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Any act by which one person gives to or receives from another person information about that person’s needs, desires, perceptions, knowledge, or affective states. Communication may be intentional or unintentional; it may involve conventional or unconventional signals, may take linguistic or non-linguistic forms, and may occur through spoken or other modes.
Organisations cannot operate without communication. Communication can take various forms but all forms involve the transfer of information from one party to the other. In order for the transfer of information to qualify as communication, the recipient must understand the meaning of the information transferred to them. If the recipient does not understand the meaning of the information conveyed to them, communication has not taken place.
Communication is the life source of organisations because organisations involve people. People cannot interact with each other without communication. In the absence of communication, everything would grind to a halt. For example; the workers in an organisation would not know the organisation’s objectives so they would not strive to achieve the organisation’s objectives.
- The workers in an organisation would not know what their roles and responsibilities were, so they would not be able to carry out their daily tasks and duties.
- The managers would not be able to train their workers reports so the workers would not possess the skills they needed to carry out their jobs.
- The managers would not be able to inform workers of changes
- The organisation would not be aware of their competitors activities
On the whole people are able to communicate with each other as this is a basic human function. However successful organisations strive not only for communication but effective communication.
This is defined as communication between two or more people and involves the transfer of information (or message) from one person to the other(s). The person transferring the information is called the sender or transmitter. The people receiving the message are known as receivers. The transmitter will need to send the information in a format that the receiver(s) will understand. Converting the information into a format that the receivers will understand is known as Encoding.
Messages can be encoded into a variety of formats oral, written or visual. After encoding the message is transferred via a medium called a channel, for example a letter, fax, phone call, or e-mail. After transference the information will need to be interpreted by the receiver. This process of interpretation is known as decoding. Finally the receiver will send a message back to the transmitter confirming whether the information sent has been understood. This back check is known as feedback. The communication process involves seven key elements as illustrated in the diagram below.
Why you need to get your message across
Effective communication is all about conveying your messages to other people clearly and unambiguously. It’s also about receiving information that others are sending to you, with as little distortion as possible.
Doing this involves effort from both the sender of the message and the receiver. And it’s a process that can be fraught with error, with messages muddled by the sender, or misinterpreted by the recipient. When this isn’t detected, it can cause tremendous confusion, wasted effort and missed opportunity.
In fact, communication is only successful when both the sender and the receiver understand the same information as a result of the communication.
By successfully getting your message across, you convey your thoughts and ideas effectively. When not successful, the thoughts and ideas that you actually send do not necessarily reflect what you think, causing a communications breakdown and creating roadblocks that stand in the way of your goals – both personally and professionally.
In a recent survey of recruiters from companies with more than 50,000 employees, communication skills were cited as the single more important decisive factor in choosing managers. The survey, conducted by the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Business School, points out that communication skills, including written and oral presentations, as well as an ability to work with others, are the main factor contributing to job success.
In spite of the increasing importance placed on communication skills, many individuals continue to struggle, unable to communicate their thoughts and ideas effectively – whether in verbal or written format. This inability makes it nearly impossible for them to compete effectively in the workplace, and stands in the way of career progression.
Being able to communicate effectively is therefore essential if you want to build a successful career. To do this, you must understand what your message is, what audience you are sending it to, and how it will be perceived. You must also weigh-in the circumstances surrounding your communications, such as situational and cultural context.
The Communications Process
To be an effective communicator and to get your point across without misunderstanding and confusion, your goal should be to lessen the frequency of problems at each stage of this process, with clear, concise, accurate, well-planned communications. We follow the process through below:
As the source of the message, you need to be clear about why you’re communicating, and what you want to communicate. You also need to be confident that the information you’re communicating is useful and accurate.
The message is the information that you want to communicate.
This is the process of transferring the information you want to communicate into a form that can be sent and correctly decoded at the other end. Your success in encoding depends partly on your ability to convey information clearly and simply, but also on your ability to anticipate and eliminate sources of confusion (for example, cultural issues, mistaken assumptions, and missing information.)
A key part of this knows your audience: Failure to understand who you are communicating with will result in delivering messages that are misunderstood.
