Role of Communication in the Organization

Role of Communication in the Organization

Organization consists of a social unit of people, systematically structured and managed to meet a need or to pursue collective goals on a continuing basis. It is a collection of individuals working inter-dependently within a relatively structured, organized, open system to achieve common goal and objectives. The organization has a management structure which determines relationships between functions and positions, and sub-divides and delegates roles, responsibilities, and authority to carry out defined tasks. The organization is an open system in that it affects and is affected by its environment beyond its boundaries. It has five critical features namely (i) the existence of a social collectivity, (ii) organizational and individual goal and objectives, (iii) coordinated activity, (iv) organizational structure, and (v) the embedding of the organization with a complex external environment.

The organization is principally people-centric, be it product-based or service-based. It is essentially and irrefutably, is wholly people-based.  However, the greater the communication orientation, the greater is the people-centricity. Yet, most organizations underestimate the need for communication. They underestimate to ‘see’ new ideas or an existing idea in a new form or content. The need for direct, consistent and content communication is essential for the employees to feel that they are part of the organizational process. For insistence, management knows that it has full support when the employees start to drive the change process themselves. The potential for organizational performance is achievable when the employees participate in the organizational processes.

All human interactions are form of communication. In the present day environment, nothing can be achieved by the organization without effectively communicating with management, employees, and various stakeholders including customers and suppliers. The organization achieves tremendous boost in its performance when it masters the art of communication.

Communication is from a Latin word ‘communis’, which means common or shared understanding. Communication is hence a purposeful effect to establish commonness between a source and a receiver. Whatever is being shared can be associated with knowledge, experience, thought, ideas, suggestions, opinions, and feelings etc. In its simplest form, communication is the transmission of a message from a source to a receiver, or the process of creating shared meaning.

Communication has crucial impacts on the working of the employees in the organization. The organizational communication is a channel for the flow of information, resources, and even policies. It is also be broadly defined as communication with one another in the context of an organization. This type of communication, in turn, includes activities of sending and receiving message through various layers of authority, using various message systems, and discussing various topics of interest to the group.

Organizational communication is frequently defined as an evolutionary, culturally dependent process of sharing information and creating relationships in environments designed for manageable, cooperative, goal-oriented behaviour. It is the flow and impact of messages within a network of interactional relationship to cope with environmental uncertainty.

The purpose of communication in the organization include (i) achieve coordinated action, (ii) express feelings and emotion, (iii) share information regarding organizational goals, task directions, results of efforts, and decision making, (iv) achieve effective control, (v) encourage employees’ participation in decision making, and (vi) create a good public image and reputation for the organization.

Organizational communication is a system of networks linking the three hierarchical levels (top management, middle management, and employees) together in order to enhance productivity. The two major types of communication channel within the organization are: (i) formal communication, and (ii) informal communication. Formal communication consists of the official paths recognized by the management. This communication follows the established chain of command or line of authority. Formal communication can be transmitted internally or externally.

Internal communication takes place within an organizational framework to coordinate organizational resources. It conveys information through letters, memos, circulars, etc, to employees. It is divided into three broad parts consisting of (i) horizontal communication, (ii) vertical communication, and (iii) quasi-vertical communication.

Horizontal communication – It is also called lateral communication. It is the transmission of message along the same lateral or similar level in an organization. It occurs between team members, between different teams and employees on the same or similar level. The use of horizontal communication is on the increase because of the interactive information technologies such as e-mail and phone messages which greatly improve the horizontal communication by making it possible to establish learning communities and virtual teams of employees who work together even at different locations.

Vertical communication – It is the organization communication which involves two different movements, that is, from ‘up to down’ and from ‘down to up’ along the organizational hierarchy. It comprises downward and upward communication. Downward communication refers to movement of information from the top management to the lowest level of employees in the organization. Upward communication is the pattern through which line manager gets necessary feedback from the subordinate employees on different issues being faced at the workplace.

Quasi-vertical communication – it is the type of pattern of communication in which organized body of the employees called labour union is also included in the process of communication between the management and employees.

In case of external communication, the organization disseminates information and interacts with the immediate environmental elements such as customers, suppliers, regulatory and local authorities, financial institutions, and media etc. The effectiveness of this depends on how perfectly internal communication is handled.

Informal channel of communication is an official chain of command which flows in any direction. It is mostly used when there are gaps in or barriers to formal communication which disturb the employees from getting the information they require or desire. Common sources are rumour (an unofficial channel which transmits unreliable information), grapevine (it carries more reliable and valuable information and It can be single strand, gossip or cluster). Fig 1 shows types of organizational communication.

