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types of communication channel and influences on it
Communication is the passage of information between one person or group to another person or group. Communication involves the process of the exchange of information among two or more parties which is best represented be a simple model of communication between two persons: the sender and the receiver. The sender is the originator of the communication, who encodes and transmits the message; also known as the encoder. The receiver is the recipient of the communication who decodes the message; also known as the decoder. The medium by which we send a message may have a direct influence on how well that message is transmitted and the reactions of those for whom it is intended. The process of preparing a message for transmission is referred to as encoding. The next step for the sender is to select the channel, the vehicle through which the message will flow. The channels may include: • Telephone Advantages: verbal, interactive, convenient, immediate feedback Disadvantages: less personal, no records, possibility of misunderstanding, could be inconveniently timed, can be hard to terminate Advantages: visual, personal contact, can explain, can set mood, immediate feedback Disadvantages: timing may be inconvenient, requires spontaneous thinking, may be difficult to terminate, power or status may cause pressure Advantages: can use visuals, involves several minds, twoway flow Disadvantages: time-consuming, may be inconvenient. One person may dominate Advantages: brief, provides a record, can prethink the message, can disseminate widely Disadvantages: no control over the receiver, less personal, oneway flow, delayed feedback Advantages: complete, comprehensive, can organise the material at writer’s leisure, can disseminate widely Disadvantages: less personal, may require considerable time in reading, language may be difficult, expensive, one-way flow, delayed feedback
Teleconferencing Advantages: saves time for travel, visual, lessens impact of power/status, makes users be better prepared 1
Memos. Richer media are those where multiple cues are provided and feedback can be very rapid. Generally. 2 . the special language that develops within a specific work environment. The channel selected can also affect the impact of the message. Among the factors that can affect the flow of communication from sender to receiver are source factors.Disadvantages: miss interpersonal contact. the more likely the communication will be listened to and acted upon. Another source factor is credibility. public notices. not good for initial brainstorming sessions. Whenever possible. One such factor is status. using multiple channels to present complicated information will increase the likelihood that it will be attended to and retained Semantic problems are common channel factors that can lead to a breakdown in communication. emails or at worst. These problems may arise because different people may interpret the meanings of words differently. Face to face we can transmit all our usual non-verbal cues and can appreciate immediately the effect our message has on its target. These skills include the ability to speak and write clearly and to select the appropriate channel for transmitting the information. channel factors and audience factors. Others may be able to get access to messages The “richness” of the medium should be the main basis on which to make decisions about how exactly to send a message. Selection of the proper channel can have an important effect on the accurate flow of communication. the higher the organisational status of the sender. Source factors: These are the characteristics of the sender. For example. A telephone call contains some of these aspects but no visual cues. Research on the communication process Much of the research on the communication process in work settings has focused on factors that can increase or decrease its effectiveness. Channel factors: these are the characteristics of the vehicle of transmission of a message that affect communication. expensive • Electronic mail Advantages: convenient. Jargon is typically filled with abbreviated words. messages sent/received at all hours extremely fast Disadvantages: ease can lead to message “overload”. it is more likely that the message will receive attention A final factor is the encoding skill of the sender. acronyms and slang. Semantic problems may arise because of the use of technical language or jargon. a face-toface reprimand from a supervisor might carry more weight than the same reprimand conveyed over the telephone. contain decreasing levels of richness. If the source is trusted.
