¶ … supervisory experience. I army implement military supervision great I ethics supervisors communicate "…communication is defined as the process by which information is transferred from one source to another and is made meaningful to the involved sources (Rue, Bars, p.116)." Most issues of communication revolve around the latter part of this definition (although there are several possibilities for them to be based upon the initial description of communication presented here as well), in which the "information" transferred is "made meaningful," and in some cases, is not made meaningful.
Military Miscommunication by Supervisors
There are a number of diverse facets which directly influence the effectiveness of supervision, which is an essential component of the preservation and structuring of order within an organization, be it for private or public interests. One of the most influential factors which helps determine the degree of efficacy achieved in a managerial or supervisory position is the concept of communication, which is vital to the transference of ideas and both the designation and completion of tasks which are essential to the propagation of an enterprise. Flawed communication is oftentimes one of the primary reasons for insufficient supervisory conduct, which may manifest itself in a variety of ways including in a lack of employee productivity, internal and external conflicts within and involving an enterprise, respectively, and in insufficient organization and management of an organization's resources. These issues have the potential to become amplified when applied to military supervision, and its essential chain of command which is integral to its operation and efficiency. Therefore, the personal experience of the author with insufficient communication in a supervisory capacity within a military environment indicates that issues of communication need to be resolved for the preservation and propagation of effective management of the vast resources of one of the primary defense mechanisms of the United States of America.
One of the advantages of employment in a militaristic setting is that the very nature of the employer provides clear boundaries of personnel positions and the inherent responsibilities, duties and obligation which accompany them. One of the best examples of this concept can be illustrated by the hierarchy of combat units which exist. For example, fireteams comprise squads/sections, with commanders and soldiers in the latter unambiguously subordinate to the former. Squads/sections make up platoons, which in turn create companies which make up battalions. Each successive unit (including regiments or brigades, divisions, corps, field armies, and army groups) is larger and more powerful than the one which preceded it, and has a clear set of responsibilities which are predetermined and must be adhered to.
The same can be said of the corresponding supervisors who "manage" each unit and operate on a similar hierarchical scale. At the top of the hierarchy are field marshals, followed by generals, lieutenant generals, major generals, brigadier, colonels, captains/majors, platoon leaders, squad leaders and non-commissioned officers. Each of these positions not only supervises their accordant unit, but also has a degree of supervisory responsibility and authority over those heads of units which are under them. With such an unequivocally structured chain of command, the propensity for supervisory malfunction due to ambiguity is greatly reduced, but is not eradicated, as frequent lapses in communication can greatly reduce the effectiveness of personnel and resources.
It has been the experience of the author that such lapses of communication are one of the primary negatives associated with military supervision. In general, the problem does not lie with the communication associated between supervisors and those who consist of the supervisor's respective unit. All too often issues of communication exist between the actual supervisors themselves in a myriad of manifestations including (but not limited to) supervisors of the same ranking, as well as supervisors of subordinate and insubordinate status. There are several reasons responsible for these problems of miscommunication which have significant effects for the employees or soldiers who are being managed by such supervisors: the following segments of this paper will identify those reasons within the context of this particular workplace scenario and conclude with a number of recommendations for alleviating them.
In order to properly diagnose the source of the miscommunication between supervisors which greatly affects the productivity and work performance of their subordinates, it becomes necessary to examine the various tenets of communication itself, particularly when applied to the structure of an organization. There are several facets, avenues, and methods of communication, but the most succinct ...
Further deconstruction of the process whereby communication is effected can be found in the varying forms it takes: there are both interpersonal communication and organizational communication. The first form of communication takes place between single numbers of people while the second form referenced occurs within the larger framework of a particular organization, although it should be noted that for the purposes of this particular paper organizational communication will not include communication between supervisors of differing rank (who are in charge of differing units) but will simply refer to communication within the formal structure of an organization. The paradox, of course, is that interpersonal communication actually plays a large role in organizational communication. However, the bulk of the miscommunication directed between the author's supervisors occurs in an interpersonal capacity which may occasionally be facilitated within the greater structure of the organization.
There are a few salient traits related to communication which have been made manifest in the author's experience of miscommunication between his supervisors. The following quotation demonstrates one of the most prominent of these proclivities. "…most people tend to listen more closely to their boss than their subordinates (Rue, Byars, p. 117)." This simple fact can be evidenced in a variety of manners within the hierarchical structure of the military. For instance, this statement explains why communication between officers of similar rank tends to be less effective between those of differing ranks, for the simple fact that there is not an overt authority presence present to stir the listening skills which are utilized when such a presence is existent. Additionally, this quotation corroborates the notion that interpersonal communication between a higher and lower ranking officer is limited in its effectiveness for the fact that the lower ranking officer will be concentrating on listening more than the higher ranking officer is. Although such an occurrence may be perfectly natural, it still does not dismiss the fact that a lower ranking officer can still provide very valuable communication in response to the higher ranking officer, who simply may not be paying as much attention as the other due to the fact that he outranks the subordinate officer.
Lastly, it should be noted that this quotation also arises issues of an ethical nature. Although the former situation listed above (that of a higher ranking officer not exerting as much effort to listen to communication from a lower ranking officer) is fairly common (if not normal), that still does not justify its occurrence from an ethical perspective which would ideally mandate that everyone is listened to and given appropriate response time equally, regardless of ranking. Ranking fuels the chain of command and is the primary influence on the directives which result in action, but from a purely ethical standpoint each member of a military unit deserves to be listened to as much as any other. The specific ethical issue raised by this situation revolves around the concept of fairness in the treatment of a supervisor to his subordinates. Although lack of effort in listening to a subordinate is certainly one of the more mild forms of unethical behavior experienced in a military setting, it still may present unforeseen and unwanted consequences due to its effect on communication.
Another fairly frequent occurrence which takes place in the lack of communication between the author's supervisors in the military can be seen in the lack of feedback which is provided between these officers. Feedback plays an invaluable role in communication, as its presence often indicates whether or not one or both members of a particular interpersonal communication have effectively understood the other. Feedback also provides an opportunity for both people communicating to see what specific part of a communique was misunderstood, and allows for valued time in which to clarify such misunderstandings before they burgeon into miscommunication and undesired action results from it.
Unfortunately, the specific nature of the line of work in the military and its particular chain of command allows for minimal feedback between disparate parties in communication, particularly that between officers of dissimilar ranking. It is proper protocol for subordinate officers to respond with a curt "Yes, sir" when issued directives, with little tolerance for any response beyond that. Furthermore, if a ranking officer does seek clarification from his subordinate he will oftentimes to do so by the insufficient method of asking the other if he understands. Such an inquiry, however, merely puts the recipient of the question in a defensive position, in which he assumes his intellect or…
"…communication is defined as the process by which information is transferred from one source to another and is made meaningful to the involved sources (Rue, Bars, p.116)." Most issues of communication revolve around the latter part of this definition (although there are several possibilities for them to be based upon the initial description of communication presented here as well), in which the "information" transferred is "made meaningful," and in some cases, is not made meaningful.
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