This paper looks at the communication process, the advantages and positive aspects that can be expected when practiced as recommended. On the other hand, the negative effects of miscommunication, poorly encoded messages can, and often does harm to organizations and to individual interactions on a smaller scale.
Any organization that invests in enriching its staff communication skills gains tremendous tangible and intangible benefits in the long run. Better communicators are able to negotiate better deals that place their organizations in more favourable or competitive positions.
Finally, we examine the factors that promote better communications, diffuse potential contentions or mitigate impending problems.
Mr Rio Ferdinand is scheduled to do a routine drug sampling test, but after training he went home; since he claimed to have been in the process of relocating. Sometime later, he returned to the training ground but the testers had already left. He eventually took the test two days later and the results showed that he was drug free.
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After consultation between his club Manchester United and the Football Association, it was decided that he would be excluded from the England national squad qualifying match against Turkey due October 11th.
The rest of the national team is unhappy with the decision and there are some rumours of boycotting the game by the players as an option.
Communication in any environment is crucial for the success of that organization or enterprise to move forward. Communication must be clear, precise, concise and unambiguous, and feedback from the receiver must confirm that what was intended by the sender is indeed the correct message received by the other party. In the Rio Ferdinand's case many of these principles were violated with the resulting outcome of blame passing and unclear procedures. Communication is only successful when the message sent is understood and encourages the receiver to respond directly to the sent message. On the other hand, ineffective communication adversely affects working relationship within teams and organizations, and subjects the communicators to various tensions as there are misinterpretations and misconceived ideas and failure to take actions that may have been required. This paper analyzes the entire process of communication as it relates to the Rio Ferdinand case with the aim of demonstrating what miscommunication can do to individuals and organizations. It also shows what methods can be used to minimize such miscommunication and damage to such organizations and individuals.
THE COMMUNICATION PROCESSES ADOPTED
Communication is the process of transferring information meaning and understanding from sender to receiver (Bovee and Thill, Excellence in Business Communication 2004). Communication is an essential and necessary activity in interaction among individuals, groups, teams and organizations; in fact in most human interactions there is some form of communication, either verbal or non-verbal. According to (Bovee and Thill, Excellence in Business Communication 2004), all communication involves four actions and five components. The actions are the encoding, the sending, the receiving and the decoding. The components are the sender, the message, the medium, noise, and the receiver. This process involves a series of steps in sequence, where actions and components combine to achieve successful communication. Another important action worth mentioning is the feedback; this allows for a confirmation or acknowledgement from the receiver to the sender that the message was received and understood.
The encoding is the construction and formatting of the message to be sent by the sender. The sender then chooses the appropriate medium or method to transmit the message. Medium can be in the form of e-mails, lectures, presentations, or even memos. The receiver then receives the message by hearing, or reading, according to the medium that the message came by. Decoding refers to the interpretation of the message by the receiver.
The fact that Mr. Ferdinand forgot the sampling test suggests that the message was given to him either verbally, or in some manner that did not indicate strict adherence to procedures. The message should have also indicated the time and place for such an event to take occur as well as giving clear indications of the ramifications of failure to take the tests.
In disseminating verbal communication, it is also possible to give non-verbal cues that may contradict the message that is being sent. Non-verbal cues can also be used positively and complement or even accentuate what the sender is trying to put forward.
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If a letter was written to the footballer, it is quite possible that he could have chosen to ignore or simply misinterpret what may have been an important issue to focus attention on Mr Ferdinand having returned later that afternoon gave an indication that he was contacted verbally perhaps via telephone by teammates or by the management of the team while at home. It is highly likely that concerned teammates would have tried to contact him knowing of the consequences of missing one of these tests.
The Football association and the club Manchester United met in a formal meeting to discuss what action was to be taken by the Football Association against the player for his failure to take the test. Such formal action would entail the use of official club and the Football Association's letterheads and written notification of what decision was taken, by whom, why such action was deemed necessary and what penalties were to be paid by the player.
