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Discuss the nature of communications in an organizational setting, including communication flows, channels, and networks. Explain barriers to communication, and discuss the most common types of barriers to group communication.
Clearly, the task of preparing and submitting a finished sales report doesna€™t require the same kinds of communication skills as talking on the phone with a classmate. Communication may also flow laterally in organizational settings (as it does between you and your classmate), but more often it flows up or down. As the term suggests, downward communicationdownward communicationCommunication flow from higher to lower organizational levels. Upward communicationupward communicationCommunication flow from lower to higher organizational levels. Lateral (or horizontal) communicationlateral (or horizontal) communicationCommunication flow across the organization, among personnel on the same level. Your bossa€™s request for a sales report is an instance of downward communication, and when youa€™ve finished and submitted it, you will have completed a task of upward communication. Finally, while horizontal flows are valuable for promoting cooperation, they can also be used to engage in conflicta€”for instance, between two departments competing for the same organizational resources.
Note that FigureA 8.9, a€?Channels of Communicationa€? takes the form of a grid, thus creating four dimensions in which communication can take place. An organizationa€™s formal communication networkformal communication networkNetwork consisting of all communications that flow along an organizationa€™s official lines of authority.
Every company also has an informal communication network (or grapevine)informal communication network (or grapevine)Network that carries information whenever two or more employees get together and start talking about the company and their jobs., which goes to work whenever two or more employees get together and start talking about the company and their jobs. Though ita€™s sometimes called the grapevine, an informal network is an extremely important communication channel. On the upside, savvy managers can tap into the informal network, either to find out what sort of information is influencing employee activities or to circulate more meaningful information, including new ideas as well as corrective information.
The organizationa€™s formal lines of communication arena€™t working as well as they should be. The best way to minimize informal communication and its potential damage is to provide better formal communication from the outseta€”or, failing that, to provide whatever formal communication will counteract misinformation as thoroughly as possible.
Go to your supervisor or another senior manager and try to find out as much as you can about the organizationa€™s real plans.
Ask a senior manager or a human resources representative to meet with your team and address membersa€™ concerns with accurate feedback. Make it a priority to keep channels opena€”both between yourself and your team members and between team members and the human resources department. Because actions of this sort send a message, they can legitimately be characterized as a form of formal communication. By barriers we mean anything that prevents people from communicating as effectively as possible. As for creating unnecessary verbal noise and failing to listen, we can probably chalk them up to poor communication habits (or maybe the same habit, for as legendary management expert Peter Drucker argues, a€?Listening is not a skill; it is a discipline.
If it hasna€™t happened already, for example, one of these days youa€™ll find yourself having a work-related conversation with a member of the opposite sex. It really doesna€™t matter which a€?stylea€? (if either) is better suited to making a conversation more productive.
Even if two people of the opposite sex enter a conversation with virtually identical viewpoints, their different styles of expressing themselves might very well present a barrier to their reaching an agreement.
FigureA 8.11, a€?Functional Barriers to Communicationa€? illustrates the location of barriers that may be present when a team-based project must deal with a certain degree of functional diversity. The company has assigned team members from different functional areas, notably marketing and operations (which, as at Motorola, includes design, engineering, and production).
Information (which wea€™ve characterized as different types of a€?specsa€?) must be transferred from function to function, and at the key points where this occurs, wea€™ve built in communication barriers (symbolized by brick walls).
If, for example, marketing specs called for the new Motorola phone to change colors with the usera€™s mood, someone in engineering might have to explain the difficulties in designing the software. Each technical problema€”each problem that arises because of differences in team membersa€™ knowledge and expertisea€”becomes a problem in communication.
Downward communication flows from higher organizational levels (supervisors) to lower organizational levels (subordinates). Lateral (or horizontal) communication flows across the organization, among personnel on the same level. Barriers to communication include anything that prevents people from communicating as effectively as possible.
To your manager telling him what the sales were for the quarter and whether sales improved (or got worse), and why.
To the vice president of the company recommending a new system for tracking sales in your division.
