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Effective workplace communication skills are among the skills we assume every worker picked up along the way. The problem is that not all the communication skills and habits we picked up at home, in school or social circles are appropriate in the workplace. Some people would be fired immediately if they communicated in the workplace the way they do at home or among friends.
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Understanding how to speak, write and manage your nonverbal messages is critical to your success at work. As you will discover from a few surveys we will review, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, Human Resource Managers, and other business leaders rate communication skills highest among the skills needed to advance in the workplace.
Written by Peter Adebi, organization development expert, leadership coach, and human resource consultant, this seminar, Achieving Optimal Workplace Success through Effective Communication, is designed to help you acquire the skills you need to be an effective communicator.
What is Communication?
Communication is simply the sending of a message to another person. The person sending the message first needs to formulate the message in his head. This involves determining the meaning that the sender intends to convey to the other person. To formulate the meaning of the message, the sender usually draws upon his background attitudes, perceptions, emotions, opinions, education, and experience.
The message is then sent to the listener through both verbal talking and non-verbal gestures. The person receiving this message then interprets its meaning. To do this, the listener uses his background, attitudes, perceptions, emotions, opinions, education, and experience.
Effective communication exists between two persons when the person receiving the message interprets it in the same way as the sender intended it. Sounds really simple doesn’t it? Well, it can be.
Communication is essential for achieving managerial and organizational effectiveness. Without communication, employees will not be able to aware of what their co-workers are doing, will not have any idea about what their goal are, and will not be able to assess their performance. In absence of channels of communication, supervisors will not be able to give instruction to their subordinates and management will not receive the information it requires to develop plans and take decision.
Good communication always helps employees become more involve in their work and helps them to develop a better understanding of their jobs. Clear, precise and timely communication of information also prevents the occurrence of organizational problems. Effective communication is essential for achieving organizational goals, but ensuring such communication has been a major problem for most organization.
Although the word “communication” is often used, there has been no consensus among communication experts regarding the definition of communication. In general, communication may be defined as the process by which the information is exchanged between individuals.
There are many components to communication. Consider verbal communication skills, listening skills, written memorandums/email, telephone skills and non-verbal communication. Also, reflect upon all the people we communicate to: subordinates, peers, supervisors, customers, and groups of people. In addition, ponder some of the reasons, why we communicate: to get and give information, to discipline subordinates, to make assignments, and so on.
Why is Effective Communication Important?
We already know that communication is a big part of our daily existence. Even when we don’t want to communicate, the very actions we take not to communicate such as being quiet in meetings, avoiding people, declining to respond to emails or give feedback, communicate something about us.
In a survey of 480 companies and organizations conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers and published in the Wall Street Journal, effective communication ability ranked first among the desirable personal qualities of future employees.
reference: December 29, 1998. Wall Street Journal, Work Week, p. A1.
In a national survey of 1000 human resource managers, oral communication skills are identified as valuable for both obtaining employment and successful job performance.
reference: Winsor, et al., 1997
In yet another survey, executives in Fortune 500 companies indicate that college students need better communication skills, as well as the ability to work in teams and with people from diverse backgrounds (Association Trends, 1997).
The point of these examples is that honing your communication skills should be a priority for you as you seek to advance in the workplace.
Although many articles and books have dealt with interpersonal and organizational communication, most of them are not based on systematic research findings. However, the “Real Managers Study” (conducted by Fed Luthan, Richard M. Hodgetts and Stuart A.Rosenkrantz) is based on original research in communication. The researches observe managers at work in various organizational setting and also studies the self reports submitted by them to understand the process of communication in organization. They developed the managerial communication model to explain the different style of communication used by the managers and to provide a framework for understanding how managers communicate in organization.
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Henri Fayol’s Contribution to Communication
In formal organizations, the design of communication channels is based on the assumption that all the divisions and departments are self contained and do not facilitate communication among employees at the same level. This poses the serious problem when circumstances demand such communication. If an individual wants to convey some message to an individual from another department, the message has to be passed up to the highest managerial level and then down to the individual. The reply from that individual is also received in a similar way, leading to huge delays.
Chester Barnard’s Contribution
Chester Barnard felt that communication played an important role in shaping organizations. According to him, Communication forms one of the three primary elements of an organization, the common goals and willingness to serve customers beings the other two elements. Communication links the number of the members of an organization with organization’s goal and facilitates and enhances cooperative action among the individual and department of the organization. Communication whether written or oral, helps an organization attain its golas, but it can also give rise to problems. For instance, if a particular message is misinterpreted, an inappropriate decision may be taken. This decision may be taken. This decision may result in losses to the organization in long-run.
Barnard related communication to the concept of authority. According to him, for authority to be delegated from a manager to sub ordinate, all communication originating from the manager must be clearly understood by the subordinate. He believed that a manager should try to understand the meaning of the message before communicating it to his subordinates. Barnards indentifies seven communication factors that helps establish and maintain objectives authority in an organization.
- The member of an organization should be aware of all the available channels of communication.
- Every member of organization must have access to specific formal channel of communication.
- Communication with an organization must follow the shortest and most direct path.
- All communication should involve the use of entire, formal line of communication.
- Competent persons should serve as communication centers.
- There should be no interruption in the time of communication during the functioning of an organization, and
- All communication should be authenticated.
Who is Responsible for Communicating Effectively?
Managers share the responsibility in communicating effectively with the individual employees themselves. The manager is 100% responsible for communicating effectively with their employees.
This includes establishing an open and trusting climate for communication, as well as demonstrating good communication techniques to their employees. The employee is 100% responsible for taking advantage of the “climate for communication” to express what is important and relevant. For example, it is expected that a manager will ask “are there any questions?” after giving an employee an assignment, but it is also expected that an employee will say, “I have a question”, if one should occur to the employee, without waiting for the manager to ask.
The following communication is useful for organizational communication.
- Non verbal communication
- Downwards communication
- Upward communication
- Lateral communication
- Interactive communication
Barriers to Effective Communication
A number of obstacle may restrict the receiver’s understanding of a message. These interruption act as barriers to communication, which may totally prevent communication, or delete a aprt of the message, or convey the wrong meaning. Some of the barriers to effective communication are discuss below.
Filtering: This refers to the manipulation of information by the sender so as to obtain a favorable opinion from the receiver about the project in which there is significant progress but does not inform him of the project that are lagging behind.
Selective perception: A person perceives information on the basis of his needs, values, experience and background. His personal interest and expectation influence the way he decodes information. For instances, if an interviewer believes that women give more priority to their family than their professional career, he is likely to perceive this
Characteristics in all female applicants, regardless of whether the applicants feel that way or not.
Defensiveness: People intentionally attempt to block communication when they feel that other person is threatening their self image and prestige. They react in a defensive manner by the making sarcastic comments, by the passing judgment on the others, ot by questioning the motives of the other party. This type of defensive behavior impedes effective communication.
Language: As per our first assignment, an organization has different kind of people from different cultures. In such cases language is one of the important factor for communication towards different cultural people. Because each employee may have a different meaning or pronunciation for the same word. The business units of a company operating in different geographical territories may also use terms and phrases in a unique way. Hence, the sender has to modify the style of communication depending on the people he is addressing (workers, clients or business partners).
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