Although interpersonal and group level communications reside at a lower level than organizational communication, they are major forms of communication in organizations and are prominently addressed in the organizational communication literature. Recently, as organizations became more communication-based, greater attention was directed at improving the interpersonal communication skills of all organizational members. Historically, informal communication was primarily seen as a potential block to effective organizational performance. This is no longer the case is modern times, as on-going, dynamic, and informal communication has become more important to ensuring the effective conduct of work
It is also widely accepted that top managers should communicate directly with immediate supervisors and that immediate supervisors should communicate with their direct reports. In regard to issues of importance, top managers should then follow-up by communicating with employees directly. The Communication Accommodation Theory supports this rationale. In terms of supervisor-employee communication, one researcher argues the difficulty of trusting someone who they feel has a distinct advantage over them (McCune, 1998). Recent studies have found that 43% of employees believe their supervisors cheat and lie to them, and 68% of employees do not trust their supervisors (Davis & Landa, 1999). The Communication Accommodation Theory proposes that interactants draw upon a wide range of communication strategies including approximation, interpersonal control, discourse management and relational strategies to achieve approval of the other person.
Research indicates that an effective communication is to communicate orally, then follow up in writing, or "downward communication." A consistent finding is that employee satisfaction with downward communication seems to be at a consistent level. Prior research has found low levels of satisfaction with strategies commonly used to enhance "upward communication," such as employee surveys, suggestion programs, employee grievance programs, and team meetings. Some of the reasons for this lack of satisfaction may be that these strategies often do not involve two-way communication, and are more than likely draw defensiveness on the part of managers. Other reasons why upward communication is low may be that employees are afraid to speak their minds, and that employees feel their ideas or concerns are changed as they are transmitted to the appropriate personnel. Time is another factor, in which managers can give the impression that they don't have the time to listen to employees.
Lateral communication involves communication among persons not in any hierarchical organization to one another. Lateral communication across managers has not been subject to much empirical research. It has been assumed that lateral communication at the worker level is less problematic. With the rise of the importance of teams, more attention is now being directed at the communication between team members. There is also a dramatic emphasis on communication across distributed workers and geographically separated work groups doing similar kinds of work in an attempt to promote learning and the sharing of expertise, best practices, and lessons learned.
Approximation strategies refer to interactants adjusting their communication style to sound more like the other individuals. This is accomplished through elements such as vocabulary, jargon, accent and non-verbal behaviors.
Employees usually utilize approximation in order to signal affinity with or the approval of the supervisor. Supervisors have recently moved away from approximation in order to signal interpersonal or social distance or disapproval. This is because supervisors and employees are most likely to be attracted to people who are similar to themselves, in terms of personal characteristics or group memberships. This is because individuals are more likely to trust in-group members than out-group members.
Interpersonal control strategies refer to the supervisor's communication strategy of positioning him- or herself in a particular role or power position (Jones, Gallois, Callan & Baker, 1999). A supervisor may communicate their superior status in the relationship, or reduce perceived power differences by referring to their employees their "fellow team members." To overcome boundaries caused by the superior relationship, managers may refer to themselves in terms of a nurturing, mentoring role. Usually a supervisors' use of a domineering or coercive communication style works the opposite way in establishing trust. On the other hand, the supervisor utilizing in-group communication skills reflects communication behaviors that reduce perceptions of power differences, and emphasizes interpersonal similarities. This positions the supervisor more as an individual, rather than simply as a member of a higher-status out-group.
Discourse management strategies are manifested in a more discourse-oriented, but equally powerful form. Research shows that higher-status individuals are more likely to display behaviors such as interrupting, dominating the conversation, controlling the choice of topic and the use of directives, and are less likely to use an informal tone or self-disclosure. (Jones, Gallois, Callan & Baker, 1999). At the discourse level, the out-group perceptions are indicative of supervisors' lack of willingness to listen or communicate, the use of directives and negatively perceived control of conversation patterns. These discourse behaviors are clearly indicative of power and role distance, which directly and indirectly reduces employees trust.
Another element that a successful supervisor must implement in his or her daily routine is active listening. Active listening is a method used that indicates that the speaker is taken seriously and that the listener cares. Self-disclosure is a powerful form of communication in terms of breaking through the out-group barrier and personalizing oneself. Finally, relational strategies focus on communication behaviors that indicate support, empathy, inclusion, and valuing ones' employees.
It is posited that three theoretical perspectives guide the study of communication: the technical, the contextual, and the negotiated perspectives.
The technical view of communication is associated with information theory; the important question in information theory is "how can an information source get a message to a destination with a minimum of distortions and errors?" In applying this mechanistic approach to interpersonal communication, the question is the same, although the mechanistic system is altered to some extent and the analysis is less technical and mathematical. The technical view of communication persists as a common basis for discussions about organizational communication. This view introduced into this communication system both human and interpersonal feedback elements. Since that time, an array of human filters that are influenced by the person' horizon of experience., such as motive, affect, attention, knowledge, attitudes, values, and beliefs, have been specified.
The contextual approach to communication focuses on content, or the accurate exchange of information and on the larger context of communication. It focuses on nonverbal cues as well as verbal content. It looks at the relational context between the sender and receiver within the larger social, organizational and cultural context. It sees words as symbols interpreted in context to create meaning and one's sense of both self and society. Discourse analysis is an extension and elaboration of the contextual perspective. Rather than looking at a particular interpersonal exchange, discourse analysis looks at an overall body of communication. This includes formal and informal, oral and written communication of all types. The goal of the analysis is to relate discourse patterns to patterns of social relations. Through discourse about itself, the organization enacts shapes, defines, and marks the boundaries of itself. In this sense, discourse is both interpersonal and collective, both inter-subjective and contextual. I
Implicit in the definition of supervision is an ongoing relationship between supervisor and employee. This includes the employee's acquisition of professional role identity and the supervisor's evaluation of the employee's performance. Although the goal of helping the employee develop into an effective counselor may appear simple, it can be an anxiety-provoking experience. Supervision-induced anxiety causes employees to respond in a variety of ways, with some of the responses becoming defensive. These defensive behaviors, which serve the purpose of reducing anxiety, are referred to as "resistance."
Employee resistance, while disruptive and annoying, is very common. An important implication for the supervisor to keep in mind that resistance is not synonymous with "negative behavior." Instead, resistance occurs because of the dynamics of the supervision process and, in fact, can be an appropriate response to supervision. In other instances, resistance is a response to anxiety whereby it becomes the supervisor's role to deal with anxiety so that the need for resistance will be reduced or perhaps eliminated.
Employee resistance, consisting of verbal and nonverbal behaviors, is the employee's overt response to changes in the supervision process. Some researchers have concluded that the primary goal of resistant behavior is self-protection in which the employee guards against perceived threats. A common threat is fear of inadequacy, or a concern of not "measuring up" to the supervisor's standards. Other employee resistance occurs because supervision is required. Employees may not accept the legitimacy of supervision because they perceive their skills to be equal, if not superior, to their supervisor's. Employee resistance may be a reaction to loss of control and can evolve into a power struggle between supervisor and employee. Employee's may fear and be threatened by change, and respond with defensive behaviors. The fact that supervision has an evaluative component can provoke anxiety because a negative evaluation by a supervisor may result in dismissal or the failure to receive necessary recommendations.