Effective Communication in Organizations
Effective Communication in Organizations
Communication is the primary manner in which we humans interact or cooperate. From an organizational perspective, communication serves as the foundation for planning and organizing, stimulating motivation, shifting individual’s attitudes and in socialization. Regardless of the industry, communication is one of the most relevant factors to consider in regard to the success of an organization. There are many different types of communication and methods in which they are utilized within an organization or group. Within a standard company, communication can take the form of internal, external, formal and informal, upward and downward, lateral and diagonal, small group and nonverbal (Rawes, 2013). In this report, the pertinence of effective communication within an organization will be discussed along with the different types of communication, both verbal and non-verbal. I will cover how effective communication and leadership correlate, as well as the possible pitfalls of operating within an organizational environment where effective communication is deficient. What are some real-world examples that pertain to the different modes of communication? How can communication or the lack thereof, effect the success of an organization? What are the differences in particular forms of communication compared to the other?
The Importance of Effective Communication Effective communication is extremely important to the success of an organization. Studies have shown that communication correlates positively with many organizational outputs, such as organizational commitment, performance, organizational citizenship behaviors, and overall job satisfaction (Husain, 2013). In contrast, the failure of communication may lead to detested results like stress, job dissatisfaction, low trust, the decrease in organizational commitment, severance intention, and absence (Zhang & Agarwal, 2009). Present day technologies and organizations have transformed communications access which can create difficulty when attempting to master the concept of communication within an organization.
It is safe to state; however, that when all areas of an organization or group communicate effectively, the overall workflow, productivity and in some cases, the moral of the group or organization are greatly improved. For effective communications, there must be a correlation of thinking between the sender and receiver of a message that is being communicated. Regardless of the type of communication, whether verbal or non-verbal, communication must remain consistent. Communication can be defined as the exchange of information, thought and emotion between individuals of groups, in other words, communication plays a fundamental role in balancing individual and organizational objectives (BOYACI, 1996, p. 3-5). Internal Communication
Internal communication is that which occurs inside of the workplace. This type of communication can be achieved via any medium, such as email, phone, fax, face to face, website, etc. For example, some organizations have websites that are used to communicate with “customers” outside of the organization via the internet; however, the same organization may have an intranet that is used within the organization and can only be seen by employees on that particular network, internally. The intranet website at my particular organization, for example, communicates all sorts of information pertaining to the organization and its employees, from birthdays to information regarding benefits enrollment, employee self- service, and more.
The practice of internal communication has evolved over time since its implementation in the 1800’s, due to the importance of the survival and success of organizations. The motive of internal communication is creating a dialogue with employees and giving them the opportunity to have an impact on the business through the sharing of ideas and involvement (Takenouchi, 2011) Organizations in the 21st Century have begun to recognize the importance of employee engagement and the contribution employees make toward the success of the organization.
There is research that has proven that keeping employees informed and provided with a voice leads to higher levels of employee engagement. Yearly, within the organization I work for, there are surveys taken by employees. These surveys allow employees to voice their concerns, likes or dislikes about the organization. Today there are many techniques and technologies used to communicate within an organization. Some of those techniques are as follows: •One-on-one meetings
A large number of studies by both professional management groups and professional communications bodies consistently find that ‘communicating with employees’ is a useful and powerful way of engendering greater ‘engagement’ – the propensity of the employee to want to come to work and want to contribute to the success of the company (Hopkins, 2006). External Communication
Talking to a customer, sending an email to a potential client or making a phone call to vendors or someone outside of the company you work for is an example of communicating externally or external communication. Although it is challenging to gauge the effectiveness of all the strategies, tactics and tools that are part of today’s external communication options, organizations have a need to continuously adjust to a communication environment that is constantly changing (Newswire, 2011). Traditionally, the method of external communication was print, which is still common, but of course modern technology has changed all of that. Obviously, the internet has become a resource much more frequently utilized in reaching new customers. As with intranet websites are used by organizations to reach members of an organization internally, so are many organizations also utilizing websites to inform people and/or communities outside of the organization about upcoming products and services.
The external form of communication is indeed an effective way to reach outside of an organization but considering how the impression of the organization is judged by the public, it is vital that those driving the external communication procedures be aware of the image and/or message being conveyed. Consider a message sent via email. I happen to communicate often with patients through my place of employment regarding their medical records, lab results and other information we provide externally via a website we maintain called Health eLink. There are times when patients get information misconstrued and respond in an irate manner due to being uninformed. There is practically an art to responding to someone whom is irate, because communications verbally or even through email can sometimes be misconstrued as well. The mission of an organization is to be considered at all times; not the personal feelings of the individual doing the external communicating. This approach correlates to the success of the organization and the patient experience, in this particular situation. Formal and Informal Communication
There are distinct differences between formal and informal forms of communication. Simply put, formal communication is any correspondence that pertains to or promotes the organizations objective. It can also be defined as the degree to which information about a job is transmitted by an organization to its member and among the members of an organization (Kandlousi & Abdollahi, 2010). It is formal communication within an organization that relates to productivity, job satisfaction, costs, reduction of conflict, trust reinforcement and overall satisfaction.
