Communication and Management

Mathias Mendez was recently hired as the president of an online retailer's purchasing department. His appointment was confirmed to all employees of the company through an e-mail, and his department was waiting for his arrival. His managers told him that his first job in the department was to try to cut costs. Mathias had not decided precisely what to do, but he had calculated that by incorporating a freeze on new hiring, reducing all but essential travel, reducing education, and reducing the use of seasonal and contract workers, he would be able to achieve the target cuts.

He was eager to prove to his bosses that he was working on the issue, so he sent his managers and employees an e-mail saying that he would soon announce cost-cutting steps. Unfortunately, this was perceived by workers to mean that layoffs would occur. Rumors soon began to fly about the hiring of "Matt the Knife" to outsource the department and the laying off of everyone. Morale plummeted and people began using their time to refine their curriculum vitae and apply for jobs. Mathias was distrusted by the staff and he was cut off from contact with them all but routine.

There is a close connection between contact and management. Communication refers to the process by which data is exchanged between two or more people (machines are also increasingly included in communication, but the focus here is restricted to communication between people). Each of the functions of management — planning, coordinating, handling, and controlling — depends on effective communication. To evaluate plans, administrators must be able to receive accurate information, and they must be able to send accurate information for the plans to be enforced. If information is sent and received correctly, it is possible to educate everybody in an organization. Nonetheless, as we see in the earlier example, communications may create significant problems in organizations if information is misinterpreted or when information is distributed incorrectly.

The Role of Communication in Management

Management's job is to achieve an organization's goals. To do this, administrators create a plan that sets out what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Managers must convey this information to everyone in the organization in order to execute the strategy. That is, the plan must be conveyed to the organization's leaders. Managers, however, need to do much more than simply tell people what they need to do to help the project. We also need to inspire people to support the project, develop organizational engagement, build relationships and cooperation, and keep everyone updated about events and actions that impact the organization. Good communication not only teaches, but also helps build a culture that makes people feel like they belong to the company and want to support it. The example of the opening demonstrates what may result from poor communication. Here are some of the advantages of effective communication.

  • Provides clarity. Confusion, uncertainty, and ambiguity make people uncomfortable and uncooperative. Making roles, responsibilities, and relationships clear gives everyone the information they need to do their jobs and to understand their contributions to the organization. Effective communication reduces the cost associated with conflicts, misunderstandings, and mistakes.
  • Builds Relationships. A culture that promotes open communication reduces tension between hierarchical levels of employees, both professionally and socially. In a trusting and collaborative culture, people are more likely to seek help with problems and to suggest solutions and improvements. Effective communication creates a collegial culture that fosters teamwork and encourages cooperation.
  • Creates commitment. Effective communication involves not only sending information but also receiving it. By listening to employees’ concerns, allowing them to have input on their work and their workplace, and giving consideration to their suggestions, managers can make everyone in the organization feel like they are valued contributors. When employees feel like they are valued in the organization, they will likely be more engaged and motivated. Effective communication creates support and commitment.
  • Defines expectations. When people are uncertain about what is expected of them and how they will be evaluated, they can’t do their jobs well. Performance reviews are difficult because the employee does not know the performance standards they are expected to meet. And if corrective measures are necessary, the employee may be resentful if he can’t see how his behaviors reduced his effectiveness. When expectations and standards are clear, employees know what they need to do to get a positive review and the benefits that come with it.
These are just a few of the many benefits that come from effective communications. Managers can only reach organizational goals when the people in the organization are committed to the goals. People perform much better when they are informed and involved.

The Communication-Process Model

The communication process may seem simple: one person sends a message and others receive it. The process becomes more complex, however, because the information in the message must be sent and received accurately. The communication-process model describes how the information is sent and received.
The following diagram shows this model.
If one person interacts with another person, it is easier to understand the template. The person who initiates the contact, the sender, has information that he wants to know about the other person, the recipient. Nevertheless, the data must be stored in a form that can be transmitted before it can be sent. The data is presented in words spoken to the recipient in a simple case. Or the data can be translated to the receiver's printed text, tables, maps, or graphs. In a more complicated case, the data is translated into words or images which are then transformed to the receiver's electronic signals. In a more complicated case, the information is encoded into words or images which are then converted to the receiver's electronic signals. The channel is the medium by which the information is transmitted. It could be air that transmits sound waves, paper that transmits text and images, or wires or magnetic fields that transmit electronic signal. (We will address channels in more detail later in this module.) The management had details in the opening instance that Mathias was hired and when he would begin. They needed the information from the company's employees so they put it in a letter and sent it to the employees.
The receiver is reversing the cycle. She receives and decodes the encrypted text. It ensures that she returns the message to knowledge that can be understood. An employee reads the message in the opening instance and knows who was hired and when to begin. Information was transferred to employees from managers. The recipient could send feedback to the sender in an interactive interaction system to show that the message was received and how it was perceived. This can trigger an engaging back-and-forth exchange that can ensure the recipient that the message was received and correctly understood.

