Furthermore, communication styles, social etiquette, social norms, and values can all be very different from one another.

For example, strong eye contact can be read as assertive in some cultures, while disrespectful in others. Small communication cues like these can lead to bigger misunderstandings. Hence, this heightens the chances of miscommunication making it important to address these issues.

Generational barriers: Ageism has been a growing issue in the workplace. The average workplace tends to have a diverse age range making interactions between individuals of varying ages frequent. As the younger generation begins to join the workforce, the older generation, being more experienced, tends to dismiss their junior’s opinions.

Likewise, the younger generation may use terms like “boomers” or “millennials” which can often be interpreted as hurtful by older generations. The workforce must be sensitive to such topics, while older generations must be taught to let the younger generation speak.

Language barriers: Having a diverse team means having a team with members having different mother tongues. Cultural slang and colloquial language may not translate in other cultures even if the language spoken is English. Hence, it is important to be aware of such differences and use language that is accessible to all team members.

Nonverbal communication can also hold different meanings across cultures. Simple hand gestures, body language, or facial expressions can translate to very different meanings. Diverse teams must be aware of such differences and use inclusive language to avoid misunderstandings.

Hierarchical barriers: Hierarchies are a part of every structural institution, including companies. The difference in position titles can hold much value and potentially, create distance between employees. In cases where hierarchical barriers are more pronounced, there is only topH2: down communication where higher positions disregard messages from employees as they are empowered to do so. Conversely, junior positions may avoid providing feedback for fear of offending higher positions. This is extremely harmful to the company as improvement is hindered.

Such barriers are examples of some communication barriers. These barriers are extremely harmful to individuals of these organizations and to the organization. It creates virtual distance between team members which can lead to miscommunications and eventually cause larger conflicts. Hence, it is important to identify where these communication barriers lie.

Strategies for inclusive communication:

Now that we have identified common communication barriers, how do we eliminate them? Many subtle strategies have been used to bring small but impactful changes in the corporate landscape. Similarly, to implement these strategies, one must actively participate in putting an effort by making small changes that will surely leave a lasting impact on the organization. Let us take a look at some of the strategies that can be implemented to promote inclusive communication:

Identify communication styles: Communication styles are personal preferred communication patterns or mannerisms. Each individual has their unique communication style which can differ based on professional and personal lives. Some people prefer to have direct or concise messages while others may find it rude. Hence, as a team leader, one must identify employee communication styles to choose the most suitable communication channel for the team. 

Setting objectives: Setting clear objectives at the start of tasks, weeks, or months, can help convey expectations early on. This keeps both employees and employers on the same page, and it can help track performance over time. By making employees aware of the common goal required to be met, potential communication barriers can be avoided.

Promote inclusive language: Team leaders should promote inclusive language throughout the organization. Swapping some phrases for others, like “wheelchairH2: bound” for “uses a wheelchair”, “folks” for “gentlemen and ladies”, or instead of “chairman” using “chairperson”. Encourage team members to actively incorporate these words into their daily vocabulary. Using inclusive language will show diverse teams to appreciate and respect cultural differences.

These are some basic strategies to get the team introduced to changes. Continue to collect feedback on these methods and ideas for enhancing inclusivity. Establishing further strategies that effectively eliminate communication barriers can go a long way to ensure a more inclusive workplace for everyone involved.


Communication barriers can pose to be challenges when fostering a more inclusive workplace. It creates unnecessary barriers that hinder budding workplace friendships and feelings of belonging with the team. It is important to regularly hold employees accountable and remind them to use inclusive practices. Small practices such as using preferred pronouns can heal many misunderstandings and avoid future conflicts. This will contribute to a more cohesive, collaborative, and innovative workforce driving company success.


Q. How can I identify communication barriers in my workplace?

A. Look for signs of misunderstanding, lack of engagement, or conflict among team members.

Q. What role do leaders play in promoting inclusive communication?

A. Leaders set the tone for communication culture by modeling inclusive behaviors and providing support and resources for effective communication.

Q. How can I encourage employees to participate in open dialogue?

A. Create a safe and supportive environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas without fear of judgment or reprisal.

Q. What are some common challenges in implementing inclusive communication strategies?

A. Resistance to change, lack of awareness or understanding, and difficulty addressing deeply ingrained cultural norms or biases.