The club Manchester United would have embarked on a formal communication channel to make a press release on the 6th October.
THE MESSAGE OF THE SENDER
The Football Association's message to the footballer was that it was necessary to take the drug test in order that he could continue to be considered to represent his country. This was reinforced when the Football Association met with Mr. Ferdinand's club Manchester United and decided that the player would not be selected to go to Turkey to represent England even though he was considered one of the best players in the team. Manchester United also endorsed this message by collaborating with the Football Association and agreeing with the final decision taken.
The message here suggests that it was not important how well a player played or what was his status on the team; it was a very serious matter to miss a random test, the consequences of which the player and the team must face.
THE SUCCESS OF THE MESSAGES
It was quite obvious that the message that was relayed was not acknowledged by the recipient (Mr. Ferdinand) in the first instance since the player left the field and went home. This act was considered a serious breach of protocol for the players who are chosen at random for testing. Missing this test gave the general perception that the player deliberately left the field since he felt that he may have failed the test.
Mr. Ferdinand was allowed to take the test two days after the initial incident. The result was negative; but he was nonetheless left out of the final selection. The fact that he was allowed to take the test seemed to suggest that pending the outcome of the results of the test he would have been considered for selection. Because of action taken by the management there was the perception that the player would be redeemed by taking the test thereby allowing him to be eligible for selection.
The repercussions that arose from the handling of the situation gave an indication of the outcome of the message that was given to the team when they learned of the omission of their teammate. Immediately after the meeting between their club Manchester United and the Football Association, the management should have met with the team and provide them with relevant information of the outcome and the decision that they considered. Such sharing of information would have had a two-fold effect in diffusing or identifying any potential problems as well as allowing the players to visualize the broader picture of the organization's goals and objectives as it relates to drug-use in sports.
The “media richness” of face to face interaction was needed here to deal with a situation that was sensitive and had multiple facets that needed to be adequately deal with. It was clear that different media had different capabilities to convey messages. Senders then should always be cognizant of this fact and choose the medium carefully before disseminating information.
Management's faux pas did not stop at the team; they should have allowed their public relations department to immediately address the team with updated information.
BARRIERS TO COMMUNICATIONS
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Barriers to communication or ‘noise' takes place whenever the original message sent is not received by the receiver as it was intended. These barriers can be from several sources and take several forms and can occur at any point in the communication process. According to (Rothwell 2004) there can be psychological, physiological and semantic noises that can interfere with communications. Psychological barriers or noises are those preconceived ideas or beliefs that the receiver brings to the communication process - such as stereotypes bias or assumptions. Physiological noises are background noises that make it difficult to hear what the sender is trying to say; for example background music or chatter. Semantic noise are those noise that are derived from the sender; such as a paper written in technical language or in illegible handwriting, so much so that the receiver has a hard time in decoding it.
In the case of Rio Ferdinand; if the advisory was given to him verbally then there was the chance that the message was ambiguous or spoken in such a way to imply that taking the test was not mandatory, or he could have interpreted the communication in that manner.
If the message was written; then the barriers to communication might not have been as broad as in oral communications. Problems in communications in such a case can occur if the message was poorly written or badly interpreted and as such the noise would be defined as semantic.
The choice of media used may have well been the initial cause of the breakdown between the player and the Football Association. The Association may have chosen an informal mode of
delivery of the message when Mr. Ferdinand expected a formal message. Another possible barrier to communication could have been due to the emotional state of the player at the time of the message. Mr. Ferdinand had reportedly left for home since he was in the process of moving. Physical and emotional distractions can be formidable barriers to effective communication.
Again, it is also possible that the footballer may have some selective perception problem in that, the frames of references that he interprets messages varied greatly from that of the sender. According to (Bovee and Thill, Excellence in Business Communication 2004) the greater the individual disparity between sender and receiver, the greater the propensity to misinterpret the message. It is this perception of reality that individuals interpret messages. It is likely that the Football Association's members expected that the player would ‘know' that the test was of great significance and may have given non-verbal cues which were missed when the message was delivered verbally.
