Management Communication - the Role of Workplace Interpersonal Communication
Communication, in simple terms, refers to "the process of sending and receiving messages" (Bovee & Thill, 2008, p. 2). Baack (2012); Bovee and Thill (2008) agree that there are two major facets of organizational communication -- internal communication (exchange of ideas and information within the boundaries of an organization) and external communication (exchange of information beyond an organization's borders). Internal communication can further be divided into interpersonal communication (between individuals) and communication within the organization; whereas external organization can be subdivided into communication across domestic borders and communication across international borders (Baack, 2012). Researchers and scholars alike contend that achieving success in the marketplace today is dependent upon one's ability to communicate effectively with different audiences.
Effective Communication in Business Settings
Numerous views have been put forth to explain what exactly constitutes effective communication. A widely-accepted view is that communication is only effective if a message reaches the intended recipient, and the recipient then interprets it correctly and gives the right feedback. In a business setting, this translates to a message being understood, and subsequently, stimulating action or encouraging "the audience to think in new ways" (Bovee & Thill, 2008, p. 3).
Researchers have split this model of effective communication into numerous rudiments, which are often summarized into a six-stage procedure as explained below.
Sender generates thought: the sender conceives an idea, perhaps about an inquiry production, an order, or a request, in their mind and wishes to share it.
Sender encodes thought: the thought conceived is ambiguous and cannot be communicated unless it is put into a receivable form. The sender encodes it by means of language, transforming it into a receivable message. If an employee, for instance, thinks of a proposal that could increase the organization's sales, he would encode his thought by putting it on paper in the form of a business proposal, which he would then present to his supervisor.
Sender transmits message: the sender selects a suitable communication channel, through which to transmit the message to the receiver. This could be anything, from a telephone, facial gesture, e-mail, etc.; the choice of media depends on a number of factors, including the degree of urgency, the formality required, the available media, the recipient's location, etc.
Noise and barriers: the sender faces numerous barriers in transmitting the message to the recipient;
i) On his side -- barriers during the process of encoding could be caused by anything from poor language to typing mistakes, lack of concentration, or distractions.
ii) In the medium - barriers during transmission could be caused by misprinting in newspapers, poor TV transmission, etc.
iii) On the sender's side -- the recipient could create barriers resulting from lack of concentration, emotions, poor reading ability, etc.
Receiver decodes message: the receiver interprets the sender's message by converting the language in which it is presented into thoughts, through the decoding process.
Receiver sends feedback: after decoding the message, the receiver responds to it to complete the communication process. The receiver's response, which can be negative or positive, is used to assess the effectiveness of the communication process. Whether the recipient interprets the message correctly, and hence, sends the correct feedback depends on, among other things, how the issue of noise has been addressed. Fig 1.1 summarizes this whole process
Fig 1: Diagrammatic Representation of the Communication Process
Transmission via media
Themes of Effective Business Communication
Baack (2012) puts forth six trends that in his view shape the area of business and management communication, and which every communication practitioner ought to be familiar with. The six -- "diversity; globalization and outsourcing; pace of life and work; evolving workplace technologies; influence of social media; and ethical challenges," the author posits, "have reshaped the ways in which many jobs are performed and the management processes that guide employees" (p. 8).
Bovee and Thill (2008) integrate the six trends above to produce five themes that contribute to effective communication in the organizational/business setting:
1. Committing to ethical communication -- recognizing ethical dilemmas and ethical lapses and making ethical choices, guided...
Adopting an audience-centered approach - caring about and focusing on one's audience; and making effort to pass a message across in a way that demonstrates respect.
3. Improving one's intercultural sensitivity -- recognizing and being sensitive to cultural differences by overcoming ethnocentrism and the tendency to judge others based on stereotypes or one's own standards.