Common Missteps in Communication

That step in the design of the interaction system creates the potential for mistakes to occur. Two e-mail messages are identified in the opening scenario. Both of them were inside the organization, but they achieved a lot of different results. What was special about the messages that triggered the various results?

The first mistake may occur when there is no proper encoding of the information to be transmitted. Find the email sent to announce the appointment of Mathias by management. Management had to communicate clear information, and it was sent by a simple e-mail.

The e-mail from Mathias had a different purpose. He wanted to tell his bosses that he was following their orders and that he was working on a cost-cutting project. Yet he didn't encode it well when he put the data into the message. He wanted to convey that he had been working on the issue but had taken no decisions. What he really expressed was that by all means he was going to cut costs and fast. Since the data was not correctly encoded, the incorrect information was sent.

The first phase in good communication is the ability to communicate information in a clear and concise manner, whether written, spoken, graphic or numerical. Nothing else occurs when data is not properly encoded. Later we will look at specific recommendations on how to configure messages and take into account the desires of the recipients. Missteps often happen during encoding when the recipient interprets the message differently than the intended sender. In the case of Mathias, the message he sent was "I'm talking about ways to cut costs and I'm going to let you know when I've got a plan." But the message was interpreted by workers as "I'm going to do anything I need to cut costs."

Since feedback is a message sent in the opposite direction, all these issues can arise during feedback from the recipient to the sender. Feedback is not sufficient in many situations and is not needed. A lot of information that is shared is intended to keep people informed, and it is not expected to receive attention or reply. Once management sent the notice about the appointment of Mathias, not every employee was expected to respond. Nonetheless, feedback is sometimes necessary to be sure that both the sender and the receiver have the same information and perceive it the same way. The original sender must be sure to understand the sender's input, ask questions to clarify any misinterpretation, and answer any questions that may arise. Being a good listener is the last step in good communication. In the following sections, we will examine the issues of miscommunication and how feedback can be collected.

Formal and Informal Communication Systems

Formal and informal information systems operate in most organizations. Formal communication systems are the tools used to convey the information needed to conduct the organization's operations. Standardized contact complies with the rules and regulations imposed by the discipline or legislation (e.g. standardized reporting protocols for monitoring workplace injuries). Such information flows within the command chain or within the roles of the mission. The message may be procedures for providing managers with regular progress reports. Exchanging details on the progress of a plan may be scheduled meetings. Human resources may schedule workshops for new policies and procedures to be communicated. The formal communication system ensures the necessary flow of information through the organization and controls the dissemination of this information. Not everyone in a company has access to statements of progress or is attending task meetings. Formal communication mechanisms ensure that information is accessible not to anyone but to those who need it.

Not all interaction is structured in an organization, and not all communication is regulated. Informal communication systems are beyond the formal system. Informal networks can interact with anyone else in an organization. We are skipping over centralized grades, divisions and functions. We saw how misinformation spread through the informal process could damage an entity in the opening scenario. However, it is not inherently detrimental to informal communication systems. The informal network is the primary way in which knowledge is distributed and research is performed in many organizations. There are some companies that rely more on what you know than what you know to get a job done.

Informal communication systems have two main types: social networks and grapevine. A social network is a web of personal relationships that transcend the boundaries of hierarchy, department and organization. The following diagram shows a simple social network system.
                                       A bunch of blue circles connected by various lines.

In a social network, a person may reach out for information or assistance to anyone else in their network. He can also seek assistance from another group through the linking member. People with large social networks have access to a lot of information, and they can spread information through an organization by linking individuals. In an organisation, connecting individuals can be very powerful.

The grapevine is how a company spreads gossip. A rumor mill is another word for a grapevine. In some ways, nearly everyone engages in gossip, so it's a very successful way to spread information. Nevertheless, knowledge also travels more easily through the grapevine than through structured sources of information. Sadly, there is no control over the data and it can be skewed or even absolutely produced. The grapevine is especially important when there are insufficient formal communications. Citizens don't like the conditions that affect them to be unknown. If the structured process does not include information, they must look for and spread information through the grapevine.

A grapevine is unstructured and transitory, unlike a social network, although the grapevine can follow links to social networks. Information flows by fortuitous experiences, casual gatherings and overheard conversations in the grapevine. The pace and distribution of grapevines has been greatly increased by digital communication and social media.

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