Messages flow through communication lines and networks. or it can flow laterally from colleague to colleague. because most of the communication in work settings involves spoken communications. oral decoding skills. giving life to the work of organisations. In fact. The choice of channel can affect important work-related outcomes like job-satisfaction. Feedback to the subordinates concerning job performance 4. All-day training sessions may be appropriate for management trainees who are used to long sessions. Moreover. The relationship to the sender may also affect the communication process. such as the attention span and perceptual abilities. upward. often referred to as listening skills.While jargon serves the purpose of speeding up communication between those who speak the language. through the same chain of command. the message may be better attended to because people are supposed to listen to their bosses. while the frequently written communications was negatively correlated with satisfaction. 3 . It is essential that training information is presented at a level that matches the audience’s ability to understand it. Audience factors: These are elements related to the receiver. For example. For example if the receiver is subordinate to the sender. Information to assist in the co-ordination of work tasks. but the attention of assembly-line workers may be lost after an hour because of their unfamiliarity with the format. communication networks and cycles The flow of communication in organisations. decoding skills may influence the effectiveness of communication. Instructions or directions concerning job-performance 2. Most commonly they are: 1. Finally. it can create problems when the receiver is not “fluent” in its use. Information about organisational procedures and policies 3. it may be critical to consider the attention span of the target audience. The use of jargon can also present problems when a team of workers is from different professional disciplines. The communication flow in work organisations is usually classified into three types: it can flow downward through the organisational hierarchy. all of which may use different jargon. ii. Muchinsky (1977) conducted a survey using questionnaires in a number of workplaces in America and found that the frequency of face-to-face communication between supervisors and subordinates was positively related to the workers’ job satisfaction. are considered to be the most effective decoding skills of all. Downward communication This consists of messages sent from superiors to subordinates. Research has shown that effective managers have good decoding skills in listening and responding to the needs and concerns of their subordinates.
and is particularly important when co-workers must co-ordinates their activities in order to accomplish a goal. who must use this information to make important work-related decisions. which could include reports of production output or information about any problems. It also appears that certain types of downward communication may be particularly limited. Communication networks are formal and follow the organigram within an organisation. But too much socialising on the job can detract from effective job performance. such as feedback concerning work performance. Y. Lateral communication can also occur between two or more departments in an organisation e. A number of studies indicate that workers would like more information from their superiors about work procedures and about what is happening elsewhere in the organisation. This is especially true in companies that fail to conduct regular performance appraisals. 4 . Five major types have been studied in depth. which are systems of communication lines linking various senders and receivers. Upward communication. This is the flow of messages from the lower levels of the organisation to the upper levels. departmental or organisational members. Upward communication can also involve complaints and suggestions for improvement from lower-level workers and is significant because it gives subordinates some input into the functioning of the organisation. The flow of information is regulated by several factors: the proximity of workers to one another. Lateral communication This is the flow of communication between people who are on the same level in an organisation. and other elements such as job assignments and duties. The upward flow of information is critical for managers.While much formal communication in organisations is downward. Wheel) where the flow is centralised or directed through specific members. between the production and quality-control departments. such as feedback concerning the status of lower-level operations. research indicates that most organisations still do not have enough of this communication. It most typically consists of information managers need to perform their jobs. Centralised networks (Chain. Communication networks When we look beyond two-person communication to the linkages among work groups. we are concerned with communication networks.g. Lateral communication allows for the sharing of news and information and helps develop interpersonal relationships. the rules governing who communicates with whom. the status hierarchy.
The results of these studies indicate that each of the different networks has different strengths and weaknesses. A related communication network is the Y (or inverted Y). but its last level of communication involves more than one person. Because messages can originate anywhere and no rules govern the direction in which messages can be sent. most of it has been conducted in laboratory settings. In general. but it is direct with all members in the hierarchy being made aware of the message since it must pass through each link.Decentralised networks. Communication can be very rapid and there is maximum opportunity for feedback. are best accomplished using decentralised networks. Centralised networks are faster and make fewer errors in dealing with simple repetitive tasks than do decentralised networks. problem-solving task forces and employees working as a team are examples of this form of communication. A message originates at the top or bottom of the chain and works its way upward or downward. are better at dealing with complex tasks such as problem solving. Decentralised networks: The circle network represents communication between members who are immediately accessible to each other. Boards of directors. The flow of information in a chain system is relatively slow process. it can be difficult to trace the original source of a message. while creative tasks. Decentralised networks. such as workers positioned side by side on an assembly line. tend to operate well with a centralised communication network. such as group working on a product advertising campaign. The higher status member is the centre or hub through which all messages must pass. There is no direct communication between lower-level members. One reason why centralised networks may have difficulty in solving complex 5 . decentralised networks typically are not. straightforward. decentralised networks are controlled by factors such as proximity. Any member can freely communicate with any other member and all members are accessible to each other. Centralised networks: The first centralised network – the chain – represents a five-member status hierarchy. personal preference. Both chain and Y are similar in speed of communication and formality of who communicates with whom. An example might be a sales manager and his four salespersons in the field. It has a fairly quick rate of transmission. on the other hand. Centralised networks are governed by members’ status within the organisation. See Coolican page 59 for diagrams. repetitive tasks. An all-channel network allows complete freedom among communication links. Often. All-Channel) where the communication flow can originate at any point and does not have to be directed through certain central group members. (Circle. Research: There has been extensive research on communication networks. It is also a hierarchical network and represents four levels of status within the organisation. The wheel network involves two status levels: a higher status member (usually a work supervisor) and four lower-lever members. such as assembly or manufacturing work.
