Ponder over transaction model of communication

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Week2: Founding Approaches

2.1 Ponder over Transaction Model of Communication

The game of distinguishing young or old woman reminds me of a case in my social psychology class. A Russian psychologist showed a photo of a male to group A and B. Group A was told the man is a scientist whilst group B was told the man is a criminal. Then the two groups were required to describe the appearance of the man. Group A stated that there is full of hate in his cavernous eyes and his lantern jaw indicates the man is merciless. In the opposite, group B said that the cavernous eyes show he got deep and subtle thoughts and the lantern jaw is a distinctive sign of an inflexible will on scientific research.

I also noticed a picture in my twitter recently (see picture 2.1). In the picture above people would see “A”, “B”, “C”, while in the one below the symbol may read as “12”, “13” and “14”. However, after careful examination, I found that the second sign in both picture are exactly the same!

The first case is a perfect sample of “mental set” which refers to a fixed pattern of thinking that fails to take into consideration new information or perspectives (Wiley, Jennifer, 1998). And the second one is apparently “frame of reference” trickery. Mental set and frames of reference are great potential threats in transaction model of communication, since they could mislead the receiver in the process of decoding thus the message received is no longer the message sent. In both case, people thought according to what they were told and saw what they expected to saw because they did not use a critical mind. From these cases I started to believe knowledge, experience, culture, personality and attitude have a significant impact on communication. To be a successful message sender, I need to choose the best-fit channel of communication to minimize the noise in the process, make sure my information is clear and frame my message according to the need of the receiver.

2.2 Demerit of Communication in Classical Approaches

Video 2.2 and picture 2.2 are relevant to the serial suicide taken by employees in Chinese manufactory Foxconn. Foxconn's management style is similar to that of military and workers are paid at a salary of 900 RMB (approximately AUD130) per month excluding overtime pay (8 RMB per hour) while working at a minimum time of 12 hours each weekday. The corporation hardly paid attention to workers' physical and mental health in the past and the response from Foxconn to the 12 cases of employee suicide was that the suicide rate in Foxconn is still lower than the average.

As a paramilitary manufacturing and service firm, Foxconn is applying classical approaches to organizing. The case definitely reveals the shortcomings of this type of communication.

Firstly, Foxconn is shame to shirk the responsibility in the event, which shows they have no concern for the environment and social interaction. However, the serial suicide destroyed the reputation of Foxconn and caused significant side effect for their performance. Moreover, I found out that communication approaches in Foxconn is task-related and top-down without considering the requirement of employees. Their employees are bored, distressed and lack of motivation, but little feedback could move upward from lower-level employees to higher-level managers. Fayol's principle of organizational attitude determined subordination of individual interest to general interest, which suggested the firm to focus on the goal of organization while overlooked employees' individual needs and desire. Eventually, under the pressure of the media hype around serial suicide incident, Foxconn agreed to raise workers' wages and build more facilities for workers' welfare. I think the seiral suicide reveals the result of the fraught management system and communication approaches within Foxconn. Communication should flow bidirectional, corporation have to reward employees with justice and listen to their requirement as well as allocating tasks. Foxconn did not value its employees' individual desire and their poor communication resulted in the loss of lives and the company's reputation.

Week 3: Systems and Networks

3.1 Negative Feedback, There is a Better Way

I had a trial in a Vietnam restaurant half year ago. The first day I walked in the restaurant 5 minutes earlier than required, and worked so hard without a stop. Having work experience in coffee shop and Italian restaurant, I believed my new job was a piece of cake for me. However, at the end of the day, my boss told me that she though my action was slow and I was terrible at remembering the name of the dish. I felt shock and upset. And in the days that followed, I was depressing and lacked of job enthusiasm. I finally quitted that job. As it shows in picture 3.1, I think I am little sensitive to the negative feedback, but there must be a better way to provide negative feedback in the process of communication.

