Functions of Organizational Communication
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Organizational Communication can be defined as a process through which organizations are created and in turn create and shape events. The process can be understood as a combination of process, people, message, meaning and purpose.
Functions of Organizational Communication:
- It is the means by which a manager ensures co-operation of subordinates.
- It is the exchange of meanings among members of an organization.
- It is the "glue" which binds the elements of an organization together.
- It builds the very structure of an organization i.e. who communicates with whom about what.
Can misunderstanding of a few words literally mean the difference between life and death? They can in airlines business. A number of aviation disasters have been largely attributed to problems in communication. There are other fields also in which there are examples to illustrate how miscommunication can have deadly consequences. Good communication is essential to any group's or organization's effectiveness.
Research indicates that poor communication is probably the most frequently cited source of interpersonal conflict. Because individuals spend nearly 70 percent of their working hours communicating-writing, reading, speaking, listening-it seems reasonable to conclude that one of the most inhibiting forces to successful group performance is a lack of effective communication.
No group can exist without communication: the transference of meaning among its members. It is only through transmitting meaning from one person to another that information and ideas can be conveyed. Communication, however, is more than merely imparting meaning. It must also be understood. In a group in which one member speaks only German and the others do not know German, the individual speaking German will not be fully understood. Therefore, communication must include both the transference and the understanding of meaning.
An idea, no matter how great, is useless until it is transmitted and understood by others. Perfect communication, if there were such a thing, would exist when a thought or an idea was transmitted so that the mental picture perceived by the receiver was exactly the same as that envisioned by the sender. Although elementary in theory, perfect communication is never achieved in practice, due to unavoidable reasons.
2.1 What is Communication?
The term "communication" has been derived from the Latin word "communis" which means common. It was Aristotle who, for the first time, brought about a systematic study of the communication process. According to him, there are three essential elements in a communication system, namely, the speaker, the speech, and the audience. Communication strictly stands for sharing of ideas in common. The word "communication", however, has many and varied meanings. Popularly speaking, it refers to the various means of transmitting information from individual to individual, individual to a group of individuals or from one place to another. It is a transmission of messages, ideas, methods, skills, and thoughts between two or more persons. It is a mutual exchange of facts, thoughts, opinions or emotions by the use of symbols, words, pictures, figures, graphs and so on.
Communication is the chain of understanding which permeates an organization from top to bottom, from bottom to top, and from side to side, and which moves the organization ahead towards its stated objectives. It is the cohesive force which holds the group together.
Vardaman and Halterman opine: "Communication is the flow of material, information, perception and understanding between various parts and members of an organization."
In the words of Allen, "Communication is the transfer of meaning from one person to another." Mitchell goes a step further and observes, "Communication involves more than just having the right information — the information should be believed, weighed correctly, reach the right decision-makers and result in the appropriate action." Rogers and Rogers have reiterated this point of view. They opine "Communication is a process by which an idea is transferred from a source to the receiver with the intention of changing behaviour.. ..Communication is made with the intention of achieving results/change in knowledge, attitude and overt behaviour."
Communication is a process in which senders and receivers of messages interact in a given social context. Interpersonal communication refers to the exchange of information and transmission of meaning between two people. Organizational communication is the subject that deals with the exchange of information and transmission of meaning throughout the organizational hierarchy.
Since the leader or the manager accomplishes organizational objectives through people, it is essential to communicate what the leader or the manager wants people to accomplish, how to accomplish, where to accomplish and more important, why to accomplish. To communicate the organizational philosophy, objectives, procedures, and practices to all employees is not easy, because communication is a very complex phenomenon.
In communication, the people must understand what they are trying to communicate; they must be willing and able to understand them; they must accept their communication or message or information or goals. Thus, all social phenomena are a function of communication.
2.2 FUNCTIONS OF COMMUNICATION:
Communication serves four major functions within a group or organization: Control, motivation, emotional expression and information.
Communication acts to control member behaviour in several ways. Organizations have authority hierarchies and formal guidelines that employees are required to follow. When employees, for instance are required to first communicate any job related grievance to their immediate boss, to follow their job description, or to comply with company policies, communication is performing a control function. But informal communication also controls behaviour. When work groups tease or harass a member who produces too much (and makes the rest of the group look bad), they are informally communicating with, and controlling, the member's behaviour
Communication fosters motivation by clarifying to employees what is to be done, how well they are doing, and what can be done to improve performance if it's supbar. The formation of specific goals, feedback on progress toward the goals, and reinforcement of desired behaviour all stimulate motivation and require communication.
For many employees, their work group is a primary source for social interaction. The communication that takes place within the group is a fundamental mechanism by which members show their frustrations and feelings of satisfaction. Communication, therefore, provides a release for the emotional expression of feelings and for fulfillment of social needs.
The final function that communication performs relates to its role in facilitating decision making. It provides the information that individuals and groups need to make decisions by transmitting the data to identify and evaluate alternative choices.
No one of these functions should be seen as being more important than the others. For groups to perform effectively, they need to maintain some form of control over members, stimulate members to perform, provide a means for emotional expression, and make decision choices. Almost every communication interaction that takes place in a group or organization performs one or more of these four functions.
2.3 THE COMMUNICATION PROCESS:
Before communication can take place, a purpose, expressed as a message to be conveyed, is needed. It passes between a source (sender) and a receiver. The message is encoded (converted to a symbolic form) and passed by way of some medium (channel) to the receiver, who retranslates (decodes) the message initiated by the sender. The result is a transference of meaning from one person to another.