Fig 1 Types of organizational communication

Communication is a process and this indicates that there is neither distinct beginning to the communication nor end to the communication. By process, it is meant that communication is a series of interactions which alter with time and produce changes in those involved in the interactions. There are several external factors which can influence the process as well. The success or failure of informative or persuasive attempts can alter how people interact with each other in future interactions. Additionally, one’s cultural background can affect how people approach the communicative process. In essence, there are a number of factors which are constantly at play within an interaction which affect the communication process.

Effective communication can enhance organizational outcomes. It has influence on the perception and opinions about employees, groups and external stake holders. As a managerial tool, communication is required for sharing information with members, for coordination of the organizational activities, for reduction of the unnecessary managerial burdens which ultimately improves the organizational performance.

Communication is generally perceived as a variable, which either affects or is affected by other variables considered important in understanding the organizational life. It is seen that the communication is linked with other organizational variables. The three important aspects of the organizational communication are (i) nature of organizational communication, (ii) modes of communication used to transfer information and the impact of the channels or the media, and (iii) role of communication during organizational crisis.

Communication is the means of bringing about change. It is the mainstream for the organizational growth. There is need in the organization for interaction and understanding of management-employee relations which brings about increased performance of all parties involved in the communication process or chain. Communication as a medium, a means to performance ends, or as constitutive, as the end in itself. It is a process of transmitting information from one person to another and hence, it is a critical factor in directing and mobilizing the employees towards the accomplishment of the organizational goals or objectives. By creating understanding, it improves co-operation and promote effective performance. Organizational management which understands the importance of communication in the organization takes the organization on the path of growth and success.

Communication is essential for the effective team performance. It is to be effective in the environment in which the organization is operating. Since, the communication ensures coordination of factors of production and most importantly material and human elements of the organization, it is an efficient network of change and advancement. The process of communication process is initialed by the sender through the process of encoding the message which is then sent through the channel of communication to the receiver who decodes the message after removing the effects of the noise environment. It is estimated that managers spend over 80 % of their working day communicating with others, since most of the basic management processes (planning, organizing, leading, and controlling) cannot be performed without effective communication.

The relevance of communication for the organization is further enhanced when the external environment under which the organization is operating is also taken into account. The need of communication becomes more when the organization is to adopt advanced technologies for remaining competitive in the present day environment. There are also many issues affecting communication ranging from difference in gender, role of silence, inference of the regulatory agencies, and the cross- cultural inference. Hence, for the organizational management, it becomes important to emphasize on innovation and effective use of communication medium or channel to bring about high performance rate in the organization, since any breakdown in communication process or chain can have serious adverse effects on organizational performance.

Communication can occur in variety of situations or environments. These are grouped as (i) one to one communication which is the communication that takes place between two individuals and most of the day-to-day informal or formal  communication of the employees occurs in this form, (ii) small group communication which involves communication among more than two people and it can take place between groups, (iii) large group or public communication which is rarely the type of communication carried out within the premises of organization, and offices etc. and the style of this type of communication is formal, systematic, planned ‘and organized, and (iv) mass communication which is carried out through different types of mechanical, electronic means such as mass media, teleconferencing or videoconferencing etc. and in which there is no face to face interaction between the communicators.

There are 7 C’s of effective communication in the organization (Fig 2) which are applicable to both written as well as oral communication. These (i) completeness, (ii) conciseness, (iii) consideration, (iv) clarity, (v) concreteness, (vi) courtesy , and (vii) correctness. These are given below.

Completeness – The communication is to be complete. It is required to convey all the facts needed by its target audience. The sender of the message is to take into consideration the mind-set of the receiver and convey the message accordingly. Complete communication develops and enhances reputation of the organization. Moreover, it is cost saving as no crucial information is missing and no additional cost is incurred in conveying the extra content of the message to make the communication complete. A complete communication always gives full information to the receiver which is needed by him. It leaves no questions in the mind of the receiver. Complete communication helps in better decision-making by the audience/readers/receivers of message as they get all the desired and crucial information. It provides the audience a sense of satisfaction.

Conciseness – Conciseness means wordiness, which means that the required communication is made and conveyed in the least possible words without forgoing the requirements of the other C’s of the communication. Conciseness is a necessity for effective communication. Concise communication has several features such as (i) it is both time-saving as well as cost-saving, (ii) it underlines and highlights the main message as it avoids using excessive and needless words, (iii) it provides short and essential message in limited words to the audience, (iv) it is more appealing and comprehensible to the audience, and (v) it is non-repetitive in nature.