Providing negative feedback is essential in the system process since it helps to maintain steady system function. While it is hard to deliver negative feedbacks because no one would enjoys hearing it. In that case, the person delivering the feedback need to make sure that the information is received and processed in a positive manner. I figured out five key points on delivering negative feedback. Firstly, the person should remain in calm in the process of communication. You may say something inappropriate when you are upset. Secondly, negative message is better to be provided in a private place. Because hearing the weakness of someone in front of the others is quite embarrassing and humiliating. Third, talk about the contribution or positive feedback forehead which would reduce the negative feelings when hearing the bad ones. Fourth, pay attention to listen. After state the message, be sure to give the recipient an opportunity to respond or even refute. Since you might make mistake on the feedback and the communication cannot stand on one side. Finally, keep the conversation in a problem-solving manner. One should never forget that the purpose to star the communication is to change the situation rather than criticize the person. I believed in this way the negative feedback would be easy to receive and the communication would be more effective.

Week 4: Technology and Communication

4.1 Downsides of Communication Technology in Workplace

Communication technology like email and teleconferences has had both positive and negative effects on organizational communication. It provides people a convenient and fast way to communicate with co-workers and colleagues, but the new forms of communication seems to have negative effect on human interaction. Several negative impacts of technology on communication in organization are listed below.

Firstly, it causes reduction in Face-to-Face interaction. As exposited in the video (see video 4.1) virtual conversation are not effective in conveying human emotions and thoughts. Face-to-face communicating allows you to watch people's nonverbal cues, such as a smile or a frown, and body language is another way of communication. Meanwhile the loss of interpersonal skills impairs people's ability as a social man.  Scientist even pointed out that human brain is getting smaller with the development of technology.

Secondly, increased accessibility of organizational communication can complicate the boundaries between work and private life. For example, it is unwise to accept friend requests from managers on Facebook which will exert stress to the daily social intercourse of the employee.

Thirdly, even we communicate with an increasing number of people via various technologies, we still feel more isolated than connected. For example, the lack of human contact leads to a narrowly relationship within people in the same organization (see picture 4.1).

Finally, People, especially new generation, are prone to addicted on technology. The application of modern communication technology in workplace would distract employees' attention from work which reduced the productivity of employee and wasted the resource of company.

It is important to note that technology itself does not determine outcomes. The impact of technology on organizational communication depends on how management implements it in the workplace. For instant, email is beneficial when used to schedule a company meeting and conduct a staff survey. Therefore, HR professors are responsible for planning how to use the medium properly in the communication of organization to create a more connected work place.

Week 5&6: Connectivity and Virtual Teams

5.1 Individual Experiences in Virtual Team

I had an online communication with my virtual team Thursday night, the experience I got in this work set me thinking about the connectivity and distribution of communication in virtual team.

On one hand, I noted that social and emotional connectivity is quite essential in a team work. Without knowing the faces and voices of my team member, I was highly tense and nervous during the discussion. People tend to be neutral when they are not familiar with the personality of their co-worker. Since I received no clues about their emotion through the text chat, I responded to their questions very cautiously and was moderate in all things. For instants, when the team leader was allocating our tasks, I said “yes” even I do not agree with that. 

On the other, technical connectivity played a more important role in the virtual team performance. To my point of view, group text chat on Skype was less efficient than telephone conversation since typing is time consuming, especially to me. When I finished typing my suggestion to the last question, my group mates had moved forward to another topic. And reading the quickly updated message on the screen while thinking and typing the answer makes me bustling. Furthermore, one disadvantage of sending email was the delay of feedback of my work and the lack of interaction. To make things worse, I am not familiar with the technology my team required and when my Internet broke down or out of flow capacity, I became an outsider of the communication.

6.1 Managing Virtual Team and connectivity

Since organizations have become more distributed across geography and across industries, relationships between people inside and outside organization are becoming more important. The benefit of virtual team is obvious:

  • People can work from anywhere at any time.
  • People can be recruited by their competencies.
  • Physical handicaps are not a problem.
  • The cost of travel and other expenses may be reduced.