The exhibit above depicts this communication process. This model is made up of seven parts: (1) the communication source, (2) encoding, (3) the message, (4) the channel, (5) decoding, (6) the receiver, and (7) feedback.
The source initiates a message by encoding a thought. The message is the actual physical product from the source encoding. When we speak, the speech is the message. When we write, the writing is the message. When we gesture, the movements of our arms and the expression on our face are the message. The channel is the medium through which the message travels. It is selected by the source, who must determine whether to use a formal or informal channel. Formal channels are established by the organization and transmit message that are related to the professional activities of the members. They traditionally follow the authority chain within the organization. Other forms of messages, such as personal or social, follow the informal channels in the organization. The receiver is the object to whom the message is directed.
But before the message can be received, the symbols in it must be translated into a form that can be understood by the receiver. This step is the decoding of the message. The final link in the communication process is a feedback loop. Feedback is the check on how successful we have been in transferring our messages as originally intended. It determines whether understanding has achieved.
2.4 DIRECTION OF COMMUNICATION:
Communication can flow vertically and laterally. The vertical dimension can be further divided into downward and upward directions.
Communication that flows from one level of a group or organization to a lower level is a downward communication. When we think of managers communicating with employees, the downward pattern is the one we are usually thinking of. It's used by group leaders and managers to assign goals, provide job instructions, inform employees of policies and procedures, point out problems that need attention, and offer feedback about performance. But downward communication doesn't have to be oral or face-to-face contact. When management sends letters to the employees' homes to advise them of the organization's new sick leave policy, it is using downward communication. So is an e-mail from a team leader to the members of her team, reminding them of an upcoming deadline.
Upward communication flows to a higher level in the group or organization. It's used to provide feedback to higher-ups, inform them of progress toward goals, and relay current problems. Upward communication keeps managers aware of how employees feel about their jobs, co-workers, and the organization in general. Managers also rely on upward communication for ideas on how things can be improved.
Some organizational examples of upward communication are performance reports prepared by lower management for review by middle and top management, suggestion boxes, employee attitude surveys, grievance procedures, superior-subordinate discussions, and informal "gripe" sessions in which employees have the opportunity to identify and discuss problems with their boss or representatives of higher management. For example, FedEx prides itself on its computerized upward communication program. All its employees annually complete climate surveys and reviews of management. This program was cited as a key human resources strength by the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award examiners when FedEx won the honor.
When communication takes place among members of the same work group, among members of work groups at the same level, among managers at the same level, or among any horizontally equivalent personnel, we describe it as lateral communications.
Why would there be a need for horizontal communications if a group or organization's vertical communications are effective? The answer is that horizontal communications are often necessary to save time and facilitate co-ordination. In some cases, these lateral relationships are formally sanctioned. More often, they are informally created to short-circuit the vertical hierarchy and expedite action. So lateral communications can, from management's viewpoint, be good or bad. Since strict adherence to the formal vertical structure for all communications can impede the efficient and accurate transfer of information, lateral communications can be beneficial. In such cases, they occur with the knowledge and support of superiors.
But they can create dysfunctional conflicts when the formal vertical channels are breached, when members go above or around their superiors to get things done, or when bosses find out that actions have been taken or decisions made without their knowledge.
This occurs when communication occurs between workers in a different section of the organisation and where one of the workers involved is on a higher level in the organisation. For example in a bank diagonal communication will occur when a department manager in head office converses with a cashier in a branch of the bank based on the high street.
2.5 INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION:
How do group members transfer meaning between and among each other? There are three basic methods. People basically rely on oral, written and non-verbal communication.
The chief means of conveying messages is oral communication. Speeches, formal one-on-one and group discussions, and the informal mill or grapevine are popular forms of oral communication.
The advantages of oral communication are speed and feedback. A verbal message can be conveyed and a response received in a minimal amount of time. If the receiver is unsure of the message, rapid feedback allows for early detection by the sender and, hence, allows for early correction.
The major disadvantage of oral communication surfaces in organizations or whenever the message has to be passed through a number of people. The more people a message must pass through, the greater the potential distortion. For example, if you ever played the game "telephone" at a party, you know the problem. Each person interprets the message in his or her own way. The message's content, when it reaches its destination, is very often different from that of the original. In an organization, where decisions and other communiqués are verbally passed up and down the authority hierarchy, there are considerable opportunities for messages to become distorted.
Written communications include memos, letters, electronic mail, fax transmissions, organizational periodicals, notices placed on bulletin boards, or any other device that is transmitted via written words or symbols.
Why would a sender choose to use written communications? They are tangible and verifiable. Typically, both the sender and the receiver have a record of the communication. The message can be stored for a indefinite period. If there are questions concerning the content of the message, it is physically available for later reference. This feature is particularly important for complex and lengthy communications. The marketing plan for a new product, for instance, is likely to contain a number of tasks spread out over several months. By putting it in writing, those who have to initiate the plan can readily refer to it over the life of the plan. A final benefit of written communication comes from the process itself. You are usually more careful with the written word than the oral word. You are forced to think more thoroughly about what you want to convey in a written message than in a spoken one. Thus, written communications are more likely to be well thought out, logical and clear.
Of course, written messages have their drawbacks. They are time consuming. You could convey far more information to a college instructor in a one-hour oral exam than in a one-hour written exam. In fact, you could probably say the same thing in 10 to 15 minutes that it would take you an hour to write. So, although writing may be more precise, it also consumes a great deal of time.