Consideration – Consideration implies ‘stepping into the shoes of others’. Effective communication is to take the audience into consideration, such as, the viewpoints, background, mind-set, and education level etc. of the audience. It is necessary to make an attempt to visualize the audience, its needs, its emotions as well as its problems. It is essential to ensure that the self-respect of the audience is maintained and their emotions are not put at harm. The words in the message which is being communicated are to suit the need of the audience. Features of considerate communication include (i) emphasis on the ‘you’ approach, (ii) identifying with the audience, (iii) showing optimism towards the audience, and (iv) showing interest in the audience. This approach of the consideration stimulates a positive reaction from the audience. The consideration means to give emphasis to on ‘what is possible’ rather than ‘what is impossible’. The stress is to be laid on positive words such as jovial, committed, thanks, warm, healthy, help, etc.

Clarity – Clarity implies giving importance to the specifics or the objectives of the message. Merging of several objectives in one message is to be avoided. The message loses its clarity when many objectives are clubbed in a single message. Clarity in communication has following features which makes the understanding easier. Complete clarity of thoughts and ideas enhances the quality of the message since it is able to communicate what is needed. Message with clarity makes use of exact, appropriate and concrete words.

Concreteness – Concrete communication implies that it is clear and to the point rather than general and hazy. Concreteness strengthens the confidence of the audience. Concrete message has several features such as it is supported with specific facts and figures and it makes use of words which not confusing. Concrete messages build the reputation. Concrete messages cannot be misinterpreted.

Courtesy – Courtesy in communication means that the message is being communicated is to show the sender’s expression is not unintentionally harsh and shows respect to the receiver. The sender of the message is to be sincerely polite, judicious, reflective and enthusiastic. In the courteous message, the courtesy implies that both the viewpoints as well as feelings of the receiver of the message have been taken into consideration. Courteous message is positive and focused at the audience. It is not at all biased.

Correctness – Correctness in communication implies that there are factual and has no grammatical errors since grammatical errors sometimes change the meaning of the communication. Correct communication has the features that it is exact, correct and well-timed. Correctness of the communication boosts up the confidence level of both the sender and the receiver. Correctness of the message has greater impact on the audience/readers. It checks for the precision and accurateness of facts and figures used in the message. It makes use of appropriate and correct language in the message.

Fig 2 7 C’s of effective communication

There can be several barriers which can affect the effective communication in the organization. Some of these barriers are described below.

Lack of proper planning – Inadequate preparation affects effectiveness of presenting and transmitting information. Lack of planning, arises from inadequate thinking, lack of sound objectives, vague words, and the selection of inappropriate media, etc.

Organization barriers – These barriers include faulty organization structure such as lack of clarity of responsibilities and authority delegated, too wide spans of control and too long chains of command which can cause communication breakdown.

Semantic barriers -These occur when words are understood and interpreted differently by the sender and the receiver. This affects the achievement of commonness of thought in the communication.

Technical jargon – This consist of using the words or symbols which are peculiar to new fields and technologies and not familiar with the receivers of the communication since the receivers can have different educational and social background and this can cause the message to get misunderstood..

Environmental barriers – These consist of symbols and innocent remarks which can give different meanings in different environment.

Information overload – This happens when the employees receive too much information within a limited time.

Noise – Effective communication breakdown is caused by different types of noise such as physical noise, linguistic noise, grammatical noise, etc.

Poorly expressed messages – In the case of the poorly expressed messages, the sender uses too many assumptions and wrong encoding of messages which do not aid effective understanding.

Poor listening – Listening needs full attention and self discipline. Without attentive listening, the encoded messages can be decoded wrongly.

Distrust – It is concerned with the believability and acceptability of the messages which to a large extent is determined by credibility of the sender. Messages from a line manager who behaves inconsistently can be given different interpretations by different receivers.

The remedies for communication barriers include (i) adequate preparation by senders which helps in determining the purpose of the message, (ii) the parties involved (both sender and receiver) are to use similar and familiar symbols and language to achieve effective communication, and (iii) organization is to manage the amount of information so that there is no overload of information with the employees over a period of time

In a study related to barriers of communication in the organization based on a survey, the outcomes are (i) among managers’ point of view and employees view about the barriers of communication a significant difference does not exist, (ii) from the perspective of managers and employees, organizational factors are considered to be the main obstacle in effective organizational communication, (iii) from the viewpoint of managers and employees, technical factors are considered as the weakest obstacle in effective organizational communication, and (iv) from the viewpoint of managers, human factor is not considered as one of the barriers in effective organizational communication, while the reverse is the viewpoint of employees.