RECOMMENDED ALTERNATIVE APPROACH
The sender of the message to Rio Ferdinand would have been better advised to do so through formal means. In this case, the Football Association should have written the Manchester United club with clear expectations; where and when the test was to be done, who would have been there to do the test, what was expected of the player in preparation for the test, during and after the test, depending on the results. The Association should also have clearly indicated what the consequences would have likely been should the player renege on taking the test; they should
have given the club information on the likely consequences of a player missing or not taking the test.
To assist in this matter, the management of Manchester United could have issued an internal memo to the members of the team explaining the importance of the test and the possible consequences of not appearing for such tests. The management could have utilized one or more of any possible method: e-mail, verbal reminder on the day of the test, phone, facsimile or reminder note at sometime prior to the event. The utilization of formal channels of communication could have been adopted long before the actual time and the less formal reminders could have been given about a week or less before the event.
In the handling of the matter after the player missed the test; the management's analysis of the needs and wants of the team and correctly addressing those needs through communication would have staved off any protests that the players may have embarked upon. Proper channels of communication and appropriate medium are important according to the audience that is being addressed.
In addition, the management should have engaged in honest dialogue with the team about the player and the action that was contemplated. Because the situation was complex, the need to use face-to face interaction would have been preferred as there is “media richness” here. The audience would have been able to ask questions and get feedback to clarify issues that may have arisen. This type of communication put a human touch to the interaction and demonstrates that there is some care and concern by the management. It also encourages the participants to be interested in the goals of their organization.
Because Mr. Ferdinand was part of a team, it is safe to assume the members would have ensured that he remembered to take the test, had the management taken the opportunity to inform the team about the tests that were to be done. A simple memo to all members should have been strategically placed so that all the players would see where and when they were selected to take the test.
Manchester United management should have requested a feedback from the player acknowledging receipt and indicating understanding of the message to do the test. The club's management should have discretely informed the player of the decision instead of broadcasting it openly. Such action would guarantee that his privacy and confidentiality was considered.
Releasing the information on Rio Ferdinand, Manchester United may have breached his rights to privacy and confidentiality since he was not guilty of committing any crime. Giving the press the information that he was omitted from the team suggested that he was found guilty of some form of wrong doing when in fact there may have been mis-communication by the parties involved.
In any crisis situation, managers are advised to communicate honestly, openly and frequently. Doing so would mitigate any adverse effects that may occur from speculation and lack of accurate and timely information.
What the club should have done was to call a press conference that allows for an open forum that answered all the pertinent questions concerning the actions taken. This action too should only be contemplated with the knowledge of the player involved.
Communication by nature makes the very fabric of human interaction. If done efficiently, it can promote an organization to the summit of its potential, if done poorly, can lead to ineffective business and misunderstandings and the eventual downfall of enterprises.
Managers must be able to know what medium of communication to use, what channel to engage and be perceptive in interpreting the non-verbal nuances especially when in high contextual settings. The mastery of such communication tactics give an organization a professional outlook and create a competitive edge. On the whole organizations should strive for professionals who would master the art of communications to propel their businesses forward in today's global society. Any investment made in communication by the organization is an opportunity that would give such businesses a real competitive advantage in the long run. Sometimes this investment can yield rich, quantifiable returns, but more often the returns are intangible far reaching and can only be measured by the level of satisfaction expressed by society.
Bovee, and & Thill. “Excellence in Business Communication.” 492-494. SMC, 2004.
Bovee, and & Thill. “Excellence in Business Communication.” 504. 2004.
Rothwell, Dan J. “In the Company of Others: An Introduction to Communication.” Communication Noise (McGraw Hill, 2004). September 2004. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communication_noise (accessed March 13, 2010).