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It seems that in order to get an advice book published, one must be an accomplished CEO or exceptionally successful entrepreneur. Nationwide’s P&C Communications team (within the Corporate Communications Department) is seeking two Communications Consultants to develop and implement communications strategies in support of business, regional and functional leadership clients, as well as to handle additional special communications projects. Nationwide is one of the largest insurance and financial services companies in the United States, with almost $21 billion in annual revenue and $140 billion in assets (Fortune 118 in 2010). Our networking events bring together local professionals in corporate communications, public relations and marketing. One of 100 chapters of the International Association of Business Communicators, IABC Philadelphia serves Southeastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Delaware. The International Association of Business Communicators was founded in 1970 and now has 1,400 members in 70 countries. No matter what your a€?workstationa€? happens to bea€”whether your workplace office or your kitchen tablea€”youa€™re performing the task of preparing that sales report in an organizational setting. Leta€™s assume that you and the classmate you called on the phone are on roughly equal footinga€”youa€™re both juniors, your grades in the class are about the same, and so forth. Downward communication, for example, is appropriate for giving instructions or directionsa€”telling people what to do.
As information seeps downward, for instance, it tends to lose some of its original clarity and often becomes distorted or downright wrong.
The problem is especially bad when such horizontal communications breach official upward or downward lines of communication, thus bypassing managers who might be able to resolve the conflict. Informal communication, for example, can take place either among people within the company (internally) or between insiders and outsiders (externally). Informal communication can take place just about anywhere (in one persona€™s cubicle, in the cafeteria, on the golf course) and by just about any means (phone, e-mail, instant messaging, face-to-face conversation). Because much of it is communicated orally, ita€™s likely to get distorted and often degenerates into outright misinformation. In the 1970s, Chicago-area McDonalda€™s outlets found themselves fighting rumors about worms in their hamburgers. Because ita€™s your job to replace bad information with good information, you need to find out whata€™s really going on. Its only function is to carry information, so therea€™s no reason why you cana€™t pump some useful information through it. In a practical sense, what can a managera€”say, the leader of a long-term product-development teama€”do to provide better communication?
They also reflect good leadership: Even though the information in this case relates only indirectly to immediate team tasks, youa€™re sharing information with people who need it, and youa€™re demonstrating integrity (youa€™re being honest, and youa€™re following through on a commitment to the team). Noise, for example, can be a barrier to communication; if you and other team members are mumbling among yourselves while your team leader is trying to explain task assignments, youa€™re putting up a barrier to group communication.
None of these advantages, though, magically appears simply because workplace diversity increases. If the conversation doesna€™t go as smoothly as youa€™d expected, therea€™s a good reason: Men and women in the workplace dona€™t communicate the same way. Much the same can be said of differences in style arising from other cultural filters, such as ethnicity, education, age, and experience.
Recall that when we introduced the organizational structure of Notes-4-You in ChapterA 6, Managing for Business Success, we characterized it as a functional organizationa€”one that groups together people who have comparable skills and perform similar tasks. Simply this: The more a€?divisionalizeda€? an organization becomes, the more likely it will be to encounter communication barriers. At the same time, each group must contribute to the company-wide effort to achieve common goals. If design specs called for quadraphonic sound, production might have to explain the difficulties in procuring sufficiently lightweight speaker components.
In addition, communicating as a member of a team obviously requires much more than explaining the limitations of someone elsea€™s professional expertise. Its formal communication network consists of all communications that flow along an organizationa€™s official lines of authority.
Candidates should possess excellent relationship-building skills and a strong background in strategic communication planning, as well as experience with change communications. Nationwide consists of four core businesses: personal protection, personal investment, retirement planning and commercial and specialty insurance lines. Youa€™re still a sender transferring information to a receiver, but the organizational context of the task requires you to consider different factors for success in communicating effectively (including barriers to success). Your phone conversation, therefore, is a€?laterala€?: You belong to the same group (your accounting class), and your group activities take place on the same level. If it looks familiar, thata€™s because wea€™ve borrowed it from ChapterA 6, Managing for Business Success, where it appeared as the organization chart for the fictional company Notes-4-You.
External communicationexternal communicationChannel through which communication occurs between parties inside a company and parties outside it. By and large, though you can use the same set of tools (memos, reports, phone calls) to communicate in any of these four situations, some tools (team blogs, news releases, supplier Web sites) are useful only in one or two.


