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Business Communications & Effective Negotiations


Communications and Marketing Personality Attitudes & Perception. The Open Communications Climate 1.0 Introduction Ineffective communications do take place in organisations despite the contribution of IT in business communications. In fact IT is a tool to improve human communication, not a substitute for human communication. In their zeal to use IT, some managers have lost sight of the human element in communications. At Intel, all the information that employees can access is also made accessible to its suppliers and distributors. We have taken the walls off of Intel and wrapped it in cellophane, and everybody can look inside. Dahle. C, Fast Company, July 2001. This is an example of how management in a company can develop a distinctive brand personality which is going to modify attitudes of clients and influence their perception e.g. that of an open communications climate. Being given that our personality, attitudes and perception affect our communication skills, we need to understand these concepts in some detail. 2.0 THE COMMUNICATIONS PROCESS Sender Receiver

Encodes the message Transmission of message via a channel of communications

Decodes the message

Sends the message

Receives the message

Receives feedback

Sends feedback

1. The sender has the need to communicate. 2. The need is translated into a message (encoding). 3. The message is transmitted. 4. The receiver gets the message (decoding). 5. The receiver interpretes the message and provides feedback to the sender.

Business Communications & Effective Negotiations

According to Lahiff & Penrose (1997), the six major variables in the interpersonal communications process are: sender/encoder message channel receiver/encoder perception feedback 2.1 Sender/encoder

The sender needs to formulate the message in a way that conveys an idea accurately to the receiver. For understanding to take place, the sender and receiver have to make concerted efforts to arrive at a similar meaning, i.e. the sender may have to visualise the communication from the receivers viewpoint 2.2 Message

It consists of the symbols (verbal and nonverbal) that represent the information to be sent. Simple messages e.g. a GO sign on the road is easy to understand. More complex messages may be harder to interprete. For example, if management asks employees to apply attendance rules and keep a flexible approach to attending customer needs (beyond working hours?), this may lead to some confusion. 2.3 Channel

Choice of channel will depend on whether immediate feedback is required. In this case, oral communication may be appropriate because writing can take time. It is the same if acceptance is likely to be a problem. There are more chances of acceptance in oral communications because the message can be adapted to the receiver to seek feedback. On the other hand, if accountability is an issue, written communication will ensure a record can be kept. Similarly if detailed accuracy is required, a written communication is preferred. 2.4 Receiver/encoder

The impact of a message on the receiver is influenced by a number of factors: 2

Business Communications & Effective Negotiations

1. how much the receiver already knows about the issue 2. the receptivity of the receiver 3. the receivers experience with the sender The receiver generally has to engage in listening behaviour and providing the sender with feedback. 2.5 Perception

An important variable in communication is perception, because it greatly affects the way we send and receive messages. Mental abilities (or intelligence) greatly influence our capacity to discern the communications experience. Attitude towards the external environment also influences our perception. Perception may be quite different from reality though. For example, when surveyed, managers may claim they involve subordinates in decision making. However, when asked directly, the employees may not agree e.g. because their suggestions are rarely considered. 2.6 Feedback

Refers to the reaction the receiver has to the message. Can be oral or written, verbal or non verbal. In performance management, the method of multirater feedback recognised the importance of feedback in measuring performance of individuals. Qu: Why use a multirater system? 3.0 Personality Personality is a complex subject and a number of approaches have been used by researchers to study the subject. Simply put, personality refers to the sum total of the ways in which an individual reacts to and interacts with others Robbins. S, 2005. Personality consists of the physical, mental, moral and social qualities of the individual, Mc Kenna. E, 1994. These can be observed by and through people in everyday life. By observing a persons actions, sayings and reactions in different contexts/situations, we can make a personal judgement on the personality of that person. Such a judgement can be expressed through descriptions such as imaginative, boring, inspiring etc. Wright et al (1970) defined personality as those relatively stable and enduring aspects of the individual which distinguish him from other people and at the same time form the basis of our predictions concerning his future behaviour. Qu: Compare these two above definitions in the context of communications skills. The implication for managers is to understand the link between personality and job performance. When screening candidates for managerial and sales positions, those with high scores on 3

