You are on page 1of 10

@ Lionel Varnadoe

2008 PrioritvEd.com

[3]

Communications
- ChapterThreeNo matter how great the plan or how talented the person, if managers cannot communicate effectively with other members of the team, their ideas and inputs are doomed. Although it is not listed as a separate management process, communication is an integral part of each management function. It is embedded in every action taken. This chapter reviews the process through which messages are formatted, transmitted, and received. The obstacles to effective communication are discussed, along with the development of a strategy for overcoming these obstacles and improving the process.

OBJECTIVES
After completion of this chapter, the reader will be able to demonstrate accomplishment of the following objectives. 1. Describe the six phases of the communication process. 2. Discuss the channels through which organizational members receive information and transmit messages. 3. Identify barriers to effective communications. 4. Develop a strategy for overcoming communication obstacles and improving the process.

Chapter Highlights and Glossary of Key Terms


I. THE COMMUNICATION PROCESS

Communication: The act or process of receiving and transmitting messages. Sender: Person wishing to transmit a message. Message: The actual format of the communication effort, including verbal and nonverbal
signals, symbols and language transmitted. Mode of Transmission: The vehicle by which a message is sent: oral, written, nonverbal, recorded, or third party.

Receiver: The target of the message, either an individual or group. Decoding: How a receiver translates the message.
II. COMMUNICATION NETWORKS AND CHANNELS A. Communication Directions

Formal Communication: The official communication

messages

(e.g., memos, direc-

tives, work orders) generated by the business activities of organizations.

Vertical Communication: Formal messages that are channeled through the hierarchical network of the organization (top bottom). Horizontal Communication: Communication activity that occurs during the normal con-

duct of business, including the exchange of services, information, and work orders between departments, managers, and staff. B. Means and Methods of Communication

@ Lionel Varnadoe 2008 PrioritvEd.com

Qynamic Communication: Live discourse in which all parties can simultaneouslyexchange ideas and information and receive spontaneous feedback.

Canned or Packaged Messages: Messages that are delivered in formats that prevents
the recipient and sender from responding to each other instantaneously. 1. Communication routes 2. Communication formats Wrlffen Messages: Messages such as memos and video programs that are prepared and transmitted by mechanisms other than a faceto- face encounter. Verbal Messages: The actual delivery of the message.
.

Nonverbal Messages:

The associated

signals,

body language,

facial

expressions, voice tone, context, and connotation of the words that are transmitted with the verbal components of the message. 3. Nonverballanguage III. PERSONAL AND ORGANIZATION COMMUNICATION LINKS IV. BARRIERS TO COMMUNICATIONS A. Structural Barriers Spatial Constraints: Barriers, such as geography and job duties, that isolate people from the normal communication channels of an organization. B. Problems of Semantics Semantics: The branch of communication science that studies the denotation and connotation of words and messages.

Denotation: The exact dictionary meaning of a word or phrase. Connotation: The context and nonverbal messages associated with a wDrdor phrase.
C. Technical Problems D. People Barriers 1. Perception factors Pereeption: How a message is viewed from the standpoint of the receiver 2. Interpersonal factors.

Credibility: Worthiness of a person as perceived by another individual


within the context Df1rust, honesty, -andrompetence. E. Outcome Problems. V. IMPROVING THE COMMUNICATION PROCESS

The Communication Process


Communication requires both the delivery of a message to another person and the assurance that the message was correctly received and understood. This two part process must clear the six distinct hurdles listed next and summarized in Figure 3 1 for the communication process to be successful.

1. The sender or person transmitting the message has a particular understanding of its meaning, why it is being dispatched, the designated target, and the desired response. All
of these factors are

encoded into the formulation of the message.

2. The message itself -how it is worded and presented- is an important variable. In addition to the words selected; voice tone, .gestures, and verbal images all have associated connotations that imply meaning or even hidden messages. Words and signals are heav-

40

@ Lionel Varnadoe

2008

e6!2rilYEd.com

ily dependent

on

the

language

of the

group

(shoptalk,

dialect, vernacular)

and

the

shared

level of knowledge.

SENDER
Motives

MESSAGE
Semantics Denotations Connotation Format Written Verbal Nonverbal RECEIVER Perception
Credibility

Action Expected Context


Credibility

Empathy

TRANSMISSION

Route
Dynamic Canned/Packaged Technical Problems

Context Decoding PersonalAgenda

FEEDBACK

SENDER
---1' Message

---1' Transmission ---1' Receiver


---1' Feedback ---1' Sender

...

