Likert's Four System's Theory and Organizational Communication Term Paper

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Likert's Four System's Theory And Organizational Communication

Within the organizational structure communication is key to overall success, efficiency and productivity. Understanding the elements that make-up successful communication within the organizational construct plays a huge role in shaping a corporation's culture and collected sense of morale. By providing all levels of the corporate structure with clear and open lines of communication facilitates trust and builds leadership qualities amongst subordinates. One can look at different theories and methods that focus on communication as a key tool for managers to gain deeper understanding of organizational behaviors and the meanings behind certain behaviors. Within the corporate setting, people communicate with different intentions to different people down the chain of command. Likert's theory of Four Systems believes in caring and nurturing employees to improve organizational operations and output. This theory believes an organization can function along a continuum of four systems or style of leaderships adopted by management. These different approaches to leadership create different outcomes for the organization. These outcomes occur especially when it comes to analyzing issues of loyalty, conflict, productivity and performance.

Likert's Four System's Theory and Organizational Communication


This paper will focus on the subject of organizational communication theories and specifically Likert's Four Systems Theory. The paragraphs below will explore how by studying this theory one can gain insight into different levels of interpersonal communication for the corporate world. How does communication play an everyday role within the organizational structure? How does one's attitude toward communication influence an organization and its success in the marketplace? Do different approaches to leadership have different outcomes for the organization? First before analyzing Likert's work and the Four Systems Theory, one must have a clear definition of corporate communication. Professor Stephen Robbins defines the communication process as "the steps between a source and a receiver that result in the transference and understanding of meaning" (p. 285). Within the corporate framework, communication becomes an issue especially when productivity and efficiency is measured. Communication levels if not kept open with a clear method and tone can lead to an organization's failure. Communication becomes complex because of the source, the message, channel or decoding process being manipulated or understood differently due to filtering (Robbins, 2001, p. 286). This paper looks to Likert's Four Systems Theory as a means of discovery and understanding organizational behavior. The Four Systems Theory consists of the following systems of leadership: (1) exploitive-authoritative, (2) benevolent-authoritative, (3) consultative and (4) participative management. Likert believes that human relations is extremely important to success and that management care and nutriment of employees should be a main objective as happy, well-informed employees improve organizational operation levels (Brown, 2000). Still with system management comes a cause and effect relationship. These styles cause certain outcomes and create different levels of communication. This communication is open for interpretation and can be filtered differently from individual to individual. Many different factors go into why and how an employee filters, all of which influence behavior in the work place.

Anderson and Martin (1995) write, "people communicate to satisfy interpersonal needs, which, in turn, influences their communication choices and behaviors" (p. 249). Rubin and Rubin (1992) agree, "people have motive for communication, understanding people's motives lead to a better understanding of relationship outcomes" (p. 305). By looking closely at Likert's Four Systems one can better understand these motives and behaviors within the work place. By doing this management and other employees in key leadership positions can learn how to communicate better, build trust among team members and participate in new levels of understanding across the chain of command. Likert believes by focusing on employees and styles of communication used in leading, an organization will be more productive and successful over the long-term.


This style of leadership and communication implies using an iron fist and providing no feedback to employees (Brown, 2000). In this method, the leader "has low or no concern for people and uses such methods as threats and other fear-based methods to achieve conformance" ( Communication is almost nonexistent and down the chain of the command. In other words, the communication comes from the top only and this establishes a distance between the Boss and the worker. This in turn, creates an imbalance for the organization as upper management has greater responsibilities in operations and decision making while the workers have none and little say about anything (Herzberg, 2005, p. 2).


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