Disadvantages Of Two Way Communication

What are the disadvantages of two-way communication in business?

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The term "two-way communication" in business refers to communicating in both directions in the corporate hierarchy. Rather than management simply stating decisions with no opportunity for feedback, two-way communication also allows subordinates to provide input to superiors. Failure to communicate in this way can lead to problems; one contributing factor in the Challenger disaster was a failure by management to listen to the warnings of subordinates who were technical experts. 

The reason companies may limit opportunities for two-way communication have to do with its disadvantage. The first major disadvantage is that it contributes to information overload. Many managers are simply swamped with communications, with their electronic mailboxes receiving approximately 150 messages per day. This can be a huge time sink and managers may try to limit two-way communications simply because they have inadequate time to process all the communications they receive. 

Next, at certain times it can slow down time-sensitive procedures. For example, if there is a fire in the building, you want to give quick and concise orders on what employees should do to get to safety rather than having extended two-way conversations. Even in more ordinary tasks, such as choosing a supplier for paper or pens, you don't want to get bogged down in endless discussions. Similarly, if a project has a deadline, such as submitting a proposal to the government or delivering food to customers, at a certain point it is necessary to cut off discussion to make deadlines.  

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For the most part, two-way communication in business is good.  It allows higher-ups in a firm to understand what their subordinates think.  It allows the subordinates to ask questions that give them a better understanding of what they are expected to do.  However, there are limited instances in which two-way communication can be a bad thing.

One disadvantage of such communication is that it might work to confuse the lines of command.  A subordinate who is given the chance to give a lot of feedback might come to think that they are as high up in the hierarchy as their bosses.  The fact that they are being consulted and allowed to communicate their opinions may erode their willingness to simply accept being told what to do by those who are above them in the hierarchy.

The major disadvantage of two-way communication in business is that it can be a time-consuming process.  A boss giving orders to a subordinate is one-way communication, but it is also fast and efficient.  By contrast, a boss and a subordinate having a discussion is two-way communication, but it is not necessarily fast.  At many times, this is not a problem.  But there are times when action needs to be taken quickly and discussion is not desirable. 

Although two-way communication is generally a good thing, it can waste valuable time and it can reduce some employees’ understanding and acceptance of their place in the company hierarchy.

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