In very simple terms communication can be defined as information transmission or an exchange of ideas between parties (assuming that the message is received and fully understood). However, a more detailed definition of communication can be given with consideration to the purpose and the framework of the communication process. Although current technology level has expanded the notion of communication far beyond a face-to-face conversation, the empirical evidence has demonstrated that personal contact significantly enhances dialogue between the parties, while all the technology-driven communication means, such e-mails and phones, remain inferior compared to discussing in person.
This factor had a detrimental effect on the original message sent to school teachers in Carville City Scholl District. This paper aims to investigate the reason for the failure of the Superintendant’s message and to present some recommendation in order to remedy the current situation as well as for improving future communication efforts. Although most of the negative reaction from teachers was addressed to Mr. Porter, in order to evaluate the root cause of the failure of the e-mail communication, it is crucial to assess the whole communication chain. Therefore, it is necessary to analyse both the e-mail sent to Mr. Weigand by Superintendant Porter and the way the message was delivered to the teachers.
The main problem of the e-mail from Mr. Porter to the principals of all the schools in the Carville City School District was the assumption that the underlying purpose of the newly introduced performance objectives was completely clear to all the parties.
Since Mr. Porter has just finished a management summer school, he has developed a new perspective on the way the school district should be managed. However, he failed to realize that the principles did not fully understand the rationale of the new policy, since they did not attend the course together with the Superintendant. Unfortunately, the limited understanding of the benefits of the new task made it hard for the principals to appreciate or even approve it. Moreover, the e-mail written by Mr. Porter was very brief and concise. It did not welcome any discussion from the principals or allow their participation in the decision-making. Such top-down approach could not be received positively by the subordinates, as it put them in the inferior position and showed little appreciation of their opinion. Indeed, the Superintendant was trying to convey quite a different message, which was aimed to introduce a new performance-enhancing management practice. However, the lack of personal contact with the principals and the brevity of the e-mail have created quite a different impression.
All the abovementioned pitfalls of the e-mail communication were further exacerbated by forwarding the e-mail to the teachers. The original concise tone of the e-mail sounded even more like an order to the teachers, who felt unappreciated. The absence of a direct contact with the Superintendant has aggravated the original impression from the message, since the teachers had no way to express their concerns about the new performance objectives. In fact, it was Mr. Weigand’s job, as a principle and a key leader within a school, is to discuss the benefits of the new policy with the Superintendant and then to introduce them in person to the teachers. Personal contact in this case could provide a feedback mechanism from the teachers to Mr. Porter, which would help to enhance the original idea of the performance objectives, to deliver the rationale behind the introduction of the new strategy to its ultimate customers, to the teachers who would need to develop and use it, and it would make people feel that their opinion is appreciated.
The case of the Carville School district shows a good example of how even the best managerial innovations can be offset by ineffective communication. It clearly demonstrates that good leadership goes hand in hand with communication transparency, coherency and continuous feedback. In simple terms, for a good leader it is highly important not only what is being said but also how it is delivered. Thus, despite the obvious benefits of e-mails, personal contact always conveys the message in a much better way. Moreover, assuming subordinate’s understanding of the rationale of managerial decisions show poor leadership and can lead to detrimental consequences, which could destroy supervisor-subordinates relationships.
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