Workers who come into contact with each other for job-related reasons are more likely to start sharing information informally (smoking rooms or areas may be an interesting source of research). whereas the noncentral members have extremely low satisfaction Some of the research has been criticised for oversimplifying the process. The type of network can also affect the satisfaction of network members. the grapevine sometimes develops because it is easier and more efficient for workers to follow their own informal networks rather than formal lines of communication. However. More specifically. Because most of the research has been conducted in laboratory settings. the organisational grapevine is an important element of study for psychologists. Baird (1977) suggests that three factors typically determine the pattern of communication links that form a grapevine: friendship. there has been some concern about whether these studies will generalise to actual workplaces. Finally. In addition to being a substitute network for formal lines of communication. 1964). each also has informal lines. we have considered formal lines of communication. Evidence suggests that in the workplace. the grapevine also serves a vital function in maintaining social relationships among 6 . Friendship is perhaps the most important factor that holds the grapevine together. group performance suffers. Because of restriction in who can initiate and who can communicate with whom. 1968). we communicate with those we like and avoid communicating with those we don’t like. informal lines of communication are illustrated by a sociogram.problems is because of information overload on the central person. although the findings do allow us to model (although simplistically) the communication networks in work organisations. Because messages cannot be passed on intact to the various members efficiently and quickly. usage and efficiency. The grapevine can follow any course through a network and because much of the information flow in an organisation is informal. the persons in the central position tend to have high levels of satisfaction due to their role. members in centralised networks have lower levels of satisfaction (Shaw. the differences in the speed and efficiency among the various networks may disappear over time as the group involved learns to adjust to the required pattern (Burgess. These represent other organisational members with whom members typically interact. Formal and informal lines of communication: the Hierarchy versus the Grapevine In looking at communication networks. We pass information to our friends. while every organisation possesses formal lines of communication. While formal lines of communication follow the company’s organisational chart. known as the grapevine.
Rumours: These involve information which is presented as fact. • Open-door policies. Usually ideas are encouraged by some sort of incentive or bonus scheme based on the amount of savings the suggestion produces. The transmission of false rumours via the grapevine is actually relatively rare. 1977). it can also be perceived as having a somewhat negative function: the transmission of rumours. Because they have the benefit of anonymity. This involves setting aside times when employees can go directly to managers to discuss whatever is on their minds. An obvious drawback is the danger of using manager’s time on what may be a trivial matter. • Employee surveys. Formal lines of communication tend to be task-related. and estimates indicate that the grapevine is accurate over 80% of the time. The grapevine can serve to bring workers together and encourage them to develop a sense of unity and commitment to the workgroup and organisation. This can play big role in reducing absenteeism and turnover rates (Baird. While the grapevine serves many important functions. Company officials must acknowledge the receipt of the grievance to keep the channels of communication open and make it clear what action has been taken. the grapevine serves to meet the social needs of workers – long deemed to be important to workers. This bypasses the intermediate steps in the upward organisational chain ensuring important messages do indeed get to the top intact. research indicates that this is a myth. However. Feedback from management is essential to give the respondents the impression that it was not a waste of time. These are designed to change existing negative situations and must be handled delicately to protect the employee from retribution. This is a quick way to measure employee attitudes in order to target problem areas or to solicit ideas for improvement. improving communication flow Increasing upward flow in organisations: Several strategies that can increase upward communication: • Employee suggestion schemes. but which may actually be true or false.workers. This compares well with the accuracy of messages sent over formal communication lines! ii. Rumours are based on such things as employee expectations or wishful thinking. This can lead to innovations but a drawback is that the suggestion system may be used to voice complaints about conditions management is unable to change • Grievance systems. The grapevine also serves to reiterate important messages sent through formal lines of communication. There are a variety of ways in which workers can submit ideas. workers can respond honestly without fear of reprisal. because they believe it to be a source of rumours which may damage the company. Many managers are concerned about the grapevine and attempt to stifle it. 7 .
