Communication is the cornerstone of everyday life. No individual can think of a moment without communication. Communication has been in existence, though informal from time immemorial. It started perhaps even before man knows how to write and read the word “communication”. The development of communication through the ages has achieved many milestones from simple body language and ancient pictorial messages to the modern television, telephone and internet. Communication can be made to happen even without the help of language. Of course, the invention of language has made a great fillip to the advancement of communication process. The ancient people communicated through their gestures and sounds. Even today body language is being used as an important means of passing messages. It is a common fact in the context of communication that there is no way for no communication. That means whatever one does he communicates something. It signifies the presence of communication everyone’s life. Communication is possible even without gestures and body language. A sympathetic look, an emotional facial expression also communicates something.
Meaning and definition
The word ‘communication’ is derived from the Latin word ‘communis’ which means common. Communication is the process of passing messages from point/ person to another. The messages passed are of several kinds such as ideas, emotions, facts, opinion, and attitudes. Thus, it requires the existence of at least two elements, i.e., sender and receiver. The sender who stands at the source point passes the messages through a medium to the recipient at the destination point with an intention to make the latter to perceive the same idea as intended by the former. The way in which the recipient perceives the messages determines the success of communication process. Communication also is possible with oneself. When somebody daydreams, imagine or find a solution for a problem himself, he is communicating within himself. Such a communication is described as intrapersonal communication.
Given below are some of the definitions of communication:
“Any act by which one person gives to or receives from person information about that person’s needs, desires, perceptions, knowledge, or affective states. Communication may be intentional or unintentional, may involve conventional or unconventional signals, may take linguistic or nonlinguistic forms, and may occur through spoken or other modes.” (National Joint Committee for the Communicative Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities, 1992, p. 2).
“Communication is a dynamic process that individuals use to exchange ideas, relate experiences, and share desires through speaking, writing, gestures or sign language” (Glenn & Smith, 1998 p.39).
Types of communication
As already pointed out, communication cannot be limited to language alone. It takes the form of gestures and actions and even look and facial expression amount to communication. It can occur through different processes, methods, over a number of medium with different styles to diverse directions. Naturally, it can be of several kinds. The important ones are described below:
Communication on the basis of channel used – based on the channel used for transmitting messages from one point to another, communication can be bifurcated into two:
- Verbal Communication:
- Non verbal communication
Verbal communication is possible by the use of written and spoken words. If the communication happens with written language such as reports, statements, documents etc, it is written communication. Oral communication is the use of spoken words, which may be either face to face communication or a conversation over the phone or voice chat over the internet.
Non verbal communication includes the overall body language of the communicator, which takes the form of body postures, facial expression, and hand gestures. Photographs, signboards, sketches and painting also form part of nonverbal communication.
Communication on the basis of style and purposes:
- Formal Communication
- Informal Communication
Communication takes place between two persons within a set of formalities is known as formal communication. Business communication or corporate communication, which occurs between people in the organisation having authority and responsibility, is a typical formal communication. It is officially demanded and has a strict structure of formalities.
An informal communication has no rigid rules and guidelines and is a frequently occurring one. Most often it happens between friends and family members for sharing information about casual happenings and matters. It may also happen in organisation between people with similar personal interests and needs. Informal communication in organisation is coined as ‘grapevine’.
Communication on the basis of direction of movement of messages:
- Upward Communication
- Downward Communication
- Horizontal Communication
When the communicator passes messages to a person who stands in an upper position in the organsdaitional hierarchy, it is called upward communication. The reports and explanations sent by the subordinates to the superior belong to this category.
A downward communication is one which comes from top to bottom. Orders, directions etc. coming from the superiors to the subordinates are examples. If the communication takes place between peers having similar position in the organisation is known as horizontal communication. The upward and downward communications are together known as vertical communication.
On the basis of number of persons involved:
- Intrapersonal communication
- Interpersonal Communication
- Group communication
- Mass communication
Mere passing of messages from one person to another does not amount to communication. The receiver should perceive the meaning and significance of the data in the same way as anticipated by the sender. In fact, communication is getting the receiver and sender toned together for a particular message. The chief principles of effective communication are outline below:
- Clearness and integrity of message to be conveyed.