The other major disadvantage is feedback, or lack of it. Oral communication allows the receiver to respond rapidly to what he thinks he hears. Written communication, however, does not have a built-in feedback mechanism. The result is that the mailing of a memo is no assurance it has been received, there is no guarantee the recipient will interpret it as the sender intended. The latter point is also relevant in oral communiqués, except it is easy in such cases merely to ask the receiver to summarize what you have said. An accurate summary presents feedback evidence that the message has been received and understood.
Employees' Handbook: As business grows in size, management often turns to the use of an employee handbook as a communication tool to inform employees on issues such as company history and products, human resource policies, employee compensation and benefits, training assistance, health services, safety, security, employee responsibilities, and work standards. Handbooks are also useful to supervisors and administrators for ensuring consistent implementation and enforcement of company policies.
These are intended to help in the induction of newcomers and to provide all the employees with a clear-cut understanding not only of the general policies of the management but also of the nature of the business, its sources of supplies, its customers, its products and the range of benefits and services available to its employees. Many organizations publish illustrated handbooks, depicting cartoons, charts and photographs.
House Magazines and Newspapers: Some organizations maintain one or more employee magazines or journals. These are meant to keep employees well informed of the development in the business and to acquaint them with the personalities and activities of the organisation. It can explain the policies of the management in easily understood terms. House magazines contain news, and personal and social items. There may be references to parties, marriages, births, retirements, honours and awards.
Financial Reports: Such reports describe the essential facts concerning the conduct of business, its expenses and profits, its income and distribution of financial standing. of the organisation and create understanding between the management and its employees.
Bulletin Boards: Usually, big organizations keep a bulletin board for 50 to 100 employees in attractive colours, types and formats. These boards contain a wide range of material such as someone's choice of cartoons from newspapers and magazines, pin-up photographs, events in the lives of present or former employees and other items of common interest.
Audio-Visual Aids: Sound films, movies, slides, tapes may be played back to the workers. Such audio-visual aids have an obvious advantage of describing a company's range of operations and products, in illustrating how financial and other decisions are made, or in explaining work rules.
Notice Boards: Notices are often pasted o the factory walls or gates or placed in glass covered notice boards, and these are hung at appropriate places in the premises of an organisation, near the canteens or factory gates. These notices usually depict abstracts as desired under the various statutes as well as notices of the various institutions in the establishment such as the sports club.
Suggestion System: The suggestion system is designed to enlist the co-operation of subordinates in effecting improvements and in eliminating waste and to provide an avenue for a working communication with the management. Rewards are offered for suggestions which results in greater productive efficiency. In some organizations, "suggestion boxes" are located at convenient places throughout the plant.
Communication with Public and Government: Organisations educate the public about their various activities through advertising, campaigns, meetings and conferences. Organisations also establish and organize special groups to communicate with the important segments of government.
Proper communication plays an important role in a large organization, and there has to be a proper balance between the oral and written forms of communication. It need hardly be said that the choice of any method depends upon the purpose to be accomplished and the likelihood of its success. Quite often, it is better to use more than one method to convey the same information so that one can reinforce the other.
Every time we verbally give a message to someone, we also impart a nonverbal message. In some instances, the nonverbal component may stand alone. For example, in a singles bar, a glance, a stare, a frown, and a provocative body movement all convey meaning. As such, no discussion of communication would be complete without consideration of nonverbal communication-which includes body movements, the intonations or emphasis we give to words, facial expressions, and the physical distance between the sender and receiver.
It can be argued that every body movement has a meaning and no movement is accidental. For example, through body language we say, "Help me, I'm lonely"; "Take me, I'm available"; "Leave me alone, I'm depressed." And rarely do we send our messages consciously. We act out our state of being with nonverbal body language. We lift one eyebrow for disbelief. We rub our nose for puzzlement. We clasp our arms to isolate ourselves or to protect ourselves. We shrug our shoulders for indifference, wink one eye for intimacy, tap our fingers for impatience and slap our forehead for forgetfulness.
The two most important messages that body language conveys are (1) The extent to which an individual likes another and is interested in his or her views and
(2) The relative perceived status between a sender and receiver. For instance, we are more likely to position ourselves closer to people we like and touch them more often.
Similarly, if you feel that you're higher status than another, you're more likely to display body movements-such as crossed legs or a slouched seating position-that reflect a casual and relaxed manner.
Body language adds to, and often complicates, verbal communication. A body position or movement does not by itself have a precise or universal meaning, but when it is linked with spoken language, it gives fuller meaning to a sender's message.
If you read the verbatim minutes of a meeting, you wouldn't grasp the impact of what was said in the same way you would if you had been there or saw the meeting on video. Why? There are no records of nonverbal communication. The emphasis given to words or phrases is missing.
Facial expressions also convey meaning. A snarling face says something different from a smile. Facial expressions, along with intonations, can show arrogance, aggressiveness, fear, shyness, and other characteristics that would never be communicated if you read a transcript of what had been said.
The way individuals space themselves in terms of physical distance also has meaning. What is considered proper spacing is largely dependent on cultural norms. For example, what is considered a businesslike distance in some European countries would be viewed as intimate in many parts of North America. If someone stands closer to you than is considered appropriate, it may indicate aggressiveness or sexual interest; if farther away than usual, it may mean disinterest or displeasure with what is being said.