For the simple reason that ita€™s typically widespread and can rarely be prevented, even if ita€™s not officially sanctioned by the companya€”indeed, even when the company tries to discourage or bypass it. Remember: The more you know about grapevine information, the better you can interact with employees (who, in turn, will probably come to regard you as someone who keeps in touch with the things that concern them). As a matter of fact, youa€™re putting up two barriers: In addition to creating noise, youa€™re failing to listen. In the rest of this section, wea€™ll overlook personal barriers to communication and concentrate instead on two types of barriers that are encountered by groups of people, sometimes large and sometimes small, working toward organizational goals. To the contrary: As diversity increases, so does the possibility that a group will be composed of people who have different attitudes and different ways of expressing them.
According to American linguist Deborah Tannen, men tend to assert their status, to exert confidence, and to regard asking questions as a sign of weakness. Not surprisingly, communication gets more complicated, for the same reason that an organization comes to rely on more levels of management.[290] Notes-4-You, for instance, needs two supervisors because its note takers dona€™t do the same work as its copiers. Moreover, certain organizational projects, like Motorolaa€™s cell phone project, may require the two groups to work together more closely than usual. Once theya€™ve surfaced, technical and other problems have to be resolveda€”a process that will inevitably require even more communication. External communication occurs between parties inside a company and parties outside the company, such as suppliers, customers, and investors. The informal communication network, sometimes called the grapevine, goes to work whenever two or more employees get together and start talking about the company and their jobs. Cultural barriers, sometimes called cultural filters, are the barriers that result from differences among people of different cultures.
I guess for now i'll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. One of the things that employeesa€”the receiversa€”most want to know is: What, exactly, does my job entail?[279]) Like a sales report, upward communication usually provides managers with information that they need for making decisions, but ita€™s also the vehicle for new ideas, suggestions, and complaints. The same thing may happen when bad newsa€”say, a negative status reporta€”must be sent upward.
Because it incorporates the organization chart for Notes-4-You, it shows the companya€™s lines of authoritya€”what, in ChapterA 6, Managing for Business Success, we called its reporting relationships.
Unofficial information crosses virtually every boundary drawn by a firma€™s organization chart, reaching out and touching everyone in the organization, and whata€™s more, it travels a lot faster than official information. About 80 percent of top executives say that learning to listen is the most important skill in getting things done in the workplace,[286] and as President Calvin Coolidge once remarked, a€?No man ever listened himself out of a job.a€? Business people who dona€™t listen risk offending others or misinterpreting what theya€™re saying.
In this respect, our structure shares certain characteristics with another form of organizationa€”divisional, which groups people into units that are more or less self-contained and that are largely accountable for their own performance. In addition, because their groups dona€™t perform the same work, the two supervisors dona€™t call on the same resources from the companya€™s four functional managers. When that happens, employees from each of the two groups may find themselves working together on the same team, but even so, one crucial fact remains: Information that one group possesses and the other doesna€™t must still be exchanged among team members.
As wea€™ve seen in this part of the chapter, improving communication is a top priority for most organizations (for one thing, developing a team-based environment is otherwise impossible), and the ongoing task of improving communication is pretty much the same thing as the ongoing task of overcoming barriers to it. Functional barriers arise when communication must flow among individuals or groups who work in different functional areas of an organization.
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Horizontal communication supports efforts to coordinate tasks and otherwise help people work together.
Both internal and external forms of communication include everything from formal e-mail and official reports to face-to-face conversations and casual phone calls. Here we can see that the reporting relationships in question consist of upward communication from subordinates to superiors.
Determined to protect and manage the most important assets in their lives; their families, property and finances.
External communication also takes such forms as customer and supplier Web sites, news releases, and advertising. In reporting to the operations manager, for example, the note-takersa€™ supervisor communicates upward.
Conversely, when the note-takersa€™ manager needs to give direction to note takers, she will use downward communication.
If the note-takersa€™ manager and the copiersa€™ manager must get together to prepare a joint report for the operations manager, theya€™ll engage in lateral communication.



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