Messages are conveyed through channels, with verbal channels including face-to-face meetings, telephone and videoconferencing; and written channels including letters, emails, memos and reports.
Different channels have different strengths and weaknesses. For example, it’s not particularly effective to give a long list of directions verbally, while you’ll quickly cause problems if you give someone negative feedback using email.
Just as successful encoding is a skill, so is successful decoding (involving, for example, taking the time to read a message carefully, or listen actively to it.) Just as confusion can arise from errors in encoding, it can also arise from decoding errors. This is particularly the case if the decoder doesn’t have enough knowledge to understand the message.
Your message is delivered to individual members of your audience. No doubt, you have in mind the actions or reactions you hope your message will get from this audience. Keep in mind, though, that each of these individuals enters into the communication process with ideas and feelings that will undoubtedly influence their understanding of your message, and their response. To be a successful communicator, you should consider these before delivering your message, and act appropriately.
Your audience will provide you with feedback, as verbal and nonverbal reactions to your communicated message. Pay close attention to this feedback, as it is the only thing that can give you confidence that your audience has understood your message. If you find that there has been a misunderstanding, at least you have the opportunity to send the message a second time.
The situation in which your message is delivered is the context. This may include the surrounding environment or broader culture (corporate culture, international cultures, and so on).
Barriers of Communication
1. Physical barriers
Physical barriers in the workplace include:
- Marked out territories, empires and fiefdoms into which strangers are not allowed
- Closed office doors, barrier screens, separate areas for people of different status
- Large working areas or working in one unit that is physically separate from others.
Research shows that one of the most important factors in building cohesive teams is proximity. As long as people still have a personal space that they can call their own, nearness to others aids communication because it helps us get to know one another.
2. Perceptual barriers
The problem with communicating with others is that we all see the world differently. If we didn’t, we would have no need to communicate: something like extrasensory perception would take its place. The following anecdote is a reminder of how our thoughts, assumptions and perceptions shape our own realities:
A traveller was walking down a road when he met a man from the next town.
“Excuse me,” he said. “I am hoping to stay in the next town tonight. Can you tell me what the townspeople are like?”
“Well,” said the townsman, “how did you find the people in the last town you visited?”
“Oh, they were an irascible bunch. Kept to themselves. Took me for a fool. Over-charged me for what I got. Gave me very poor service.”
“Well, then,” said the townsman, “you’ll find them pretty much the same here.”
3. Emotional barriers
One of the chief barriers to open and free communications is the emotional barrier. It is comprised mainly of fear, mistrust and suspicion. The roots of our emotional mistrust of others lie in our childhood and infancy when we were taught to be careful what we said to others.
“Mind your P’s and Q’s”; “Don’t speak until you’re spoken to”; “Children should be seen and not heard”. As a result many people hold back from communicating their thoughts and feelings to others.
They feel vulnerable. While some caution may be wise in certain relationships, excessive fear of what others might think of us can stunt our development as effective communicators and our ability to form meaningful relationships.
4. Cultural barriers
When we join a group and wish to remain in it, sooner or later we need to adopt the behaviour patterns of the group. These are the behaviours that the group accept as signs of belonging.
The group rewards such behaviour through acts of recognition, approval and inclusion. In groups which are happy to accept you, and where you are happy to conform, there is a mutuality of interest and a high level of win-win contact.
Where, however, there are barriers to your membership of a group, a high level of game-playing replaces good communication.
5. Language barriers
Language that describes what we want to say in our terms may present barriers to others who are not familiar with our expressions, buzz-words and jargon. When we couch our communication in such language, it is a way of excluding others. In a global market place the greatest compliment we can pay another person is to talk in their language.
One of the more chilling memories of the Cold War was the threat by the Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev saying to the Americans at the United Nations: “We will bury you!” This was taken to mean a threat of nuclear annihilation.
However, a more accurate reading of Khruschev’s words would have been: “We will overtake you!” meaning economic superiority. It was not just the language, but the fear and suspicion that the West had of the Soviet Union that led to the more alarmist and sinister interpretation.