It's important for the receiver to be alert to these nonverbal aspects of communication. You should look for nonverbal cues as well as listen to the literal meaning of sender's words. You should particularly be aware of contradictions between the messages. Your boss may say she is free to talk to you about a pressing budget problem, but you may see nonverbal signals suggesting that the is not the time to discuss the subject regardless of what is being said, an individual who frequently glances at her wristwatch is giving the massage that she would prefer to terminate the conversation. We misinform others when we express one message verbally, such as trust, but nonverbally communicate a contradictory message that reads, "I don't have confidence in you."
3.1 COMMUNICATION TYPES:
This is communication that takes place within (or across) an organization. In addition to the usual face to face, telephone, fax or mail; modern organizations may use technology to communicate internally. Technology may be used for e-mails or a linked internal communication system such as the intranet which is an internet system designed solely for use by those working for the organization.
Conversely external communication is communication between the organization and those outside the organization. Modern organizations may design technological systems so that they can communicate with customers and undertake e-Commerce. Alternatively they communicate with other businesses through the internet or similar systems and undertake e-Business.
Functions of Internal and External Communications;
Technology has rapidly expanded the types of internal and external communication available to organizations. The diagram illustrates the vast array of internal and external communication available. Combined together internal and external types of communications allow various sectors of the local, national and international community to interact, liaise and conduct business.
3.2 Objectives of Communication
Communication is not an end in itself. There is no use of communicating just for the sake of communicating. It is a means and a very effective means for the solution of managerial problems and for attainment of managerial objectives. Since managers work through others, all their acts, policies, rules, orders and procedures must pass through some sort of communication channel. The purposes of communication are:
- To develop information and understanding which are necessary for group effort?
- To provide an attitude which is necessary for motivation, co-operation and job satisfaction?
- To discourage the spread of misinformation, rumours, gossip, 'and to release the emotional tensions of workers
- To prepare workers for a change by giving them the necessary information in advance.
- To encourage ideas, suggestions from subordinates for an improvement in the product and work conditions, for a reduction in time or cost involved and for the avoidance of the waste of raw material.
- To improve labour-management relations by keeping both in contact with each other.
- To satisfy the basic human needs like recognition, self-importance and sense of participation.
- To serve auxiliary functions such as entertainment and the maintenance of social relations among human beings.
The purpose of communication is to establish asocial environment that supports effective interaction and to ensure that the workforce has the skills to share information and co-ordinate their achievements efficiently
3.3 Importance of Communication
Organizations cannot exist without communication. If there is no communication, employees cannot know what their respective associates are doing, management cannot receive information on inputs, and management cannot give instructions. Co-ordination of work is impossible, and the organisation will collapse for lack of it. Co-operation also becomes impossible, because people cannot communicate their needs and feelings to others. Every act of communication influences the organisation in some way or the other.
As such effective communication tends to encourage better performance, improves job satisfaction, creates proper understanding, and develops feeling of involvement among the people.
Chester Bernard (1938) has considered communication to be the "very first function" of a manager and has viewed it as the shaping force which links people and purposes together in any co-operative system. In the practice of management, Peter Drucker (1954) has observed that the manager's main instrument for operating his affairs is information. The management process has widely been discussed as one which embraces the functions of planning, organizing, leading and controlling, which are intimately involved with and dependant on, communication. Organisational structure is definitely tied to the communication systems. Communication is the key to effective teamwork, for both are based on the common fundamentals of information, understanding, consultation and participation. Communication is an essential skill at every level of organisational functioning and for organisations of all types, whether social, governmental, or commercial.
According to Miner and Miner' there Ware four basic types of communication network: (a) the regulative network ensures security, conformity to plans and the achievement of productivity through the communication of policy statements, procedures, and rules; (b) the innovative network is concerned with problem-solving and change through such techniques as suggestion systems and meetings; (c) the integrative network is directly related to consideration of employee morale and organisational maintenance; and (d) the informative network relates to employee's effectiveness and productivity through a direct dissemination of information and training programmes.
3.4 Rules for Communication:
A few basic rules should be followed in planning for and carrying out communications of all kinds, written and oral, regardless of form or format.
- Clarity: To be effective, communications must be understood, and to be understood, they must be clear.
- Brevity: It makes both written and oral communications easier to understand. Only one idea should be used in a sentence.
- Simplicity: Short, simple words, phrases, and sentences should be used. Every word should count. Extra words only serve to confuse.
- Precision: Precise words should be used.
- Integrity: Communication should always be used as a means, never as an end.
During any major change programme, internal communication in an organisation is extremely. Important. It must be borne in mind in this context that communication is more than a dialogue. It builds on trust and openness among colleagues, and results in common understanding of the organisational issues that have a long-term bearing on the future of the organisation.
3.5 Formal and Informal Communication
Basically, the two most important media of communication in an organisation are formal and informal communications. Formal communications are those that are "official", that are a part of the recognized communication system of the organisation. A formal communication can be from a superior to a subordinate, from a subordinate to a superior, intra-administrative, or external. These communications may be oral or written. Informal communication is those that are "outside" the formal, recognized communication system. Informal communication originates spontaneously outside the formal channels and is the natural responses to the need for social interaction.
Within the organisation, whatever its style or form, cohesive informal groups develop. Extensive research has shown that these informal work groups have tremendous power in shaping attitudes, behaviour, and consequently, production. They share a set of beliefs, values, and socially acceptable behaviours. In other words, group members come to think and act in similar ways, and this encourages feelings of closeness among them.
