What are the barriers to effective communication on projects? 

 November 28, 2022

Written by Yemisi Iyilade, Project Management Consultant, Scientist & Innovation Expert.

Communication is essential to the success of any project; however, many times barriers can get in the way of effective project communication. By understanding and overcoming these barriers, we can improve our chances of delivering projects successfully, on time, and within budget.

Being unable to communicate well can often lead to project failure, but by sharpening your skills, you up the likelihood of success. In order to break down these barriers and create a positive impact and effective project delivery, we need to be aware of them and have the skills needed to overcome them.

Let’s take a closer look at 7 of the most common barriers to effective communication

The Top 7 Barriers to Effective Communication on Projects


Whether it’s between team members, functional managers, or even between departments, effective communication is essential for ensuring that projects run smoothly and team members’ expectations are well managed. It is one of the most important elements in successful project management.

However, there are several barriers that can prevent communication from being as effective as it could be. Let’s take a look at some of the most common barriers to project communication on projects.

1) Perception

One of the biggest barriers to effective communication is perception. People will often interpret information differently based on their individual biases and preconceived notions about certain topics or people.

This can lead to misunderstandings and inaccurate conclusions about what is being communicated. Additionally, language differences and cultural norms can also create misunderstandings when communicating with people from different backgrounds. A project manager must take that into account while doing project management.

2) Physical Barriers

Physical barriers such as distance, time zones, or bad reception can make communicating more difficult than it needs to be.

For example, if two team members are located in different countries, they may have difficulty coordinating schedules due to different time zones or they may have difficulty understanding each other if their language skills aren’t up to par or if the phone reception isn’t strong enough for them to understand each other clearly over the phone or internet.

3) Emotional Barriers

Emotional barriers can often create a wall between two individuals who are trying to communicate effectively. If someone is feeling defensive or suspicious of the other person, they may not be as willing to listen and understand what is being said.

Additionally, if someone feels hurt or angry, they may not be able to think rationally when communicating with someone else which can lead to confusion and misinterpretation of messages.

4) Body Language

Body language can also be a barrier when trying to communicate effectively with another individual. If someone is slouching during a conversation or crossing their arms this could indicate that they are not open or receptive to what the other person has to say which could limit how much information is shared and understood by both parties involved in the conversation.

Additionally, facial expressions and tone of voice can also affect how well people communicate with each other which makes it important for communicators on both sides of any conversation to pay close attention to these subtle cues when conversing with each other.

5) Cultural Differences

Cultural differences can also play a role in how well two individuals communicate effectively with each other because certain cultures have different expectations regarding communication than others do.

For example, some cultures value directness while others place more emphasis on politeness. As such, it’s important for communicators from different cultures to pay close attention so that their message does not get lost in translation due to poor etiquette.

6) Differences in Focus

Differences in focus amongst those involved in any given conversation can often cause miscommunication. For instance, while one person might view a particular situation as an opportunity another might see it as a threat.

It’s important for communicators on both sides of any conversation to try and see things from each other ‘s current priority so that all parties involved a gain better understanding of whatever message is being conveyed.

7) Moral & Religious Differences

Moral and religious beliefs can also play a part in our ability (or inability) to effectively communicate with each other. Be respectful of everyone’s beliefs and open-minded about conversations around sensitive topics such as religion or politics during work hours or meetings.

What is Actually Communication barrier?

Communication barriers are obstacles that hinder effective communication between individuals or groups. They are the factors that prevent people from understanding each other’s messages, leading to misunderstandings, confusion, and conflicts. There are a lot of subsectors of communication problems/barriers like cultural barriers, physical barriers, and language barriers.

Communication barriers can be caused by a variety of factors, such as differences in language, culture, and background. For example, a person who speaks English as a second language may struggle to understand the nuances of a conversation, while someone from a different culture may interpret words or actions differently than intended.

Other common communication barriers include noise, distractions, technical difficulties, and physical barriers. These can all interfere with the transmission of a message, making it difficult for the receiver to understand the intended meaning.

Personal attitudes and biases can also be a barrier to project communication. Prejudices and stereotypes can lead to assumptions about a person’s behavior, personality, or abilities, which can hinder communication and create tension between individuals or groups.

In order to overcome communication barriers, it is important to identify the source of the problem and take steps to address it. This may involve using clear and concise language, providing visual aids, asking questions for clarification, and being sensitive to cultural and personal differences. Project communication is essential for building trust, fostering teamwork, and achieving common goals.

Why do communication barriers happen?

Communication barriers can arise for various reasons, and they can hinder effective communication in different contexts, such as personal relationships, business, and social interactions. Here are some reasons why communication barriers happen:

Language Differences: One of the most common communication barriers is language differences. Due to different languages, people may struggle to understand each other’s messages. Even if both parties speak the same language, they may have different accents, dialects, or vocabularies, which can lead to misunderstandings.

Cultural Differences: Cultural differences can also create communication barriers. Different cultures have their own norms, values, and communication styles, which can affect how people interpret messages. For example, in some cultures, it is considered impolite to make direct eye contact, while in others, it is a sign of respect.

Physical Barriers: Physical barriers such as distance, noise, and environmental factors can make communication difficult. For example, if two people are in a noisy environment, they may struggle to hear each other, leading to misunderstandings.

Technical Difficulties: Technical difficulties can also create communication barriers. If the technology used for communication, such as a phone or video conferencing software, is not working properly, it can be challenging to convey messages effectively.