Business Communications & Effective Negotiations

conscientiousness, extroversion and emotional stability are likely to fit the job better. Other factors to be considered concerning the job are interaction with others and the organisation culture. 3.1 Determinants of personality Beyond the debate of whether personality is determined by heredity or by the environment, Robbins. S (2005) prefers the probability that it can be a result of both influences plus a moderation brought about by the firm situational conditions. 3.1.1 Heredity Heredity factors are determined at conception e.g. physical set up, facial attractiveness, gender, energy level etc. Our parents largely determine biological, physiological and inherent psychological make up. Research on more than 100 sets of identical twins (Arvey R. D. & Bouchard T. J., 1994) separated at birth and raised separately revealed a large number of similarities in attitudes and behaviour. These researchers have found that genetics may account for about 50 percent of the personality differences. Personality characteristics are therefore not completely dictated by heredity. Otherwise they would be decided at birth and remain fixed so that no amount of experience would alter them. Qu: What personality traits can a person inherit from his/her parents? (You may consider a well known public person and offspring) 3.1.2 Environment Examples of environmental factors are the culture (and religion) in which we are raised, the norms and values in the family and the broader society and the other influences/critical incidents that we encounter. Such environmental factors play an important role in shaping our character and personality. The Protestant work ethic was instilled in North Americans through books, the education system, family and social groups. This resulted in e.g. ambition and aggressiveness in business. On the other hand, Japanese culture emphasises relationships with others, cooperation at work and priority of family over work and career. Qu: How does this translate in Business names in these cultures? 3.1.3 Situation An individuals personality, although generally considered to be stable and consistent, can change in given situations. Strictly speaking, what changes is not the set of traits possessed by an individual, but the number and extent displayed. For example, when at Church many behaviours are constrained. In the work situation, people attending an employment interview do constrain certain traits and express others depending on the situation. When on the beach, or in the factory cafeteria, certain traits are less constrained. Qu: If situation changes a persons personality, then can we still say the person has a given personality? Qu: Is heredity not a result of adaptation with the environment? Then how does this affect the above analysis? 3.2 Personality traits 4

Business Communications & Effective Negotiations

People are often described as being shy, aggressive, lazy or dynamic. These characteristics are personality traits and, the more frequently they are displayed by an individual, the more we can describe the individual using this trait. Study of personality traits is useful for managers because it is believed that traits can help managers in employee selection to match people with jobs. Qu: Try to remember the details of the last job advert you have seen. 3.2.1 Study of personality traits A number of tests have been developed by researchers to assess personality. One well known approach is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. 3.2.2 Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Based on a questionnaire that asked people how they usually feel or act in particular situations. This resulted in the following classifications. (a) Extroverted (E) v/s Introverted (I) Qu: Describe each. (b) Sensing (S) v/s Intuitive (N) Sensing people are practical and thrive on routine tasks and are orderly in nature, focusing on details. Intuitive types rely on unconscious processes and take a holistic view of events. Thinking (T) v/s Feeling (F) Thinkers use reason and logic to solve problems in a rational manner. Feelers use own values, beliefs and emotions. Qu: How does this translate in communications skills in health workers? Judging (J) v/s Perceiving (P) Judging types prefer order, rules and structure, all tightly controlled. Perceiving types are spontaneous and change with circumstances.



This classification is widely used in organisations by making reference to the resulting personality types combinations (16 in all). e.g. INTJs are visionaries. They usually have original minds and a great drive for their own ideas and purposes. They are characterised as sceptical, critical, independent, determined and often stubborn (Robbins. S, 2005) Qu: What can you say of the ENTP type? Qu: How can the MBTI be used to identify people with excellent communications skills?

4.0 Attitudes 5

Business Communications & Effective Negotiations

An attitude is a mental state of readiness and organised through past experience and may condition behaviour. Some attitudes are central to our whole being and will resist changes while others are more transitory and can be influenced and/or changed. However, attitude change does not necessarily lead to behavioural change, but is a strong determinant.

4.1 Attitude Change by information A significant obstacle to attitudinal change is cognitive dissonance. This happens when the new attitude or belief seriously challenges the old one. This produces feelings of psychological discomfort and tension. A common example is the impact of information on cigarette smokers that there is scientific evidence of cause and effect relationships between smoking and lung cancer. This piece of evidence will cause cognitive dissonance. Following communications of above information, the smoker can overcome cognitive dissonance by (i) cognitively disputing evidence e.g. I dont believe it or (ii) behaviourally supporting continued smoking by avoiding the evidence e.g. switch off the T.V when the programme is being broadcasted It is therefore difficult to change beliefs or attitudes by information alone. Successful methods of achieving attitude changes in adults entail a relatively high degree of involvement by the individuals in some form of small group decision process (e.g. group therapy for smokers). The process provides an opportunity to assess the new information in support of the changed attitude and allows the individual to test the new attitude in a public forum. This leads to a public commitment to change, whereby intention to change is strengthened. Being part of a group further reduces the fear to change and involves group support. Qu: How is this used in marketing communications?