FIGURE

3-1.

The Communication

Process

3.

The

the

mode of transmission
influences how a message (organization

selected

be

oral, written,

nonverbal

or through

a third party

is interpreted and

acted upon. and

The

channel

through

which

it is received

structure or .grapevine)

the stature of the messenger level of activitytime, combined of the

(friend or foe) all influence the effectiveness


"noise," to use communication rivals for the jargon attention

of the delivery. The


on at the same affects the

or
with in-

that is going

competing

of the

audience,

likelihood

formation

to reach the

its target person

unaltered. or group that may social receiving the message, from brings those to the relationship a

4.

The

receiver,
and

background tion, the fect so


5. How

perceptions state and

quite different of the receiver age,

of the sender. to the sender

In addimay afand

emotional

status

in relation sex, job

receptiveness. also playa

Demographics key

(audience

size,

position,

education,

on)

role in the dissemination


the communication

process.
determines the response. This

the

receiver

translates

decoding
of the

is dependent message

on

both the

the

previous

four

factors

and

the

receiver's and in the

understanding exchanges. communication by or by an

within and the

historical context of the

of previous must This

communiques be included can be

6.

Feedback
otherwise, terchange

clarification whole

message collapses. receiver

effort; active inof

effort simply the sender and

accomplished confusion

between

to help

avoid

observation

41

.
@ Lionel Vamadoe 2008 PrioritvEd.com

the response of the receiver to the message. In any event, the sender must follow through and ascertain that the message was received and understood and that appropriate action was taken. This chapter addresses the issues surrounding each of these steps. First, the network of formal and informal communication channels is reviewed. Second, the barriers that block effective communication are discussed. Finally, methods for overcoming and improving communications are presented.

Communication Networks and Channels


Members of organizations receive communications from two sources: (1) the formal communications network of the organization, which exchanges information through work orders, memos, meetings, policy manuals, job descriptions, performance reviews, newsletters, and the normal interactions of the members in pursuit of their duties; and (2) informal sources, including the news media (newspapers, journals, magazines, television, and radio), professional colleagues, salespersons, and, of course, the gossip grapevine, which is always active in any group. Communication networks and .channels are discussed her.eaccording to them.eansandm.ethods by which the communications arrive.

Communication Directions
Formalcommunication comes from two directions in a company from above or below within the organization. These vertical communications take the form of memos and other directives that come down through the bureaucratic hierarchy and the responses and other information that make their way back up through the same network. Horizontal communication occurs in the course of the normal exchange of services, information, and work orders, when managers and staff talk to each other as peers.
Every person is familiar with the characteristics of the informal communications network the so-called grapevine. The informal network is a valuable source of information, important to both managers and staff. Although the grapevine can be constructive and informative if used properly, it has a reputation for exerting detrimental effects on its victims. Most workers have either experienced the sting of the gossip grapevine personally or seen its effect on others. Yet, despite its destructive nature and reputation for error, the grapevine's future appears secure. Managers cannot destroy the grapevine, but they must be cognizant of its existence and effects. The best antidote appears to be a management style that encourages a spirit of inclusion, openness, and involvement, along with the timely sharing of information that may affect employees and their jobs.

Means

and Methods of Communication

The number of methods by which we receive information is increasing rapidly. The latest additions include fax machines, video monitors, electronic mail, and computer networks, and even more timely and comprehensive information sources are being developed. These innovations notwithstanding, communication still breaks down into two groups, depending on the amount of live interaction between the parties: (1) dynamic communications, wherebY both parties can simultaneously exchange ideas and information and receive spontaneous feedback, and (2) canned or packaged messages, which are delivered in formats that do not allow the recipient and the sender to respond instantaneously to each other. Communication routes (dynamic or canned) and formats (verbal or nonverbal) are reviewed next.

Communication Routes

42

@ Lionel Varnadoe 2008 PrioritvEd.com

The most vivid example of dynamic communication is the personal meeting, in which the parties can sit together and discuss a topic face to face. With modern technology, such conversations can also be conducted via the telephone, computer networks, and videoconferences. Canned or packaged messages can also be transmitted in a variety of forms, including written memorandums, short notes on Post-Its attached to reports, taped video or audio programs, and third-party messengers.

