The communication process in an organization involves the various means through which information is carried from one level or person to another. This process may occur either upwards in the organizational structure or downwards. The process may be between employees, employees and clients, owners and employees, or between staff members and the public. Each of this communications is significant to the organization as it links up the organizational structure and also the organization to its environment. Communication in an organization should be both hierarchical and lateral: there should be communication from the senior managers to the employees through the middle level managers, and also there should be communication from the employees back to the senior managers through the middle level managers (Putman & Jablin, 2000, p 3). However hierarchical and lateral communications in an organization mostly occur during formal communication. In order to understand the methods of communication used in the work place it is important to analyze the importance of effective communication, communication models used in organizations, the communication process, and the various channels of communication used in an organization.
Importance of Effective Communication
The communication process is an integral part of the success of an organization. It is however at times assumed when some managers fail to formulate communication channels in their organizations. The importance of communication can be best seen in its absence, through an imagination of how an organization would look like without effective communication. For example, in a hotel that lacks a mechanism to record and convey special requests made by guests during reservation, there is a high possibility that the client’s requests may not be met and this in turn will lead to less satisfaction by the customer. This may consequently lead to loss of clients by the organization. This shows the importance of ensuring that communication is existent in an organization. Communication between the senior managers and the employees is also important as it conveys the strategies made by the managers for enactment by the employees. However most managers tend to neglect the communication they get from employees and this could be the undoing of a business. For example, some junior employees may have a new product line that they would wish the company to try out. The employees may then choose to communicate their idea to the senior managers through their supervisor. In the event that the supervisor does not convey the message, the employees may assume that the management has ignored their idea. They may subsequently opt to leave the organization and start their own business dealing with the product line they had suggested. This situation here is a detriment to the organization that had employed them as it has lost innovative staff members, a potential product a line, and a new competitor has emerged in the market.
The examples discussed above may be hypothetical but they help in showing what may occur if an organization does not ensure that there is effective communication within it.
Process of Communication
The process of communication requires a few basic elements for it to happen. These include: a person to send a message also known as an encoder, a channel for transmission of the message, a recipient of the message, and a process for the sender to receive the recipient’s feedback. Without the presence of these elements communication may be hampered. The elements outlined above and their interrelation however only represents a simplified communication model since in reality communication in an organization can have multiple channels of transmission, feedback mechanisms, encoders, and receivers. The responsibility of defining the multiplicity of these elements should be done by the management as without a clear definition entropy and misinterpretation of information may occur (Gramsberg & Van der Molen, 2006, p 13). Also it is important that all stakeholders in an organization understand where they can get information from in the organizational structure. For this to be realized an organization needs to have formal communication channels.
Communication Models within an Organization
Communication models are simply a representation of the process of communication in real life. According to Gramsbergen (2007), most of the models of communication in organization are basically an attempt by their management to approximate the communication process as it occurs within the particular organization (p. 109). However it is important that in the process of creating the models, the management understands that these models contain several variables and hence a level of uncertainty should be attached to them. The integrative model of communication was developed after a study of models that were in use in 1940s and 1950s (Gramsberg & Van der Molen, 2006, p 188). In this model, the message is sent through a clear channel to the one receiving it. The clarity of the communication channel is important as the communication’s effectiveness is dependent on the receiver understanding the message just as the encoder intended. It is therefore the duty of the sender to compare different communication channels and to choose the most effective one to transmit their communication through.
In organizations, the responsibility of determining which communication channel to follow is given to the management or the administration where the two are separate entities.
Channels of Communication within an Organization
The task of choosing the right communication channels for an organization is also given to the management. It is important to note that in all channels of communication available to an organization, there will always be some obstacles- mainly on the sender’s side. The choice of communication channels therefore involves selecting a channel that has the least of obstacles to avoid distortion of the message. The management and staff members need to understand this limitation and should therefore ensure that the message is catchy and has no redundancy so as to counteract any interference that might occur in the communication channel. Making a message catchy involves adding some uniqueness to it that will make it stand out from other messages competing with it for the receiver’s attention. Redundancy can be avoided by the encoder rephrasing the message several times. Redundancy is a threat to effective communication as it clutters the channel of communication.
There are three basic communication channels in organizations: formal channels, unofficial and informal ones (Gramsbergen, 2007, p 25). The formal channels are those that follow the organization structure of the organization; messages are sent from top level managers to middle level managers and down to the subordinates as stipulated in the chain of command. The communication may also flow upward as long as it follows the chain of command. Formal channels are mainly used for the transmission of instructions, goals, reports and policies.
Informal channels are those that circumvent the lines of authority. These channels act as a supplement to the formal ones. Senior managers are required to encourage informal channels but at the same time they should not over-emphasis on them as the fact that they give junior employees direct communication access with senior managers sometimes makes middle-level managers feel disrespected and unappreciated (Baldoni, 2003, p 51). The unofficial channels are interpersonal communication channels between employees and they help in improving interaction within an organization.
Organizations mainly use formal channels to communicate with the external environment which includes partners, competitors, clients and suppliers. This is mainly to ensure that all external communications are official and hence the organization is well aware of their content and implications (Schultz, Hatch & Larsen, 2000). This also helps in avoiding giving contradicting information as when formal channels are used; the management is able to give one harmonious response to every situation. It should be noted that unofficial and non-formal channels are used in communication between an organization and its external environment but no obligation, assurance or liability comes from such communication.
The informal channels are used mainly within organizations by senior managers who would love to get first hand information on operations. Most managers using these channels recognize that sometimes information gets distorted while flowing through the formal channel and hence it may get to them in a more refined or less serious version (Baldoni, 2003, p 56). They hence opt to communicate directly with junior employees so as avoid the distortion. Employees who feel that they are being oppressed by middle level managers also prefer using these channels to report their discomfort with the situation. Managers should hence integrate the two channels discussed above to ensure effective operating of their organizations.
The unofficial or interpersonal channels are evident in every organization. This is because the employees are human beings and hence communication between them about their perception of different situations cannot be stopped. It is the responsibility of the management to get to know what these perceptions are as they help in recognition of discontent and contentment of employees at the work place. Most managers have junior employees who are responsible for gathering all the relevant information in the interpersonal communications by junior employees. This is because most junior employees would generally not feel comfortable expressing their discontentment on various issues in the organization to their superiors in a formal setting. Managers should caution their employees to be keen on who they communicate with using unofficial channels (Baldoni, 2003, p 64). This is because information contained in this communications is not scrutinized and hence a junior employee may unknowingly give out confidential information about the organization to its competitors.
Communication is a function of management and hence the management of an organization should ensure that communication within the organization is well defined and with minimal obstacles in the process. This is because communication is an integral part of the success of the business as has been outlined in some of the examples discussed in this paper.
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