- Adequate briefing of the recipient.
- Accurate plan of objectives.
- Reliability and uniformity of the message.
- To know the main purpose of the message.
- Proper response or feedback.
- Correct timing.
- Use of proper medium to convey the message properly.
- Use of informal communication.
These are the characteristics of effective communication. However, it need not be followed always in the process of communication. To make it effective, the following guidelines can be used:
- Try to simplify the thoughts before communicating your message.
- Analyze the intent of each and every message.
- Consider the overall physical setting whenever you communicate.
- Discuss with others, where appropriate, in planning communication.
- Be careful while communicating, of the overtone as well as basic content of your message.
- Take the opportunity to suggest something of help or value of the receiver.
- Follow-up the communication.
- Try to transmitting the message in a proper way.
- Be sure the actions are in conformity with communication.
- Seek not only to be understood but understand.
Communication in organizations
Communication is an indispensable element of every organisation regardless of nature, type, size etc. The need for effective communication in organisation can hardly be over emphasized. The relationship between employer and employee, between one employee and another, employee motivation etc, depends to a large extent upon the flow of effective communication. Modern managers spend majority of their time for Information gathering and transmission. Information are needed at all levels of management for decision making. The recent changes in the organizational structure and environmental factors have compounded the need for effective communication. Specifically, the following changes have been occurred in and around the modern organisation. The following factors contributed such changes in the environment, both internal and external.
- Technological advancement
- Change in Employee expectations
- Change in customer expectation
As a result of the above changes in the environment, the organisation are to face the following situations:
- Work is more complex and requires greater coordination and interaction among workers
- The pace of work is faster
- Workers are more distributed
- Simultaneous, distributed work processes are more common
- Knowledge and innovation are more critical to an organization’s competitive advantage
- Communication technologies and networks are increasingly essential to an organization’s structure and strategy
Considering these changes, management has introduced many trends/approaches to cope up with the changes such as organisation reengineering, Total Quality Management, empowerment/participative initiative, and so on. All these approaches to be effective, organisation leaders must appreciate the role of communication process in all of them. In short, the organisation must be communication-intensive. “In communication-intensive organizations, managers understand what communication is, how it really “works,” the multitude of forms it can take, and what its potential for good and harm can be. They know that communication pervades their activities as well as their organizations. They recognize communication as the most powerful and versatile tool a manager has. And they know that effectively harnessing the power of the tool takes great skill, hard work, and keen, constant vigilance.”
Effective communication is highly demanded at all levels of management because of the following grounds:
- Free flow of information across the various levels. Information is a basic resource in modern organisation like men, material and machinery. Data is the raw material for decision making. It is undoubtful that decision making is the back bone management. Therefore, to ensure free flow of data and information, the communication system should be full-fledged and foolproof.
- Manager-employee relations. Manager-employee relationship rests upon the proper understanding between them. Manager cannot get their work done by employees unless they are communicated properly what is to be done. The employee-manager relations get disrupted on account of ineffective communication. Misunderstanding and misrepresentation can be reduced/eliminated if the organisation has effective communication system. The relationship between communication and strong relationship can be judged from the following statement. “We do this because someone we perceive as an “expert” advises it, and because it can benefit us in some way. We do that because we’re fearful of the consequences if we don’t. We do this because we respect someone. We do that because we don’t respect someone. Because we love someone, we act this way. Because we dislike someone, we act that way. We do this because we accept someone’s legitimate right to expect it of us. We do that because we don’t accept the expectation as legitimate. Because we want someone’s approval even our own we do this. Because we fear their or our disapproval, we do that.”
- Employee motivation and morale. Communication can be used as a tool for enhancing employee motivation and morale. The root cause for organizational conflict may be sometimes because of faulty and inappropriate communication. When the employees are well informed as to what they are supposed to and not supposed to do in their organizational roles, the chances of misunderstanding and conflict are minimum.