Communication Formats
Communications can take several forms, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. The message can be presented in written or verbal form. For definition purposes and to simplify discussion, if a message is not verbal (that is, oral), it is written. For example, computer data and recorded visual presentations are considered written messages. This distinction is important when the manager is considering the tools and techniques available for preparing a message and selecting the best route for delivery. Writing has the advantage of being easy to document. It allows readers to study the message without worrying about whether they have mistranscribed some point when taking notes. Verbal messages enable the manager to be seen or heard as a person and overcome some of the formality that otten accompanies a written notice. Equally important is the hidden message that accompanies all communications. In written communication this message involves "reading between the lines"; in oral communication it is referred to as the nonverbal message. If this issue is not addressed by the manager in planning a presentation or communique, the target audience may become more concerned about the hidden message - what was not said or the manner in which it was said message itself.

than in the actual wording of the

Nonverbal Language
Nonverbal communication has received a lot of attention. Such communications are the signals transmitted by the demeanor or behavior of the sender. How the managers dress, the tone of voice, extent of eye contact, office furniture and arrangement, and the timing or place of the visit all give the receiver hints as to the seriousness or importance of the message. The old adage that "actions speak louder than words" points to the importance of placing the message.in the proper context. Nonverbal messages and signals are transmitted through every aspect of the communication. Tone of voice is an important amplifier of the signal. For example, a substantial pay raise may be perceived in a negative light if the supervisor's tone of voice implies that the raise was not altogether deserved. Body and facial expressions such as frowns, slouched body, crossed arms, or an inattentive or faraway look may be interpreted by the receiver as signs that the sender is in a hurry or has more pressing things to think about. How a person is dressed also transmits messages about priority and respect for the receiver. Personal distance and movement also send messages. One of the more pronounced actions that a sender or a receiver can take to demonstrate a keen interest in the other party's message is to make a direct phvsical movement toward the other person. To experience the effect of this strategy, do this maneuver the next time you are talking to a family member, friend, or colleague.
Specifically, when talking with someone, make eye contact, move a couple of inches toward the person, or purposefully turn your ear in a direction that shows the individual that you very much would like to hear what they are saying, that it is interesting and important to you.

43

@LionelVarnadoe 2008 fciQJjty~

Of course, the movement should be positive and nonaggressive. Notice the impact it has on the recipient, their reaction/expression. Physical environment, including choice of furniture and the layout of an office, convey power issues. Whether meetings are held in the boss's or employee's office, how luxurious or spartan the accommodations are, how much space is allowed to the visitor, and the types of furniture in reception and conference rooms have all been identified as factors in the message. Even such subtle or inadvertent factors as room temperature and lighting may demonstrate the sender's concern for the receiver's comfort and importance. The connotation of time can be strong. One story circulating among the sales staff of a laboratory supply company stated that if the boss invited you to breakfast, you were going to fired; if you were invited to lunch, it would be a business meeting; and if you were invited to dinner, you were getting a bonus. These factors point out the importance of consistency, clarity, and attention to detail in selecting both the message and its delivery medium.

Personal and Organization Communication Links


Managers, like all employees, receive messages from both inside and outside the organization by maintaining personal contacts with other individuals as well as receiving information through formal news sources. This is done out of both wisdom and necessity. Managers who depend solely on formal sources of information can lose touch with the pulse of the company, risk being unprepared for sudden changes, and miss crucial clues to what is behind the actions of executives and staff. Managers must also cultivate ties with colleagues, fellow professionals, and community sources that can provide insights into messages that are circulating through both the formal and informal communications channels.

Barriers to Communications
There are five types of barriers to effective communication. These barriers, which are reviewed in
the next section and summarized in Table 3

1 are: structural, semantic, techniCal, relate to hu-

man factors, and outcome objectives.

Barrier Structural Semantic Technical People Outcome

Action Remove or find alternative routes Pay attention to both content and context of message Find alternative routes or times Provide training, groundwork, feedback, explanations, reassurance, credibility, and trust Ensure that the outcome is within the ability of the receiver to Perform

TABLE 3-1.