4. Improving one's workplace sensitivity -- the workforce today is largely diverse; it is composed of people of different educational backgrounds, religions, family structures, cultures, ages, genders, and races. The only way to work with such diversity is to recognize them, be flexible, look beyond superficial differences, and withhold judgment.
5. Using communication technology effectively
The Seven C's of Business Communication
Seven best practices that form the basis of effective business communication:
Correctness: correctness in communication is achieved through use of correct language level and accurate facts/figures, as well as the maintenance of acceptable communication mechanics, including grammar rules, spelling, punctuation, composition, and sentence structure. The communicator should paint a complete picture so that all circumstances and facts are understood. It is better to accept that you do not know something than give inaccurate figures (Goldberg, 2012).
Clarity: communication should embrace logic; it should eliminate irrelevance and "be focused -- with no question about the intention or the objective" (Goldberg, 2012, p. 1). Clarity is achieved through use of short, familiar, and conversational words.
Conciseness: communication should focus on useful words; conciseness keeps the audience interested and engaged (Goldberg, 2012). Concise communication is free from unnecessary repetition, trite expressions, and irrelevant facts.
Completeness: communication is complete if it satisfies the 5W's to Where, When, What, Who, and Why. If for, instance, we are placing an order for merchandise, it has to specify What we want, When we want it, Where it is to be delivered, and How payment will be made.
Concreteness: communication should be specific and certain; this adds conviction to the message and increases the sender's credibility. One way to achieve concreteness is by quoting actual/specific facts and figures.
Consideration: a communicator should "talk to the audience, rather than with the audience" (Goldberg, 2012, p. 1). Talking to the audience makes listeners connect with the speaker, engaged, and comfortable enough to speak their minds out. Consideration is achieved by adopting a 'You' attitude, showing interest in the customer, applying integrity to the message, and emphasizing the positive.
Courtesy: to be effective, communication has to be two-way; it should be professional, yet approachable and friendly. Courtesy in communication is particularly crucial to business settings; the slogan the 'Customer is Always Right' only depicts that a discourteous service provider cannot succeed in the buyer market today. Courtesy is demonstrated through handling customers with the right technique; apologizing to the customer in case expectations are not met; and replying to mails/queries in a timely fashion.
Sethi and Seth (2009) define interpersonal communication as "the procedure by which people swap information, feelings, and impart through verbal and non-verbal messages" (p. 32). It has three fundamental characteristics; i) communication is face-to-face; ii) communication is from one person to another; and iii) the content and the communication form are reflective of the personal characteristics, social roles, and relationships of the individuals (Sethi & Seth, 2009). In an organizational setting, interpersonal communication could be supervisor-employee, employee to employee, or supervisor-team of employees (Baack, 2012). The role of such communication, however, differs between managers and employees, particularly because the two publics carry out different roles.
The Role of Interpersonal Communication
i) To the Manager
Managers need to communicate with their employees as well as with each other for there to be cohesion at the workplace. Interpersonal communication is crucial to a manager in a number of ways, including:
Goal-Setting: organizations often have goals, both formal and informal, that they seek to accomplish over a certain period of time. These objectives may be anything from improving service to customers, increasing employee satisfaction, achieving market dominance, improving product quality, or achieving certain pre-determined financial results. Interpersonal communication helps to make such objectives known to employees, and consequently, to get all members working towards their achievement.
Strategy Formulation and Decision-Making: in order for the objectives to be achieved, strategies have to be formulated. Strategy-formulation involves collecting facts, weighing alternatives, and asking questions, all of which require consultations with other managers, and top-down communication with employees.
Appraisal: once strategies have been implemented, management has to determine whether or not the desired outcome is being achieved. This involves evaluating such measures as inventory levels, productivity, market share, sales, costs, etc., and compiling reports that have to be communicated to members though AGMs, manual papers, memos, etc.
Building Strong Manager-Employee Work Relations: employees who relate well with their managers are often more satisfied with their jobs and organizations by extension; and feel more comfortable giving their views on how the organization…
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