In industry, at every level of organisational life, employees are bound together in informal groups and develop a common set of norms. It is important to remember that these groups are not established by the management. They are generally beyond the control of the management, and they do not appear on the organisation charts. The influence of informal work groups is pervasive, and they are vital parts of the total organisational environment. They can work for or against the management, by encouraging cooperation and increasing production or by sabotaging management and slowing production. A major finding of Hawthorne studies was the revelation of the ways in which these groups operate.
One of the characteristics of informal work groups is leadership. There are many opportunities for conflict between the needs and goals of the informal work group and the needs and goals of the organisation. If management is to deal effectively with the informal groups, it must recognize their existence and try to understand them. The informal group serves many needs of the workers. It can serve the needs of the organisation as well, or it can defeat them. Often, the ideals and standards of these groups conflict with those of the formal organisation. New employees who do not conform to the group norms may be ostracized.
The information actually transmitted through the informal channels may be inaccurate, distorted, a half-truth, a rumour, a gossip, or a private interpretation. It spreads with an amazing speed like a wild fire. Davis observes: "It (grapevine) cannot e abolished, rubbed out, hidden under the basket, chopped down, tied up, or stopped.
If we suppress it at one place, it will pop up in another If we cut off one of its sources, it merely moves to another one — quite similar to the way we change from one channel to another on a television set....In a sense, the grapevine is man's birthright, because wherever men congregate into groups, the grapevine is sure to develop. It may use smoke signals, jungle toms, taps on the prison wall, or ordinary conversation, or some other method, but it will always be there." No management can 'fire' it because it does not hire it. It is simply there.
Though the grapevine thrives on rumours, it does serve some useful purpose. A manager can utilize the grapevine as a positive aid, for a grapevine may turn out to be a barometer for the management as to what is ailing the employees and what ought to be done about it. It may be utilized to clarify and spread messages which the management wishes to convey to its employees and to counter rumours and half- truths by feeding them the real facts. Though they serve many useful functions, at times, they become detrimental to the organisation.
3.6 Formal small group networks:
Formal organization networks can be very complicated. They can, for instance, include hundreds of people and half-dozen or more hierarchical levels. To simplify our discussion, we've condensed these networks into three common small groups of five people each (as shown in the exhibit below). These three networks are the chain, wheel and all-channel. Although these three networks have been extremely simplified, they do not allow us to describe the unique qualities of each.
The chain rigidly follows the formal chain of command. This network approximates the communication channels you might find in a rigid three-level organization. The wheel relies on a central figure to act as the conduit for the entire group's communication. It stimulates the communication network you would find on a team with a strong leader. The all-channel network permits all group members to actively communicate with each other. The all channel network is most often characterized in practice by self-managed teams, in which all group members are free to contribute and no one person takes on a leadership role.
As the exhibit below demonstrates, the effectiveness of each network depends on the dependent variable you're concerned about. For instance, the structure of the wheel facilitates the emergence of a leader, the all-channel network is best if you are concerned with having high member satisfaction, and the chain is best if accuracy is most important. The exhibit below leads us to the conclusion that no single network will be best for all occasions.
The grapevine is used by nearly everyone in an organisation at one time or another. It can convey accurate messages with amazing speed. It can also distort and filter messages beyond recognition. Rumours as well as facts are carried by the grapevine. Good managers pay attention to grapevine. Even though the grapevine's reliability can never be determined with complete certainty, it does serve some useful functions:
- It satisfies a need — employees have to enjoy friendly relations with their fellow employees.
- It helps workers to make sense out of their work environment especially in interpreting unclear orders from supervisors.
- It acts as a safety valve. When people are confused and unclear about what is going to happen to them, they use grapevine to let out their anxieties. Passing a rumour along the grapevine is a way of expressing and releasing negative energy.
- When people gossip about someone who is not present, they often pass judgments. Some people pass judgment on others to find out where they stand. It is a way of dealing with self-doubt and insecurity.
Grapevine thrives on information, not openly or generally available to an employee, either because of its confidential or secret nature or because of the defective or inadequate formal communication lines. Grapevine is inevitable but at the same time, valuable and an intelligent manager uses this form of communication by feeding accurate information at the right places and thus gains very quick communication around the establishment. Grapevine properly used is a great help. Neglecting grapevine is likely to lead to serious consequences in an establishment.
The best way to dispel grapevine is to give people the facts. If there is no truth to a rumour or no information concerning it that should be said? Above all workers should be asked to never repeat a rumour. Supervisors must show their people that they intend to do everything possible to keep them fully informed.
3.8 Styles of Communication
A communication style may be defined as a specialized set of interpersonal behaviours which are used in a given situation. Since communication is at the heart of effective managerial functioning, it is imperative to identify and to analyze the styles of communication which are used in an organisation. Four basic communication styles may be characterized in the organisational situation in terms of the communicator's concern for self and concern for others.
- The Controller Style of Communication: In this style, the manager has a high concern for himself and a low concern for the person with whom he communicates; he, therefore, represents an unbalanced exchange relationship. In business organisations, the existence of an unbalanced exchange, as in the controller style of communication, causes strains in inter-personal relationships. The production- oriented manager often expects loyalty from workers in exchange for money. In this case, there is usually a transaction from the critical parent-ego state to the child-ego state with the life position. "I am O.K., You are not O.K." The controller communication thus jeopardizes the interpersonal trust which is essential for effective communication.
- The Withdrawn Communicator: In withdrawn communication, there is the least amount of actual communication, for it involves the avoidance of interaction. The communicator prefers to withdraw because he neither wishes to influence others nor wishes to be influenced. The withdrawn communicator has the least concern, both for him and for others, and feel that other people in the organisation are not interested in them. They, therefore, have a life position of "I am not O.K., You are not O.K." The withdrawn style is rarely effective in communication, because it blocks interaction.