Communication Barriers and Improvement Strategies

44

@ Lionel Varnadoe 2008 PrioritvEd.com

Structural Barriers
The organization itself, its design and bureaucratic patterns, can present major obstacles as well as advantages. Even though the design is meant to streamline the exchange of information and feedback, the size of the organization may present an obvious difficulty. The number of managers and supervisory layers, the number of employees, and the size of the physical plant all complicate efforts to "get the word out" to interested parties. Because of its dynamic nature, an enterprise is continuously adapting to change. By the time a message reaches the intended users, the data may be irrelevant and obsolete. The continuous modifications in bureaucracy and personal relationships, matched with the hazy and often overlapping responsibilities inherent in such an environment, complicate correspondence further. Messages may be delivered to one place but not the other; out of sheer confusion, they may even be diverted to a group with similar duties or title. People may be isolated from the communication channels by both distance and job position. Grouped together, these are referred to as spatial constraints. Geographic separation is an obvious impediment to communication. Employees may be bound to specific work locations or be unable to engage in everyday interaction with fellow workers because of a job that requires constant monitoring of instruments or equipment. If the communication network is heavily dependent on one person passing along documents or directives to another, the system can become clogged or simply break down when one link in the chain fails to continue the process.

Problems of Semantics
Attention must be given to both the content (denotation) and the context (connotation during the formulation of messages. Semantics is the branch of communication science that studies

theseaspectsof wordsand messages.


We have all found ourselves in extremely awkward situations when we didn't know what to say but stood groping for the right words. Perhaps we wished to express our condolences or ask the boss for a raise or request a favor of someone. Perhaps we were trying to decide how to give advice or respond to criticism or ask someone to stop an annoying habit. These and other circumstances emphasize the effect language has on how a message is given and:received. Senders must consider not only the message they want to deliver but also how it will be received. Will the receiver be grateful and appreciative, take offense, become defensive or even turn hostile? Semantic problems revolve around words and their meanings. Meaning is much more than what is covered in a dictionary; it includes ancillary issues such as tone of voice, place and setting, and the spirit in which the words are spoken and written. Besides the obvious differences presented by slang, job talk, and regional and local customs, how a particular word or phrase is said creates certain perceptions in both the sender and the receiver. There can be a great disparity between the verbal and nonverbal signals transmitted. A person can say one thing but mean something else, be sarcastic, or convey other hidden meanings. This equation also includes the receiver who may "hear" one thing, even though the speaker said something entirely different. For these reasons, problems of semantics must be addressed in every communication effort.

Technical Problems)
Technical problems can occur during the transmission and reception of a message. They may include defects in the equipment (static, poor image, and so on), the environment (background noise, distracting activity), or the medium (torn paper, lost messages). Additionally, there are numerous rivals for the attention of the audience - in other words, information overload. These

45

@Lionel Varnadoe 2008 PrioritvEd.com

problems can result in the message being distorted, delayed, or even blocked entirely. For these reasons, the sender must ensure that the correspondence arrives at the target in the manner and format intended. Technical problems may be overcome or avoided by selecting an alternative route and communicating at times when there is less interference.

People Barriers)
"Say what you mean and mean what you say!" This adage embodies the essence of people talking to each other. Barriers can exist because of individual differences in background and perception, or they can be thrown up intentionally in an effort to hide ulterior motives. People bring to every exchange the sum of their educational, life, and work experiences and their previous interactions with the other person. The person across the table may be not only different in makeup and personality but also preoccupied with other matters in other words, not on the same wave length. People barriers to communication generally involve problems with perception or interpersonal relationships.

Perception Factors)
This broad group covers personal issues ranging from the emotional to the attitudinal to the functional preparation and skills of the individual. Many studies on perception have demonstrated that we see what we are looking for and usually completely ignore or block out what we do not recognize or have not been trained to understand. Puzzles or brainteasers illustrate this point. When the solution is revealed, we are astonished that we did not see something so obvious. This principle carries over to all of our interactions, in both our personal and professional lives: The sender of a message may have said one thing, but the receiver may have heard or perceived something entirely different. Emotions, attitudes, and physical and mental fatigue also color our perceptions. Problems sometimes seem insurmountable until after a break, a little distance, a good night's sleep the solution may suddenly appears crystal clear.

Perception is also strongly influenced by the individual parties' perspectives, particularly if one person outranks or is seen as a threat to the other that is, there are real or perceived differ-

ences in personal, social, and business status.

Studies have shown that subordinates, like all people, hear what they want to hear or simply ignore conflicting information and gray areas. This phenomenon is called selective perception or the halo effect and is closely tied to the emotional and attitudinal state of the participants. To overcome perception problems, managers must invest time and attention in training and laying the groundwork for communications, as well as providing extensive opportunities for feedback, explanations, and reassurance.

Interpersonal Factors)
Differences in background and communication skills, as well as relative social and personal differences between the parties may impede communication. At the core of personal relationships is the issue of credibility between the participants. Credibility encompasses many other broad concepts: trust in purpose and character, honesty and dependability of the information provided, competence in objectivity in judgment, and, of utmost importance, the empathy and enthusiasm shown for the other person and the project. Artificial barriers usually center around issues of self interest and hidden agendas. These barriers are expected and considered proper when negotiating business deals and contracts, but they are extremely destructive in the workplace, where teamwork and dependability are crucial. If someone begins to suspect that a person is hiding something or trying to "put something over," the

46

@ Lionel Varnadoe 2008 PrioritvEd.com

breakdown in net communication accelerates as each person begins to build safety nets and defensive barriers. Authority Oob and social status) is often cited as being a natural hindrance to communications, but this criticism is unjust. People expect someone to be in charge. But when personal ambition, jealousy, and insecurity are added to the boss mentality, authority becomes a barrier. People start to protect their turf, exhibit attitudes of negativism and indifference, or simply tune out.

Outcome Problems)
No matter how skilled the sender is at communicating the message, if the receiver cannot perform the requested task, the communication has not been entirely successful. Outcome is also closely tied to the acceptance of the message by the receiver. The receiver may perceive that the task or project requested has a low priority. Obtaining results is the purpose of management, and communication skills are an integral part of that purpose.

Improving the Communication Process)


A vital part of communication skills is the ability to be a good listener). This is true on the receiving end, but is absolutely essential to the sender. Listening involves not only hearing or seeing the overt sounds or images transmitted but also correctly interpreting the message sent or received. Listening is a two-way partnership. Poor listening results in a person's not hearing or hearing incorrectly what was said or missing part of the message. Good listening involves asking questions, seeking feedback, showing interest in the speaker and subject, and looking for clues and signals that may reveal the need for further clarification or repetition. Effective communication also involves empathy) with the person on the other end of the communication line. Empathy allows the sender to prepare the message with the needs of the audience in mind. There is no substitute for genuine concern and interest; this sentiment always comes through loud and clear. Unfortunately, apathy) or negative feelings and misplaced emotions are also just as easily detected and in most cases drown out any other portion of the message. Sending a message through several different routes) is a highly effective way to gain attention. Repetition allows the recipient to properly interpret the missive, place it in context, and develop an appropriate response. Familiarity may produce boredom, but it also increases the comfort level.

As a review, to improve the communication process (also see Table 3-1): Be a good listener Be empathy toward other participants . Send messages through several different routes

. .

The next chapter with deal with techniques for Decision Making and Problem Solving.

47

@ Lionel Varnadoe 2008 PrioritvEd.com

Case Study-

Chapter Three: Communications


"Where did you get this information?" the laboratory manager asked the supervisor. "One of the evening techs told me about the plan last night when I was checking to see if anyone needed time off during the next month schedule," responded the supervisor. "It's amazing how accurate what you told me is; however, the plan to move additional techs and phlebotomists to the night shift in order to support our new reference lab programs is only one of the many options that were discussed yesterday. But maybe there's a lesson here. Since the grapevine works faster than management, and since any changes will directly affect the evening and night shifts, I think it would be a good idea if you take responsibility for this part of the program. You must work closely with me, the director, and administration. We will try to hold all meetings in the afternoon after you come to work. Again, most important: While most of the work at this stage is confidential and only in the very early planning stages, you will be responsible for keeping your staff informed, and try to stomp out these wild rumors before they get started."

Chapter Section for Review

. . .

The Communication Process Communication Directions Interpersonal Factors Improving the Communication Process

Questions for Discussion


1. 2. 3. 4. Which communication direction channel appears to be the most active in this laboratory? What link in the communication process seems to be the weakest in this situation? How would you respond to the laboratory manager if you were the supervisor? What advice would you give to the supervisor in handling the communication problems
concerning the project and the staff ... particularly, possibly competing issues between

...

confidentiality and leaking of management planning and discussions ... and keeping the staff "informed?"

48