6. Gender barriers
There are distinct differences between the speech patterns in a man and those in a woman. A woman speaks between 22,000 and 25,000 words a day whereas a man speaks between 7,000 and 10,000. In childhood, girls speak earlier than boys and at the age of three, have a vocabulary twice that of boys.
The reason for this lies in the wiring of a man’s and woman’s brains. When a man talks, his speech is located in the left side of the brain but in no specific area. When a woman talks, the speech is located in both hemispheres and in two specific locations.
This means that a man talks in a linear, logical and compartmentalised way, features of left-brain thinking; whereas a woman talks more freely mixing logic and emotion, features of both sides of the brain. It also explains why women talk for much longer than men each day.
Removing Barriers at All These Stages
To deliver your messages effectively, you must commit to breaking down the barriers that exist within each of these stages of the communication process.
Let’s begin with the message itself. If your message is too lengthy, disorganized, or contains errors, you can expect the message to be misunderstood and misinterpreted. Use of poor verbal and body language can also confuse the message.
Barriers in context tend to stem from senders offering too much information too fast. When in doubt here, less is oftentimes more. It is best to be mindful of the demands on other people’s time, especially in today’s ultra-busy society.
Once you understand this, you need to work to understand your audience’s culture, making sure you can converse and deliver your message to people of different backgrounds and cultures within your own organization, in your country and even abroad.
Barrier refers to something non physical that keeps apart or prevents activity, movement & so on. â€¡
Types of Barriers
- Physical & mechanical barriers
- Language or Semantic barriers
- Socio-psychological barriers
- Organisational barriers
- Personal barriers
1- Physical & Mechanical Barriers Noise
It is the disruption or interference in communication process anywhere along the way. â€¡ Noise though of varying degree, disturbs or interferes with communication. Whatever that distracts the receivers attention causes communication breakdown. Noise can be physical & psychological. Physical distractions or disturbances such as loud speakers, gossip etc., draw the attention of the receiver. â€¡ Psychological noise is related to mental disturbances like ego clash, pre occupied thoughts, hang over, anxiety.
Long distances between the sender & the receivers can also obstruct effective communication
Time refers to the reaching of message. If an important message reaches late it is sure to affect communication.
- INFORMATION OVERLOAD
It refers to excessive transmission of information. Much more information than what the receiver can process is transmitted to him/her. The receiver canÂ·t understand , digest, analyze & act upon information overload that is beyond mental capacity.
- MECHANICAL BARRIERS
Outdated machines & equipment may produce excessive noise leading to physical barriers in communication. Distraction like background noise, poor lighting., affect the morale of the employees & also obstruct effective communication.
2- SEMANTIC OR LANGUAGE BARRIER
- UNCLEAR MESSAGE
Lack of clarity in message makes it badly expressed. poorly chosen & empty word , phrases, inadequate vocabulary, failure to clarify implications etc., are some common faults found.
- FAULTY TRANSLATION
The message that every manager receives from his superiors, peers, subordinates must be translated into language suitable for the respective person( for whom the information is destined).
- SPECIALIST’S LANGUAGE
It is often found that technical personnel & special groups tend to develop a special, peculiar & technical language of their own. It hinders their communication with persons not in their specialty, because of the receiver’s ignorance of that type of language.
3- SOCIO-PSYCHOLOGICAL BARRIERS
- DIFFERENCES IN PERCEPTION
Perceptual barriers may arise due to differences between individuals in the way they perceive, organize & understand their environment.
- DIFFERENCES IN ATTITUDE
People differ with regard to attitudes & opinions which often interfere with communication. If the message is consistent with our attitudes & opinions we receive it favorably.
Communication has no impact on those who are unable or unwilling to listen. If people do not pay the required degree of attention to listening & understanding the messages they are supposed to receive.
- PREMATURE EVALUATION
Some people form a judgment before receiving the complete message. Such premature evaluation prevents effective communication. â€¡
- RESISTANCE TO CHANGE
when new ideas are being communicated, the listening apparatus may act as a filter in rejecting new ideas. Thus resistance to change is an important obstacle to effective communication.
- CULTURAL DIFFERENCE
Cultural refers to values, beliefs, norms, attitudes & perceptions of people of different nations or regions. Symbols, words, colors, gestures, language must be carefully selected when senders of information are dealing with people of different nations & regions.