- The Relinquisher Communicator: Here the communicator takes up a receptive rather than a directive position and evinces interest in others. Here, too, there is an unbalanced exchange, for the relinquishing communicator tends to be passive in an interchange. It is possible that, for a relinquishing manager, his subordinates take the lead in decision-making and discussion. The relinquishing manager has the life position of "I am not O.K., You are O.K.", which is characteristic of the child. Being humble and unsure, the relinquisher believes it has nothing worthwhile to contribute.
- The Developmentor Communicator: The ideal type of communication is, of course, that of the developmentor, which involves a high concern for both himself and for others. The Developmentor is an adaptable social type who can be a high or low participator in a group, depending upon the situation. Since they have the life position of "I am O.K., You are O.K.", they neither feel it necessary to constantly assert their competence, nor do they refrain from leadership positions when the need arises. The developmentor-communicator understands the need for a two way communication by not assuming that he is always right. He is the one who, unlike the controller, allows the subordinate to make some mistakes in the process of learning, and builds in him self-confidence and esteem.
3.9 Supervisory Communication:
Supervisory Communication is an important dimension of management communication for proper functioning of an organisation. It is mainly the supervisor who is constantly in touch with the workers and, therefore, it is necessary for him to acquaint himself with the importance of communication and the principles to be followed for effective communication. "Talking it over" is very important to an employee. Employees have asserted that where communication is lacking, frustration and misunderstanding exist, and that this condition not only reduces their productivity, but also has an adverse effect on the total working of the establishment. Supervisors, therefore, should always: (a) discuss problems immediately with the subordinates; (b) keep the discussion frank and open; (c) choose a proper place; (d) be fair and impartial; and (e) develop good attitudes and maintain good relations.
Four aspects of interpersonal relationships influence communication in organisations:
- The sender's and receiver's trust of each other;
- The sender's and receiver's influence over each other;
- The sender's mobility aspirations; and
- The norms and sanctions of the groups(s) to which the sender and receiver belong. When people trust each other, their communication tends to be more accurate and open; when they distrust each other, they are more likely to be secretive or hesitant to talk openly.
3.10 Effective Communication
The key to effective communication is reception of messages. It then implies that the transmission of message sent and received does not presuppose that communication has occurred. Only on receiving the intended message that one can conclude that communication has occurred. The touchstone of effective communication is hearing of the meaning "intended" and to carry out the message. It then appears that communication to be effective not only needs the skill of self-expression but also the skill of effective listening. Listening is more intricate and complicated than the physical process of hearing. Effective listening habits prevent misunderstanding and rumours. -
There are four factors affecting reception of messages:
Attention refers to situations when individuals become voluntarily interested in the message. Once attention has been drawn to the message, the perception of the same begins. It means that the messages must be recognised in an unbiased manner. Comprehension is to understand the message received. Acceptance of message results in effective communication.
An effective communication serves several purposes, and benefits an organisation in many ways. First, it acts as a basic foundation for management. Since communication provides the key to facilitate the exchange of ideas, information as well as meeting of minds, it can aptly be described as the "ears and eyes" of the management.
Second, it plays a vital role in planning. The making of a plan requires facts and figures which can only be made available through effective communication. Third, it integrates the formal organisation structure and is responsible for holding together the members of a primary social group. Fourth, it also plays a pivotal role in national decision-making, organisational control, as well as building and maintaining employee morale.
The transformation of an organisation is conditional on the employees' involvement with commitment, common goals and shared purpose and vision. Communication as a continuous process ensures this. The climate of communication in an organisation, therefore, needs constant nurturing by a well- meaning and transparent management that has the manifest image that it cares for its stakeholders.
In many organizations, communication occupies a central place because the structure, extensiveness, and scope of the organisation are almost entirely determined by communication techniques. It is said that communication gives life-blood to an organisation. If organisation fail to provide careful attention to communication, a defensive climate prevails.
Experts have laid down several guidelines to improve communication. They are:
- Seek to clarify your ideas before communicating.
- Be sure your actions support your instructions.
- Consider the total physical and human situations whenever you give instructions.
- Do not over communicate but just enough for the purpose in view.
- Listen attentively and develop the skill of listening, be a good listener.
- Use simple language as understood by the receiver.
- Follow-up on your communication: get feedback.
- Concentrate on the problem rather than the people involved.
- When people are being emotional, other people should try to be rational.
- When people are misunderstanding and getting confused, others should try to be sympathetic and understanding.
- Consult everyone affected, even though they are not concentrating at present (because they will resent not being consulted afterwards).
- When people are being manipulative or deceptive, this can be openly acknowledged, but others should be honest and open rather than trying to pay them back in their own coin.
There are four fundamental rules of communicating which can help anyone to get across messages more accurately:
- Choose your words carefully and do not include unnecessary words.
- Do not leave out important information. An incomplete message is sometimes more dangerous than no message at all.
- Be concise in your message. The message has to be received accurately.
- Be correct in your message. If the information conveyed is false or misleading, even the best technique cannot save the message.
Other techniques for improving communication include transaction analysis and active listening. Transactional Analysis (TA) is a technique aimed at helping interpersonal transactions or communication between superior and subordinate. It assumes that there are three ego states — adult, parent, and child - and that the way a person communicates depends on the state he or she is in. TA helps to identify one's own state and the state of the person with whom he or she is talking to and helps to improve communication between the two. Active listening is another technique that can help to improve interpersonal communication.