Other important aspects of organizational communication

Various other aspects of organizational communication include communication behaviour of managers, communication relationships, and motives for communicating with seniors, the influence of the content, direction and source of information on perceptions, ethics, and communication, and the role of informal communication in an organization. Communication in the organization has three features consisting of (i) face-to-face communication namely unrestricted verbal expression, (ii) meaningful non-verbal acts, and (iii) instantaneous collaboration between speaker and listener. All these aspects are important for the organization.

Organizational communication is a kind of exchange of information which provides the basis for perception and feeling between two or more people, with a group in the organization, and causes organizational networks to form part of organization. Relationships between individuals and groups are essential if organizations are to be of high efficiency and to cope with the increasing turbulence of the present day environment. None of the manager’s duties is as important as communication. Communication is like a link which relates actions and activities of individuals and organizations to the desired goal and objectives.

Communication is a way by which the employees share their emotions, thoughts, desires and needs. The key role of organizational communication is that it contributes to the effectiveness of the organization and helps in the achievement of the goal and objectives of the organization. Communication is the key to the success of the organization. If the employees are silent, they actually suffer from inappropriate communication, resulting in gross damage to the organization. Experience has shown that the freedom to communicate given to the line managers and colleagues leads to sharing information, ideas, opinions and suggestions, which ultimately leads to increased participation and a sense of unity and belongingness to the organization. The unwillingness to share information, or talk and provide feedback negatively affects employees’ trust, morale and motivation.

It is well known that the employees’ behaviour at work has important implications for overall organizational effectiveness. The employees’ behaviour is related to the overall efficiency of the organization. A positive behaviour contributes to the overall effectiveness of the organization. With the effective communication, the path for achieving the objectives of the organization is facilitated. In addition to the necessity of these behaviours in the present day environment, voluntary cooperation is a key factor in the effective implementation of strategic decisions. Implementing the goals of a strategic decision needs the creativity and simultaneous action of the employees. Effective organizational communication is essential for meeting these requirements.

If there are issues regarding flow of information (communication) in the organization then there exist the differences in perception of the employee’s line managers, and different employees’ groups about the organizational values of honesty, integrity, respect, trust responsibility. In such case the communication processes of the organization can be still effective, though there are some common perceptions within the organization such as a large amount of misunderstanding and lack of trust within all the employees’ levels in the organization.

There are three traditional perspectives by which the communication is seen in the organization. These are (i) critical which focuses on the organization as a site of distorted communication, (ii) interpretive which sees the organization as a product of communication, and (iii) self-organizing which view the organization and communication as co-product. In the third perspective in which communication is a part of self-organizing system, the organizational communicators chose their communication methods and the qualities necessary in these methods for the effective, efficient and productive communication. In this perspective, there are two fundamental communication methods namely (i) established communication method which refers to formal methods that often follow well-established hierarchies, and (ii) the evolutionary methods which can be seen as informal communication methods that communicators develop and redevelop, as communication needs change. This method is not pre-designated by the organization rather it is evolved on the spur of the moment. Normally, the organizational success is dependent upon both the choice of correct communication methods and its productivity needs quality relationships. This also demonstrates that the communication productivity is strongly correlated with the quality of relationship between communicators.

In a study, it has been seen that some of the dimensions of organizational communication (such as trust, influence, directionality-downward and lateral, accuracy, satisfaction with communication) are significantly related to all or most of the climate dimensions (such as inter-personnel setting, standards, affective tone towards management, organizational structure and procedures responsibility and organizational identification), while other dimensions of communication such as gate keeping, overload, written modality and other modality are not related to any climate dimensions. Likewise, some of the communication dimensions (such as trust, influence, desire for interaction, accuracy, directionality, downward and lateral and satisfaction with communication) are found to be significantly related to all or most of the dimensions of job satisfaction (such as work, supervision, pay, promotions, and co-workers) while overload and written modality are found to be not significantly related to job satisfaction.

Conclusively, in the organization, the role of communication cannot be overemphasized. It is the means by which people interact and work with one another. Just like blood stream in people, communication represents the bloodstream of organization. This means that nothing can be achieved in the organization without effective communication. Communication skills are important in all organizational activities, including operation, marketing, supply chain management, financial activities, and public-relations and so on. Even though communication skills are very important for success at the workplace, there are many employees who find that there is a limit to their communication skills and that they seem to have reached a stumbling block in their progress. They can sometimes struggle to convey their thoughts and ideas in an accurate manner, making it difficult to reach their full potential as a communicator, a manager, and a leader of others.

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