However, after analyzing the problems in 5.1, the key to manage a virtual team is managing the communication strategies. The following tips are my idea of better managing communication in virtual team.

  • Hold a face to face meeting prior to the virtual meet if possible.
  • Processes for team management and development have to be designed, tested, and refined continuously.
  • Virtual teams should use hardware and software that acceptable to all team members, and make sure the software fits the processes. 
  • Team managers need to have an overall control and general idea about the task. The manager should provide timely feedback to the team members.
  • Reward and praise are essential in the process.
  • Self-organizing on your style and quality of communication.

Week 7: Organizational Culture & Communication

7.1 Culture of Google

Being the owner of the most powerful search engine of the world, Google is known for having an informal corporate culture (see video 7.1). On Fortune magazine's list of best companies to work for, Google ranked first in 2007 and 2008. As an everyday user of Google, I would like to introduce its culture by integrating it with Schein's model of organizational culture.

Google's corporate philosophy can be seen in their slogan such as "you can be serious without a suit," and "work should be challenging and the challenge should be fun." In the first level of organizational culture, the working environment is relaxed, creative, friendly and respected. As described by an employee in Google, “At lunchtime, almost everyone eats in the office café; sitting at whatever table has an opening and enjoying conversations with Googlers from different teams.” In brief, Google create an environment where employees can flourish and grow, treat people with fairness and respect, challenge each other's ideas openly and value diversity in people and ideas.

In the second level of the organizational culture, Google represents its appreciation of innovation. Google uses a policy often called “Innovation Time Off” as a motivation technique, where Google engineers are encouraged to spend 20% of their work time on projects that interest them. Google's newer services, such as Gmail, Google News, Orkut, and AdSense are originated from these independent endeavors (Wikipedia). Google's commitment to innovation is to make sure everyone being comfortable with sharing ideas and opinions since they believe that every employee in Google is equally important to the success of the company.

In level three, Google's changing corporate culture indicates its core value and basic assumptions can be seen within these core values of culture.

  • Google want to work with great people
  • Technology innovation is Google's lifeblood
  • Working at Google is fun
  • Honor commitments
  • Don't take success for granted
  • Make money by doing good things
  • Earn customer and user loyalty and respect every day
  • Google cares about the communities where we work and live
  • Aspire to improve and change the world

All in all then, changing is appreciated in Google.

Regarding the role of communication, I believe it is the lifeblood of any corporate culture since communication delivers information, provides inspiration and serves to the company. People in the corporation need to be taken care of and feel like their values are appreciated (like Google did). When the employees are well informed with the up to date information, they can be more productive at their jobs. In other words, the function of communication in corporate culture is to correct wrong perceptions and inspire the employees to perform their best.

Week8: Decision Making

8.1 Group Interaction Influences Decision-Making Process

I believe irrational decision making process (PDM) should be rejected. First kind of irrational decision is making decision in an unreasonable process such as random strategy (see picture 8.1). Second one is making the decision to parrot what others say. Picture 8.2 is a strong sarcasm to this situation. Since decision making should be an entirely rational and logical process. What if there is disagreement in a group of decision making?

A group includes shared leadership, diversity of members and agreed goals. When there is conflict between individual decision making and group decision making, interpersonal communication should come into play. Considering Human Resource Approaches, participation in the PDM is seen as an avenue for taking valuable information from employees to ensuring effective implementation of organizational decisions.  I believed that managers should encourage employees to participate in the decision making process by applying negotiation in communication. Managers need to be open to different ideas and solutions to ensure the rationality of the decision and increase job satisfaction of their employee. While employees should be creative and brave enough to present different ideas even it is differ to the suggestion of your boss. Interpersonal communication here could involve an open-ended meeting with certain reward. If small group decision making can be arranged rationally, then the decision making of the whole organization would have a solid foundation.