Communicating Better at Work:
Experience shows there are many ways managers can improve internal communication. Here are some tips for them:
- Understand that communication is a two-way street. It involves giving information and getting feedback from employees. It is not complete simply when information is given.
- Put more emphasis on face-to-face communication with employees. Don't rely mainly on bulletin boards, memos and other written communication.
- Ask each time when an instruction is given whether the message is clear. Most vagueness is caused by failing to be specific.
- View information as "service to" employees and not "power over" them.
- Listen to employees; show respect for them when they speak. They will feel part of the team and will tend to be more dedicated and productive.
- Don't just talk open-door policy. Practice it by walking around and talking to employees. Allow people to disagree and to come up with new ideas.
- Conduct one-on-one meetings, ask employees how management can help them to do a better job, and emphasize current issues that employees care about.
- Concentrate on building credibility with employees. Managers who lack credibility and fail to create a climate of trust and openness are not believed - no matter how hard they try to communicate.
Listening can be described as a combination of:
- Hearing — the physical reception of sound;
- Comprehending — the interpretation and understanding of the message; and
- Remembering — the ability to retain what has been heard.
Hearing is with ears, but listening is with the mind. Effective listening helps receiver to take the exact intended message. Good listeners save time because they learn more within a given period of time and they learn about the person talking, as well as what the person is saying. Good listening is also good manners; people think more of us when we listen to them attentively.
- Nature has given people two ears but only one tongue, which is
- Gentle hint that they should listen more than they talk.
- Listening requires two ears, one for meaning and one for feeling.
- Decision-makers who do not listen have less information for making sound decisions.
The Bureau of National Affairs has developed a "laundry list" of the important concepts related to effective listening:
- Everyone likes to feel important.
- people perform better when they know that their opinions and suggestions are heeded
- Supervisors must use their expertise and experience of employees and be able to get them to exercise this expertise.
- Attention paid to gripes often prevents their blossoming into big grievances.
- Supervisors who jump to conclusions lose the respect of their subordinates.
- To do a good job of listening, supervisors must plan time for it in their busy schedules.
- Listening requires full attention to the speaker; it is impossible to listen intelligently while the mind is preoccupied with something else.
- Listening habits are deeply embedded in the personality and are related to other personality traits, such as obstinacy, empathy, and so on.
- The correction of bad habits is a slow process and must be self-motivated.
- Supervisors who don't get all the facts often make poor decisions.
The following guidelines are suggested in respect of listening:
- Put the talker at ease. Help a person feel free to talk.
- Show a talker that you want to listen. Look and Remove distractions. Don't doodle, tap, or shuffle papers. Will it not be quieter if you shut the door?
- Empathize with the talker. Try to help yourself see the other person's point of view.
- Be patient. Allow plenty of time. Do not interrupt a talker. Don't start for the door or walk away.
- Hold your temper. An angry person takes the wrong meaning from words.
- Go easy on arguments and criticisms. These put people on the defensive, and they may calm up or become angry. Do not argue.
Even if you win, you lose.
- Ask questions. This encourages a talker and shows that you are listening. It helps to develop points further.
- Stop talking. This is first and the last, because all other guides depend upon it. You cannot do effective listening job while you are talking.
One must develop the art of listening. The higher you go up in the organisational set-up, the more successful you are likely to be if you listen to others. Some of the listening gains are:
- You get information that may help you.
- You get ideas that you might never have thought. (Ideas have no pride. They are willing to be born to anyone willing to have them).
- You develop understanding of people who are different from you in many ways.
- You get co-operation from people who know that you value their thinking and ideas.
- You motivate action from people who have a part in your success.
- You get good listening on the part of others to what you have to say.
- Listen for ideas, not just for facts.
- Control your emotional reactions.
- Overcome personal prejudgments and distractions.
- Keep an open mind.
- Listen more than you talk.
- Hear the other person out; don't interrupt.
- Learn to practice active listening.
- Keep your mouth shut (literally, keep your lips closed).
- Paraphrase frequently in your mind, and aloud to the speaker.
- Focus on the person speaking.
3.12 HR Role in Communication.
- Strengthening formal communication through departmental/cross functional meetings along the suggested lines.
- Providing linkages with annual appraisals as a mode of facilitating meetings.
- Ensuring proper dissemination of information, other than through departmental meetings.
- Conducting training programmes on
- effective listening skills, and
- conducting meetings.
Frequent interaction with employees tells them they're important. The way you communicate with your employees demonstrates you care about them as people — not just as employees. Sometimes you have to go out of your way to interact with your employees, but they always will notice how much effort you put forth to communicate with them.
Self-check — Communication
Are you making the most of your opportunities to communicate with your employees? Answer the questions below in YES or NO to see how well you're doing.
- Do you try to greet your employees every day?
- Do you go out of your way to interact with your employees at least once each day?
- Do you speak to your employees before they speak to you?
- Do you go to your employees' work areas to talk to them?
- Do you talk to your employees about non-work activities?
- Are your employees welcome at your office at any time?
- Do you have lunch with your employees from time to time?
- Do you know what your employees like to do when they aren't at work?
- Do you understand your employees' needs, wants, goals and aspirations?
- Do you give frequent positive reinforcement?
- Do you frequently review goals and expectations?
- Do you ask your employees' personal goals and aspirations?
- Do you ask about your employees' problems, fears and concerns?