- Increased Productivity. With effective communication, employee motivation and morale can be enhanced and thereby the firm can achieve improved productivity. Absence of conflicts and problems will contribute good industrial relations and high performance.
- Effective Leadership. Leadership is the ability to influence other people. On e can influence others in many ways. However, communication has been accepted as one of the important qualities of leadership. Because of this, it is said that “leadership is almost entirely a communication activity, certainly more so communication than any other activity.”
In the research article entitled Seven Communication Tips an Effective Leader Must Have, author William F. Kumuyi has rightly said “If Persuasion Is What You Want, the Email, Voice Mail, Telephone and Tele fax are “Poor” Channels. If You Want to Put Your Workers on the Vision Trip, Look into Their Eyes and Tell Them Your Mission”. The author has described in detail the seven tips to become effective leader. They are given below.
- Examine the message
- Establish the right working climate
- Engage the right channel
- Empathize with the audience
- Express yourself to impress your audience
- Employ the appropriate language
- Expect feedback
Communication and conflict management
Communication and Management
Management is the art of getting things done by other people. To get the things done, managers must communicate properly to the operatives as to what is to be done, who is to do it, when it is to be done and how it is to be done. Many research studies show that not less than 75% of the managers’ time is utilized for communication. “If it’s harder or more precise data we need on the question of communication’s role in managerial effectiveness, consider a nationwide survey I recently conducted of more than 300 managers. First a few demographics: 20% of these managers worked in the marketing function of their organizations, 17% in accounting, 13% in operations, 11% in finance, 4% in human resources, with 35% representing some combination of functions”.
Formal and Informal communication
Formal communication is concerned with the flow of messages with rigid guidelines and authentication. It solely happens for the fulfillment of organizational obligations and between people possessing various positions in the organisation. It has well defined rules and regulations and untimely flow is not allowed. It is mostly happen in black and white to serve as a means for future reference. Formal communication demands the existence of a proper communication channel and flow of communication beyond these channels is not permitted. Departmental meetings, conferences, reports, news bulletin etc are some of the common examples of formal communication. The formal structure of communication channel restricts the free flow of messages within the organisation and thereby it consumes more time.
Informal communication means the transfer of messages to satisfy the personal interests of the parties involved. Such a communications is possible through a channel known as grapevine. The rumors, gossips and unofficial information are flown through this channel and it has no formal restrictions. The organisation permits such relationship between employees at least because of the reason that it is likely to free them from stressful life. Grapevine allows the employees to share everything interesting to them between peers and encourages a happy mood within the organisation. However, rumors may happen unnecessarily and secret information may leak before it is ready to the formal group.
Communication in the changing technology
The media and tools of communication in the past were very limited. But, modern organizations have plenty of options in the selection of communication technologies. Modern communication technologies outweigh the traditional ones in fast transmission and feedback. Organizations have benefited a lot from these sophisticated technologies and that paved the way for quicker decision making. Video conferencing, cell phone, email, fax, web etc. are the principal means of communication in the modern organisation.
Employee Communication: Changing Role
With the changes taking place both inside and outside the organisation, the role of employees in the communication function has also undergone sea changes. “At one time, employee job in the communication process was nice and not necessary”.
But, with the rapid changes that are taking place in the environment, employees are compelled to act beyond the conventional spectrum of job. “As a result, organizations are beginning to realize that employee communication is no longer “nice to do”; it is critical to success”. The changes in the environment have posed many challenges to employees. The responsibility of inefficient management of communication lies upon the shoulders of both managers and employees. The pitfalls of bad internal communication can be discussed in two ways:
- Short-term Impact
- Long-term impact
- Spread of misinformation.
- Erosion of employee trust and confidence.
- Conflicts between employees and management.
- Misinformed employees can make wrong decisions.
- Internal brand image suffers.
- Dissatisfaction among employees leads to higher attrition.
- Lack of coherent and shared vision.
- Low employee morale results in lower productivity.
- Impact on company’s stocks.
- Organization’s external brand value suffers.
Types of organizational Communication
Communication in the organizational context is mostly formal. It is classified on the basis of direction of flow of messages across various levels. