Communication is a fragile, delicate process we often take for granted. In many cases, we do not even realize we are communicating. Most of us believe to communicate we must speak, but this is untrue. We are technically communicating all the time. Verbally, nonverbally, through our movements, and even when we are still, everything that we do communicates something to those around us. The communication process is so complex is can often begin to cause problems for us and those we communicate with. One of the most common places communication problems occur is in the workplace. Superiors and subordinates sometimes have inefficient communication patterns that can lead to disruption in the workplace. Usually the superior uses communication to assert too much dominance over subordinates, breeding resentment and halting teamwork; fortunately, there are solutions to this issue.
According to, “Professional Communication at Work: Interpersonal Communication for a Better Workplace: Interpersonal Strategies for Career Success,” when a superior appears too demanding or severe, the style is referred to as “authoritarian . Authiritarian styles of leadership, including the communication used along with themm, is listed as the most ineffective of all leadership styles when communicating with subordinates and attempting to inspire progress and teamwork. Authoritarian superiors often demand and accuse instead of ask. Nonverbal communication is often offensive and intrusive; the individual will insert themselves physically into the space of their superiors in an attempt to convey the message they are the boss, and their will should be done .
Fortunately for individuals who communicate to employees in this way, there are solutions. As stated in, Models of Performance Improvement for Strategic Planning, Relationships, Communication, Competencies, Training, and Management in the Workplace,” the first step to communicating differently with employees is to realize it is not a loss of power . Many superiors who communicate in an authoritarian, overbearing way view anything less as a loss of power and respect. They must understand they are losing more respect by assuming their position allows them the capacity to decide when to respect others. Essentially, employees deserve respect at all times, and once they feel that is being communicated to them, they will begin communicating it back to their employer . The employer then begins to walk a fine line between superior and friend. It is beneficial to have a good rapport with employees, but it can be unprofessional to befriend them to a point that they begin using the superior as a doormat. Balance in communication must be maintained.
Successful communication between an employer and an employee has often been compared to that between a parent and a child; the employee must trust and respect the parent, knowing they could come to the employer with a problem. Similarly, the employer must treat the employee with respect. However, both parties must know that if the employee needs to be disciplined, regardless of the relationship, the employer will not hesitate to put a punishment in place . Communicating this can be perfected through a series of friendly conversations and company get-togethers, followed by any necessary reprimands despite any jovial communication. In this way, the superior maintains his or her power while respecting the employee. In turn, the employee respects the superior while understanding they are a friendly individual, but there is still a job that must be done.
In sum, communication is a complex tool that we every second of the day, whether we are talking or not. Nonverbal communication sometimes speaks the loudest, as in when a domineering superior inserts themselves into an employee’s personal space. Authoritarian-like communication between a superior and their employees results in difficult communication situations many times. The forceful communication and presence of the boss influences employees into acting passive-aggressively, or acting out in more obvious ways. If the superior can communicate nicely, while still disciplining employees, he or she will be able to build a rapport, give and receive respect, but also help the employees work together as a team and act as a leader, proving that communication problems can make or break nearly any situation.
Chesebro, Joseph L. Professional Communication at Work: Interpersonal Communication for a Better Workplace: Interpersonal Strategies for Career Success. London: Routledge, 2014. Book.
Miller, Katherine. Organizational Communication: Approaches and Processes. Chicago: Cengage Learning, 2014. Book.
Rodriguez, Joel O., Scott W. M. Burrus and Melanie E. Shaw. "Models of Performance Improvement for Strategic Planning, Relationships, Communication, Competencies, Training, and Management in the Workplace." Journal of Virtual Leadership (2011): 10-22. Article.