- Do you ask yourself what you can do to help improve your employees' performance?
For any questions that you answered "no," list below things you can do to increase your interaction with your employees.
3.13 Computer-Aided Communication
Communication in today's organizations is enhanced and enriched by computer-aided technologies. These include electronic mail, for instance, has dramatically reduced the number of memos, letters, and phone calls that employees historically used to communicate among themselves and with suppliers, customers, or other outside stakeholders.
Electronic mail (or e-mail) uses the Internet to transmit and receive computer-generated text and documents. Its growth has been spectacular. Most white-collar employees now regularly use e-mail. In fact, a recent study found that the average U.S. employee receives 31 e-mail messages a day. And organizations are recognizing the value of e-mail for all workers. Ford Motor Company, for instance, recently made a computer, modem, printer and email account available for $5 a month to all of its more than 3,00,000 employees worldwide.
As a communication tool, e-mail ahs a long list of benefits. E-mail messages can be quickly written, edited and stored. They can be distributed to one person or thousands with a click of a mouse. They can be read, in their entirety, at the convenience of the recipient. And the cost of sending formal e-mail to employees is a fraction of what it would cost to print, duplicate and distribute comparable letter or brochure.
E-mail, of course, is not without its drawbacks. At the top of the list is information overload .Its not unusual for employees to get a hundred or more e-mails a day. Reading, absorbing and responding to such an inflow can literally consume an employee's entire day.
In essence e-mail's is of use has become its biggest negative. Employees are finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish important e-mails from junk mails and irrelevant messages. Another drawback of e-mail is that the lack emotional content. The nonverbal quest in a face to face message or the tone of voice from a phone call convey important information that come across an e-mail, although efforts have been made to create emotional icons. Finally e-mails tend to be cold and impersonal. As such it's the ideal means to convey information like lay-offs, plant closings or other messages that might evoke emotional responses or social support.
Intranet and extranet links:
Intranets are private. Organization worldwide information networks that look and act like a web-site, but to which only people in an organization have access. Intranets are rapidly becoming the proffered means for employees within the companies to communicate with each other. IBM recently bought together 52 thousand of its employees online for what it called Worldjam.Using companies intranet IBMers must everywhere swapped ideas on everything from how to retain employees to how to work faster without undermining quality.
In addition organisations are creating extra net links that connect internal employees with selected suppliers, customers and strategic partners. For instance an extranet allows GM employees to send electronic messages and documents to its steel and rubber supplier as well as to communicate with its dealers. Similarly all Wall Mart vendors are linked into its extranet system, allowing Wall Mart buyers to easily communicate with its suppliers and for suppliers to monitor the inventory status of its product at Wall Mart stores.
Videoconferencing is an extension of intranet or extranet system. It permits employees in an organization to have meetings with people at different locations. Live audio and video images of members allow them to see, hear and talk with each other. Videoconferencing in effect allows employees to conduct interactive meetings without the necessity of all physically being in the same location.
In the late 1990s videoconferencing was basically conducted from special rooms equipped with television cameras located at company facilities. More recently cameras and microphones are being attached to individual computers allowing people to participate in videoconferences without leaving their desks. As the cost of this technology drops in price videoconferencing is likely to be increasingly seen as an alternative to expensive and time consuming travel.
3.14 CHOICE OF COMMUNICATION CHANNEL
Neal .L. Patterson, CEO at medical software maker Cerner Corporation likes e-mails. May be too much so. Upset with his staff's work ethics he recently sent an e-mail to his firm's 400 managers. Here are some of those e-mails highlight:
"Hell with freeze over before this CEO implements ANOTHER EMPLOYEE benefit in this culture..... We are getting less those 40 hours of work from a large number of our Kansa City based employees. The parking is sparsely used at 8am likewise at 5pm. As managers-you either do not know what your EMPLOYEES are doing or YOU do not CARE ....we has a problem and we will fix it or will replace you. ..What are you doing as managers with this companies makes me sick.
Patterson's e-mail additionally suggested that managers schedule meetings at 7 Am., 6pm., and Saturday mornings promised a staff reduction of 5% an institution of a time clock system and Patterson's intention to charge unapproved absences to employees vacation time.
Within hours of this e-mail, copies of it had made its way on to a Yahoo website. And within three days Corners' stock price has plummeted 22%. Although one can argue about whether such harsh criticism should be communicated at all, one thing is certainly clear Patterson erred selecting the wrong channel for his message. Such an emotional and sensitive would have been better received in a face to face meeting.
Why do people choose one channel of communication over another-for instance a phone call instead of face you face talk? Is there any general insight we might be able to provide regarding choice of communication channel? The answer to the later question is a qualified 'Yes'. A model of media richness has been developed to explain channel selection among managers.
Research has found that channels differ in their capacity to convey information some are rich in that they have ability to:
- handle multiple quest simultaneously
- Facilitate rapid feed back.
- be very personal .Others are lean in that they score low on these three factors.
Generally, face-to-face conversation scores highest in terms of channel richness because it provides for the maximum amount of information to be transmitted during a communication episode. That is, it offers multiple information cues , immediate feedback, and the personal touch of "being there " Impersonal written media such as formal reports and bulletins rate lowest in richness.
The choice of one channel over another depends on whether the message is routine or non-routine. The former types of messages tend to be straight forward and have a minimum of ambiguity. The latter are likely to be complicated and have the potential for misunderstanding. Managers can communicate routine messages efficiently through channels that are3 lower in richness.
However, they can communicate non routine mes
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