5.0 Perception The process of deciding a message e.g. in an advertisement, will be substantially influenced by a number of perceptual factors, whether conscious or unconscious. The consumer often bases a purchase decision on limited information obtained from other sources. Value judgements are made on that limited information, perceptions being stronger than reality. Marketers deal with those perceptual values by playing on them or by trying to change them. Qu: Give examples of the above in marketing communications? 6

Business Communications & Effective Negotiations

Qu: How does an understanding of consumer behaviour assist in the development of marketing communications strategy? When developing the communications campaign, the advertiser takes into account factors such as family, social, moral and religious values e.g. Social class - different lifestyles reflected in clothing, food, leisure etc. Age - Benetton for younger and affluent customers. Burberry for older audience. Perception is therefore inherently subjective and influenced by peoples personalities, values, attitudes and moods as well as their experience and knowledge Jones & George, 2003 Perceptual biases can hamper effective communication. For example, stereotypes are simplified and inaccurate beliefs about the characteristics of particular groups of people. For example, a manager can stereotype an old worker as being fearful of change when encoding a message about forthcoming change to that employee.The manager may downplay the extent of the change so as not to stress the old employee. The latter decodes the message to mean that the change is going to be of limited scope and influence and therefore is not going to affect him. He does not prepare adequately for the change and his performance subsequently suffers as a result of non readiness for change. This is an example of ineffective communication resulting from a managers erroneous assumption about older workers. Qu: Instead of relying on stereotypes, how should effective managers communicate?

6.0 An Open Communication Climate An organisations communication climate reflects its corporate culture (Culture is the mix of values, norms and beliefs shared by members of an organisation and which give the workplace its personality). Some organisations do not encourage the upward flow of information, thinking it tends to result in unproductive and time consuming debate. Conversely the employees at Hallmark feel free to confess their mistakes, to disagree with superiors and to express their opinions freely. Following Mc Gregors Theory Y (Motivation Theories), managers assume that people like to work and to take responsibility when they have belief in what they are doing. These managers adopt a supportive management style. The company looks after employees and gives them the opportunity to take responsibility and participate in decision making, in an open communications climate. Managers spend more time listening than giving instructions. Employees offer suggestions and help set goals and collaborate in implementation. An Open Communications Climate enables self development of individuals through involvement in decision making, taking initiatives in an entrepreneurial perspective. The environment is conducive to learning in a problem solving approach, thereby leading to effective self development.

Business Communications & Effective Negotiations

Case Study: Communication Challenges at Six Apart In 2007, Ben and Mena Trott promoted Chris Alden to president and CEO of Six Apart. Alden plays a vital role in keeping communication flowing within the company and between the company and external audiences. To help him with a growing workload of communication tasks, he has recently hired you as an assistant with special responsibilities for communication. Use your knowledge of communication to choose the best response for each of the following situations. Be prepared to explain why your choice is best. Individual Challenge: One of the reasons for Six Aparts success is its friendly, open style of communication with its customers, even the occasional customers who make unrealistic demands or expect special treatment. Unfortunately, youve learned that some of the customer service representatives have been letting their emotions get in the way when dealing with difficult people. Several customers have complained about rude treatment. Youre sensitive to the situation because you know that customer service can be a difficult job. However, a reputation for hostile customer service could spell doom for the company, so you need to communicate your concerns immediately. Draft the first sentence of an internal blog posting that you will write for the customer service staff to initiate a discussion on the subject. Team Challenge: Six Apart has developed a corporate culture that reflects both the engaging personalities of Ben and Mona Trott and the informal vibe of the blogosphere. However, as the company continues to grow, new employees bring a variety of communication styles and expectations. In particular, the new accounting manager tends to communicate in a formal, distant style that some company old-timers find off-putting and impersonal. Several of these people have expressed concern that the new manager doesnt fit in, even though shes doing a great job otherwise. Draft a short e-mail message to Alden, advising him on handling this situation.