Business Communications: Successful and unsuccessful communication

An activity that looks at business communications for Level 2.

Business Communications

Successful and unsuccessful communication

Given the range of different communications that businesses have to make it is not surprising that mistakes are made and that sometimes communication breaks down. Let us remind ourselves again of some of the possible sources of barriers to successful communication:

  • Language
  • Technical content
  • Lack of understanding of what the receiver wants or needs
  • Inadequate feedback
  • Emotional interference
  • The degree of knowledge and expertise of the sender and the receiver
  • The quality of the information sent
  • The use of an inappropriate medium
  • Lack of trust or honesty in the source
  • Cultural differences
  • Poor listening skills
  • The position or status of the source
A plastic model of Jesus

Depictions of the image of Christ are common in the Christian religion as highlighted by this plastic model of Jesus. However, in other religions, such a depiction would cause major offence. Remember the controversy that surrounded the publications of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed by a Danish newspaper in 2006? Copyright: Keith Twamley, from stock.xchng.

Part of the problem for many businesses is that any or all of these can be the source of poor communication - it is often difficult to know exactly what the cause has been.


For each of the barriers above, try to find two examples for each that highlight the problem. We have given you one example below:This is a quote from a Web site that covers a computer operating system called Linux:

The Linux source code, with which the project has initially been linked, presents the indexer with some very tough obstacles. Specifically, the heavy use of preprocessor macros makes the parsing a virtual nightmare. We want to index the information in the preprocessor directives as well as the actual C code, so we have to parse both at once, which leads to no end of trouble.

Understand that? Certainly there are some people out there who can but for many people the language used and the technical nature of the subject will mean that this is meaningless to a large number of people. It would be an example of either language and/or technical barriers to successful communication - for some people.

How do we know if communication has been successful?

Having looked at some possible causes of barriers to communications, let us now turn to looking at how a business might know if its communications have been successful.

In the first section on the nature of communications, we pointed out that communication requires some form of feedback from the receiver to the source. Successful communication will take place if that feedback is in line with what the source was aiming for when sending out the message in the first place.

Take this simple example. Your teacher takes you to one side and talks to you about your homework. She tells you that you have not been handing in your work on time and that it is of poor quality. She wants you to realise that your grades depend on you doing your homework properly and to the best of your ability and handing it in on time.

If, as a result of this talk, you begin to hand in your work on time and the quality of it improves, then the teacher's message will have been successful. If you continue to not do your homework or do it without much care and attention then the communication will not have been successful. How does the teacher know? Because you don't hand in your work on time and it is of poor quality - the two main points of the message!

A girl looking very bored, with her elbow on the table doing her homework

If you are spoken to about your homework but it does not have the desired effect then the communication will have been unsuccessful - why might this be? Copyright: Melodi T, from stock.xchng.

Successful communication, therefore, will bring some sort of feedback that links back to the intention of the source in giving out the message - that the message is having the desired effect.


In each of the following business cases, what sort of response do you think the source will be looking for as evidence that the communication has been successful? What other reactions might the source get as a result of the message being sent?

  • A manager posts a notice to all staff in her section telling them that there will be a staff meeting at 3.30 that afternoon
  • A small business places an advert in the local press telling prospective customers that next Saturday they will be offering a two-for one- promotion between 10.00am and 1.00pm.
  • A receptionist leaves a message on the answer phone of a member of staff asking the individual to phone back Mike Burks in Sales before 5.00pm.
  • The London Olympic organising team release the new logo for the 2012 Olympic Games.
  • A business publishes its annual report and financial accounts to shareholders.
  • A large business announces to suppliers that it is going to increase the length of the credit terms it has from 28 days to 60 days.
  • The government announces new limits on the amount of waste products businesses can produce.
  • A company producing bio-fuel announces plans to build a new plant on the outskirts of a small town in a rural area.
  • Microsoft announces plans to reduce the prices of its Xbox console in the UK.
  • A new office worker on his first day in a new job sends a joke he has heard over the weekend to his new boss via e-mail
  • An employer sends a text message to 40 of his staff telling them they are out of work because the company is insolvent.
  • A company encloses a slip of paper in every employee's salary information sheet at the end of a month informing them of the new mission statement that the company has decided upon.

Would you like to hear about losing your job by mobile phone? It has happened! Copyright: Stefanie L, from stock.xchng.

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