Informal communication is the exact opposite. Informal communication topics do not pertain to work and are harmless, in most cases. The conversations that employees may have at lunch or after a meeting about things that have nothing to do with work are informal and take place at various times throughout the day. Although informal communication is not related to work or the organization, it can very well have an effect on the success of a group or environment within the organization. Considering the serious problems that may arise due to rumors, gossip and/or crude jokes, it is important to keep the topics of informal communication into perspective when in an organizational environment. Upward and Downward Communication
Upward and downward communication refers to the flow of communication at different levels within an organization. Upward communication flows up to the higher levels of the organization. An example of this would be an employee report back to his or her supervisor whom reports back to their manager who reports to the director and so forth. Subordinates of an organization may use upward communication to convey problems or provide feedback to their superiors.
Downward communication flows down. When we consider the superior in a chain of command, the colonel in the military for example, speaking with a subordinate, such as a sergeant, we are recognizing downward communication. Downward communication is necessary in order for subordinates to know and understand what is expected of them from management. Important elements in information flow are factors that affect the level of downward communication, such as the relationship between superior and subordinate (Anderson & Level, 1980). Lateral and Diagonal
Lateral and diagonal communication is straight forward as well. Lateral communication in an organization is the communication that takes place between employees on the same level. The communication one may have with a coworker in regard to job objectives would be an example of such a flow of communication. Diagonal communication is much like downward communication, but at an angle. A manager from a different department of an organization may request information from a lower level subordinate in the same organization, this would be an example of diagonal communication. It is any interaction 2 or more hierarchical levels apart or one hierarchical level apart but to an organizational member outside the individual’s direct chain of command. (Wilson, 1992) Small Group Communication
Two trends have revolutionized the workplace: the increased use of work teams and computers. Organizations are becoming increasingly team based, and work that was once accomplished by individuals is now delegated to teams (Goldstein, 1995). In an organization with many employees, small groups can often give individuals a sense of belonging; however, communication within these groups must be effective in order for the group to be successful at accomplishing job objectives. Small group communication is pretty self-explanatory; it is the communication that takes place within the small group. Its function is to group together and utilize different skill sets, job objectives, knowledge and expertise for the purpose of nurturing creativity and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of operations within an organization. Individuals within a group whom are unable to communicate effectively, will not be able to share ideas, brainstorm, or discuss direction or project solutions without running into problems. A group with lack of communication skills with likely fail, or have difficulty reaching its goal or completing the objective. Non-verbal Communication
Non-verbal communication is a type of communication that is just as important as the other types that have been considered thus far. It has often been stated that it is not just what you say, but how you say it as well. This is never more obvious in informal communication, when gestures and movements are more prevalent. Non-verbal communication takes posture, eye movement, body language and even your appearance into account when exchanging communication. Gestures such as eye contact, expressions or attire and personal space can be powerful non-verbal cues. In my place of business, we have the freedom of wearing casual clothing. Some years back, after my military service, I started getting tattooed and some of those were placed on my neck and forearm. Knowing that this tends to communicate different things to different people, I choose to wear a shirt and tie to work, in an effort to escape whatever may be negatively communicated with the exposure of tattoos on my neck and arms. They do not necessarily show anything offense, but they are there, and not necessarily presentable for a professional environment. The same thing can be said for attire, when considering wearing a t-shirt with a particular logo, an individual should be concerned with what that logo may communicate to the individual perceiving it. Lack of Communication in Organizations
The lack of communication in a group or organization can be extremely detrimental for that group or organization. From the highest peak of upward communication downward, laterally, diagonally, in groups, verbal, non-verbal, formal or informal, effective communication is paramount when considering an organizations culture. In Organizational Behavior, discussions have been held regarding the differences individuals offer that have an effect on the communication techniques we use on a daily basis. Often times we are not even thinking about instances where something is being communicated, whether it’s a shrug of the shoulders or complete silence when verbal affirmation and/or awareness is expected.
Poor communication can have an effect on the “bottom-line” within an organization, relevant to time and money, which prevents goals and objectives from being reached. A lot of employment applications will have good interpersonal skills listed as one of the job requirements and employers expect these skills to show on the job. We as employees or subordinates often times expect upper management to have great communication skills, as we communicate back and forth, receiving tasks and objectives. It is possible that overtime, adequate communications have broken down and need “maintenance”. There are a lot of objectives that are ongoing in day to day business and it is important that the lines of communication remain “free flowing”. It is also possible that an organization or group is full of good communicators, but the objectives are just not being communicated effectively. Some of the symptoms of poor communication are as follows: * Conflicting Goals and Objectives
* Negative Attitudes
* Measurable Financial Loss
* Low Morale and Lack of Enthusiasm
Leaderships Role in Communication
As I stated previously in my article review “Leadership in Organizations”, Leadership in an organization is very important in the achievement of organizational goals. It is a practice by which management may direct, monitor, and impact the behavior and work of others towards accomplishing these goals. Effective communication should pulse in all directions through an organization like a heartbeat. But it doesn’t just happen. Nor is it solely the responsibility of communication functions. To achieve this level of permeation, responsibility for the communication process must rest with
management at all levels across the organization (Facey, 2013).
Effective communication utilizes skill sets such as nonverbal communication, listening, stress management, understanding and more. Being an effective communicator is a learned skill set that will adjust over time. Within an organization, communicating successfully is a collective effort on the part of the individuals within the organization. Communicating effectively in all types or forms of communication will benefit the individual, the group and the organization steering toward success.
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