people will fill in any missing parts with what appears to rationalise the message. People rely on their schemas when decoding information. distorted or filtered out. Hence improvements to communication include dealing with any factors that produce loss of clarity such as noise. replies (which may be tedious) are essential for the communication process to have been effectively completed. haste. Complex messages delivered orally need to be followed up with written material. • Reception: the state and context of the receiver is all important in the efficient reception of a message. Hence. What gets maintained are the important or outstanding features. over-reliance on memory. • Transmission: changes in the sense of a message may occur during transmission through information being omitted. • Feedback: feedback is essential for effective communication to have taken place. If messages are incomplete. • Decoding: receivers’ expectations can seriously distort the content of any message they decode. 8 . In face to face contact this is immediate. we can return to the stages of communication flow. but with written communication. information needs to be put into a clear context before moving onto detail. . • Encoding: senders need to pay attention to the choice of an appropriate channel and avoid the use of jargon. Effective communication will take account of this factor.In considering improving communication in general.
Low O’Reilly (observation) high communication networks (lab experiments) • The way psychologists have gained their information and the use of subjective vs objective measures Objective Snyder & Morris (organisational outcomes) • Speed of transmission of messages Relatively slow Chain Y • Efficiency and accuracy of transmission of messages Low Chain Censoring/filtering/exaggeration high grapevine fast decentralised networks subjective Muchinsky (questionnaires & interviews) 9 . Increase Channel: face-to-face Source: skill of encoder Decentralised networks Grapevine (Muchinsky) decrease written centralised networks • Ecological validity and the extent to which the research/models apply in real life Low Communication networks (lab expts) high Davis (censoring) field expt O’Reilly (distortion) observ • The way psychologists have gained their information with regard to experiments as opposed to observations and the issue of demand characteristics.Part b issues Interpersonal Communications • Worker satisfaction and the implications for absenteeism & productivity.
) b. Evaluate forms of communication flow in organisations (8 10 .Psychology and Organisations Interpersonal communication test The machine that goes “ping”. The top management seem a little out of touch with what happens on the shop floor because they don’t listen to what we have to say and there is little opportunity for us to tell them. I need information on how people communicate in organisations. I thank you for you help. Yours faithfully JMS a. Dear Psychologist. I also need to understand some of the current psychological theories of how upward communication with higher management can be improved. I understand one form of communication flow is called a “communication network” but apparently there are other forms. I would like your help. I work for a company which has a similar suggestion scheme and I have a brilliant idea that might earn me even more. This knowledge should add a lot of weight to my ideas for imporving communication within my organisation. I have been reading today the case of a British Gas worker who has been paid £11 000 for inventing a scheme to save money for the company. Describe forms of communication flow in organisations (HINT: you may include “communication networks” as a form of communication flow.
the implications of flow for communication speed and efficiency.(HINT: you may wish to consider barriers to the effective flow of communication. whether or not such communications apply in real life situations) (10 c. Suggest a number of strategies that can increase upward communication flow from workers to management. (6 11 . the implications of communication flow for individual satisfaction. how psychologists gained their evidence.