4- ORGANISATIONAL BARRIERS
ONE WAY FLOW
RULES & REGULATIONS
5- PERSONAL BARRIERS
ATTITUDE OF SUPERIOR- the attitude of superiors towards communication affects the flow of messages in different directions.
LACK OF CONFIDENCE IN SUBORDINATES
LACK OF TIME
- Barriers to effective Communication (leaky bucket)
At each stage in the process encoding, transference, and decoding there is the possibility of interference which may hinder the communication process. This interference is known as noise. Often a comparison is made between communication and a leaky bucket. If you use a leaky bucket to carry water, water will be lost at various points in your journey from the water tap to your destination. It is not possible to stop losing water because the bucket contains holes. The amount of water you will lose will be determined by the number of holes in the bucket, the size of the holes, the route you take to your final destination and length of time it takes you to get to your destination. There may also be other events that occur during your journey which increase the amount of water lost. Similarly when information is transferred from the transmitter to the receiver not all of the information may be received by the receiver because of holes called noise. Each of the noise may be affect the amount of information transferred. Just as in a leaky bucket, more holes decrease the amount of water, more noise decreases the amount of correct information received.
- Language issues and Cultural Differences
The receiver(s) may not (fully) understand the language used by the transmitter. This may occur if the transmitter’s language is foreign to the receiver. There may also be language problems (that the communication process) if the message contains technical information and the receiver’s is not familiar with the technical terms used. Cultural differences created by an individual’s background and experience affect their perception of the world. Such cultural differences may affect the interpretation (decoding) of the message sent.
- Environmental issues
If the environment that the transmitter or receiver are in, is noisy and full of sound, the sounds may prevent the message being fully understood. Background noise is often created by colleagues or machinery.
- Channel issues
If the channel used to transfer the information is poor it may prevent all or some of the information being transferred. Examples include a faulty fax machine, a crackling phone, handwriting that cannot be read or in the case of oral messages incorrect facial gestures.
- Receivers Attitude and behavior
If the receiver(s) is not interested in the message (or unable to give their full attention to decoding) this may reduce the amount of information received or the accuracy of the information transmitted to them. Similarly the receiver(s) may misinterpret the message by “jumping to conclusions” or reading the message in a manner that suits their own interests/objectives and distort the true meaning of the message.
i.e. steps in the message, If the message is complicated or there are lots of steps taken to transfer the message it may affect the accuracy or interpretation. Comparing with the leaky bucket if the leaky bucket has to carry water over a longer distance more water will probably lost than if the journey was shorter.
- Internal / Organisational Communication
This is communication that takes place within (or across) an organisation. In addition to the usual face to face, telephone, fax or mail; modern organisations 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 organisation.
- External Communications
Conversely external communication is communication between the organisation and those outside the organisation. Modern organisations 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 organisations. 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.
- Formal and Informal Communications
Formal communication is defined as communication which occurs through the official organisational channels or is undertaken by an employee to do their job. For example official meetings, letters and a manager asking an employee to carry out a particular task. Conversely informal communication is that which occurs outside the recognised communication networks such as talking in the lunchroom or hallways between employees. Informal communication can be productive or negative. It has the potential to build teams, improve working relationships and generate ideas as employees are in a relaxed environment.
- Upward and Downward Communications
Downward communication is communication created by directors and managers and passed down the hierarchy of workers in the organisation. In traditional organisations this is the preferred method of communication ie Managers decide what the systems, rules and procedures will be and then they pass these down to employees they manage and supervise. Downward Communication can increase efficiency by synchronising organisational procedures and can ensure that everybody is working towards the same overall aims and objectives. Types of downward communication include job descriptions, appraisals/evaluations, organisational policy, and organisational systems.
Although there are advantages to downward communication organisations have began to encourage upward communication. This is communication which originates at the lower level of the employment hierarchy and is then communicated up through the line. Organisations encouraging upward communication believe that everybody is capable of generating thoughts and ideas which may help the organisation to progress, particularly when they are working closely in the area that the idea applies to. Upward communication may increase motivation and make employees feel valued and respected whilst enabling managers to understand how employees are feeling. Furthermore if problems occur at they are more likely to be identified earlier by those working closely in the area that they occur. Types of upward communications include suggestion schemes, feedback forums/surveys, grievance procedures and employee-manager discussions.
