Organisational communication relates to the way organisations adapt themselves to changing environments, externally and internally. The focus is on interaction with stakeholders and within the organisation and with co-workers. In these interactions different perceptions (in meanings and interests) must be dealt with to create common ground. Barriers to communication refers to any kind or form of communication impediment within an organization such as noise, bureaucracy and semantic differences.
The organisation that I used to work for is SIRDC and it is primarily involved in scientific research and innovation. It is located around 15kilometres away from town in the Hatcliffe Extension area. The barriers to communication in the organisation include the following:
Did you hear what I meant for you to hear? This has been a frequent statement in the boardrooms! With today’s increasingly diverse workforce, it is easy to believe you have conveyed information to someone, but you are not aware that they interpreted you differently than you intended. Unfortunately, you won’t be aware of this problem until a major problem or issue arises out of the confusion. This usually arises due to the interpretation of different words.
Due to the diverse educational and cultural backgrounds [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=backgrounds&%3Bv=56] in my organisation, semantics acts as a hindrance to effective communication as people [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=people&%3Bv=56] would argue that we agreed to pursue another option in the last meeting when it was not the case. This is usually prevalent when the business [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=business&%3Bv=56] people [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=people&%3Bv=56] in the organisation are discussing issues with the scientists on the viability of their innovations. The organisation has chemists, engineers, marketing [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=marketing&%3Bv=56] personnel, financial analysts, nutritionists, electricians, biotechnologists among many others.
When organizations are just getting started, their leaders can often prize themselves on not being burdened with what seems as bureaucratic overhead, that is, as extensive written policies and procedures. Writing [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=Writing&%3Bv=56] something down can be seen as a sign of bureaucracy and to be avoided. As the organization grows, it needs more communications and feedback to remain healthy, but this communication is not valued. As a result, increasing confusion ensues — unless management [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=management&%3Bv=56] matures and realizes the need for increased, reliable communications. This was the case when the department that I was under was at its infancy level and this was done to have confidence of other institutes within the organisation, since our department was mainly support in nature.
However, at the organizational level, authority tends to be centralised at the top and this usually results in information taking too long to reach all the employees. The Director-General has the final say in the all the organizational decision making process. The Public relations department is responsible for all the organizational communication even on technical aspects unless the technical people [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=people&%3Bv=56] are given the authority to talk to the media.
If I know it, then everyone must know it. Perhaps the most common communications problem is managements’ (leaders’ and managers’) assumption that because they are aware of some piece of information, than everyone else is, too. Usually staff are not aware unless management [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=management&%3Bv=56] makes a deliberate attempt to carefully convey information. This has been the case especially on the technical fields where the managers think that every employee is aware of the “basics” in the related field. Sometimes, employees will be scared to ask because the boss has already assumed that everyone knows the principles. The result is that the job [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=job&%3Bv=56] is not done properly and incompetence is labeled to the subordinates.
Some people [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=people&%3Bv=56] within the organisation would not want to share information with others and this has been termed HITES – Holding Information To Enhance Status. This is usually the case in fields such as information technology (IT) where a person is solely employed because of the knowledge of a particular program. If he is to teach others the he loses his expert power and negotiating power within the organisation. Such group of people [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=people&%3Bv=56] can make the organisation be at ransom if their demands are not met.
This is mainly to do with judging people [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=people&%3Bv=56] according to one’s culture and thinking. This is a result of diverse cultures and different levels of education [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=education&%3Bv=56] within the organisation.
“Camps” within an organization
Camps are usually created based on political persuasion, religious beliefs, as well as on tribal grounds. Since my organization is a parastatal and it is in the President’s Office [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=Office&%3Bv=56], it is expected that within the organization we should be pro-government. However, some people [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=people&%3Bv=56] are known to support other parties, so communication tends to be hindered as one is not so sure how to respond to certain issues raised. Tribal issues tend to hinder communication in my organization as some people [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=people&%3Bv=56] feel one tribe is getting the attention of the senior executive in the organization. This has been further worsened in the recruitment exercise for senior posts.
Managers failure to recognize the efforts of subordinates
If I need your opinion, I will tell it to you. Communications problems can arise when management [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=management&%3Bv=56] simply sees no value whatsoever in communicating with subordinates, believing subordinates should shut up and do their jobs [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=jobs&%3Bv=56] as assigned. This kind of attitude discourages the subordinates and might force them to just leave the mistakes that their superior has done which might be detrimental to the organizational objectives and goals.
The attitude of “I know everything” has retarded the learning [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=learning&%3Bv=56] process in the organization. Inexperienced managers are usually the culprits in this regard as they find no need to communicate with subordinates. So what’s to talk about? Communications problems can arise when inexperienced management [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=management&%3Bv=56] interprets its job [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=job&%3Bv=56] to be solving problems and if they are no problems/crises, then there is nothing that needs to be communicated.
Effective internal communications start with effective skills in communications, including basic skills in listening, speaking, questioning and sharing feedback These can developed with some concerted review and practice. Perhaps the most important outcome from these skills is conveying that you value hearing from others and their hearing from you. Sound meeting management [http://www.ntsearch.com/search.php?q=management&%3Bv=56] skills go a long way toward ensuring effective communications, too. A key ingredient to developing effective communications in any organization is each person taking responsibility to assert when they don’t understand a communication or to suggest when and how someone could communicate more effectively.
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