Emotional Barriers: Emotional barriers can arise when people are experiencing strong emotions, such as anger, fear, or sadness. When people are emotional, they may struggle to express themselves clearly or may misinterpret others’ messages.

Lack of Attention: A lack of attention can create communication barriers. When people are distracted, they may miss important details or fail to listen carefully to what others are saying.

Assumptions and Stereotypes: Assumptions and stereotypes can create communication barriers by leading people to make incorrect assumptions about others’ beliefs, values, or intentions. This can lead to misunderstandings and conflict.

Differences in Perception: Differences in perception can also create communication barriers. People may interpret messages differently based on their own biases, experiences, or beliefs.

Generational Differences: Generational differences can create communication barriers between people of different ages. For example, younger people may prefer to communicate through text messages, while older people may prefer phone calls or face-to-face conversations.

Lack of Confidence: Lack of confidence can create communication barriers by preventing people from expressing themselves clearly. When people lack confidence, they may hesitate to speak up or may use vague or unclear language.

Overcoming communication barriers requires an understanding of their underlying causes. Once the cause of the barrier is identified, strategies can be put in place to address it. For example, if language differences are the cause of the barrier, providing translation services or using visual aids may be helpful. If emotional barriers are the cause, taking a break to calm down before continuing the conversation may be beneficial.

Project communication is essential for personal and professional success. By identifying and addressing communication barriers, people can improve their ability to connect with others, build relationships, and achieve their goals.

What is the main barrier to communication?

Communication is the process of exchanging information, ideas, and thoughts between two or more parties. Effective communication is essential in personal, professional, and social relationships, but communication barriers can hinder this process. There are many different barriers to project communications, but the main barrier to communication is the lack of understanding or misinterpretation of the message being conveyed in the project team.

One of the most common barriers to effective communication is language. When two people speak different languages, it can be difficult to convey the intended message accurately. Even when people speak the same language, differences in dialect, slang, and cultural background can lead to miscommunication. This is particularly true in multicultural environments where people have different values, beliefs, and attitudes.

Another barrier to communication is physical barriers. These include anything that obstructs communication, such as distance, noise, and poor lighting. For example, if two people are trying to communicate over a loud construction site, they may have trouble hearing each other. Similarly, if two people are trying to communicate through a language barrier, they may have trouble understanding each other.

Psychological barriers are also significant barriers to the communication process. These include anything that affects a person’s ability to communicate effectively, such as anxiety, fear, and defensiveness. These barriers can lead to poor communication and make it difficult for people to express themselves clearly.

How Can A Project Manager Break The Barrier while doing Project Management?

As a project manager, breaking barriers is a critical skill to have project success. Barriers can come in many forms in the communication process, including budget constraints, technical challenges, or team conflicts. Here are some ways project managers can break the barrier and project issues while doing project management:

  1. Build Strong Relationships:
    Building strong relationships with team members, stakeholders, and clients is key to breaking barriers. When people trust and respect you, they are more likely to work with you to overcome obstacles.
  2. Encourage Open Communication:
    Encourage open communication within your team and with stakeholders. Make sure everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas, concerns, and challenges. This helps you identify potential barriers early and find ways to address them.
  3. Set Clear Expectations:
    Set clear expectations for project goals, timelines, and deliverables. This helps everyone stay on track and avoids surprises that can cause barriers.
  4. Foster Collaboration:
    Foster collaboration between team members and across departments. Encourage people to share their expertise and work together to solve problems.
  5. Be Agile:
    Be agile in your approach to project management. Be willing to adapt your plans and strategies as needed to overcome obstacles and achieve your goals.
  6. Empower Your Team:
    Empower your team by giving them the tools, resources, and support they need to be successful. This includes providing training, mentoring, and coaching.
  7. Prioritize Risks:
    Prioritize risks and plan for contingencies. Identify potential barriers and develop contingency plans to address them. This helps you stay ahead of potential barriers and avoid delays.
  8. Celebrate Success:
    Celebrate success when you overcome barriers and achieve project goals. Recognize and reward team members for their hard work and contributions.

Breaking barriers in project management requires a combination of skills, strategies, and tools. By building strong relationships, encouraging open communication, setting clear expectations, fostering collaboration, being agile, empowering your team, prioritizing risks, and celebrating success, you can increase communication skills and overcome obstacles and achieve your project goals.

Final Thoughts

Communication is an essential part of successful projects, but there are many communication challenges and obstacles that may hinder effective communication between teams or departments within your organization. Delivering projects successfully requires good communication between the project manager and all team members involved. This is how effective project management can happen. Ineffective communication can lead to bad project performance.

The 7 most common barriers discussed above are just some of the challenges you may face while trying to get everyone on board with a new idea or concept – but if you take the time to address them head-on, you’ll be able to set yourself up for success down the line!

By being aware of these potential issues from the start project leaders use principles, and tools to ensure that everyone has honest conversations about tasks at hand. Sometimes a project manager uses project management software. These all will ultimately lead to better productivity across all areas of your business!

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Yemisi Iyilade

Yemisi Iyilade is a Project Management Professional, PMP and Maxwell Leadership Coach and Trainer. She has worked in the environmental, nonprofit, and technology industries, developing new products and services, providing leadership, and facilitating meaningful engagement with stakeholders. Yemisi is driven by a mission to empower young people, women, and immigrant professionals through content delivery, coaching and training. She believes that if given the right tools and tactics, any motivated person can gain the awareness and grit needed to create better opportunities.


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