- Lateral Communication
This is communication that occurs between employees on the same level in the organisation. As this can involve decision making it can create efficiency as employees do not have to wait for managerial approval. On the other hand if the manager is not kept informed or if the manager fails to set boundaries there is potential for conflict.
- Diagonal Communication
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.
Communication between parties based in different locations by using a cable, telephone, broadcast or a telegraph.
Linking to or more computers together so that information and facilities can be shared. Computers in the same room may be linked together or the organisation may decide to link, computers in different parts of the world together.
Local Area Network (LAN)
Computers linked by a network without the use of telecommunications. Often the computers linked are based in the same location, group of buildings or site.
Wide Area Network (WAN)
Computers linked by a network using telecommunications. Often the computers linked are based in different locations.
Through the use of telecommunication devices such as video link participants based in different locations communicating is known as teleconferencing.
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
Computer networks used to exchange standard business transaction documents between organisations.
QUESTION – 3
How might a manager use the GRAPEVINE to his or her advantage?
First of all the definition of grapevine is that it is the unofficial way that communication takes place within the organization. It is neither supported nor authorized by the organization. It can also be called gossip. As we know many gossips have no factual bases at all; most of them however do. A manager can use grapevine to his or her advantage if it is an organization where people are used to get their “information” from these sources.
And of course it would be a lie to say that most of us don’t gossip, or listen to them at least occasionally, especially if it involves us. Bad information spreads a lot faster than good news, so the information gets to employees real fast. It can happen by a word of mouth, or recently more frequently by electronic means. If an organization is based on honesty, these grapevine information can be a lot more accurate than in an organization that is based on an authoritative culture. Usually there is always some truth to it however. Rumours about major lay-offs, plant closings, and the like may be filled with accurate information regarding who will be affected and when it may occur. This truth component is what a manager can use to his or her benefit. Most employees know that if there is any kind of grapevine information circling in the company, whatever it’s about can be true. If a manager for example wants to influence employees to work harder, or put more effort into it, he or she can simply start a new gossip, or encourage an existing one about lay-offs that might involve their department. I’m not saying this is a nice way to do this, but if nothing else works, why not. This is however not the sign of the good manager, because he or she should be able to use other methods of motivation. A good leader needs to be able to exert high level of effort from his or her employees by motivating them in different ways.
Another way of looking grapevine information is its usefulness in supplementing formal information channels. It provides a way for employees to communicate their imaginations and inputs to a certain issue. If management is not really doing a good job with communicating with employees about what is going on in an organization, then grapevine can satisfy these natural needs for information. Grapevine is a healthy human desire to communicate. It is the informal communication channel within the organization. Managers have to acknowledge this fact, and try to use it to their own advantage. Managers interested in creating good communication within the organization will use grapevine as a mean to improve it. The real value of grapevine should be to management is that it reveals issues that generate from those whom interested in or effected by it. Managers can also participate in grapevine. They can be filters, who monitor the information and forward to upper management only the valuable and important components.
Grapevine usually pops up during times of uncertain times; therefore management has to make sure that it is providing enough information about important issues. The longer the rumour goes around, the hardest it is to control, so management had to intervene quickly if it wants to avoid its damaging effects. The fact is that grapevine is exists within organizations, and they always have a truth component to them. Management therefore can use them to their own benefits, as a compliment to the official and formal channels of information.
How to use the Grapevine effectively in business organizations?
Grapevine is an informal channel of business communication. It is called so because it stretches throughout the organization in all directions irrespective of the authority levels. The management can use grapevine to supplement the formal channels of communication. Though it carries some degree of error and distortion, efforts can be made to correct it. Ignoring the grapevine is nothing but to ignore a valuable source of communication. The management can eliminate its negative consequences and, at the same time, it can nourish its positive benefits. The managers have to learn to manage and control it.
1. The management can open up all the channels of organizational communication to present the facts positively before the employees and ther
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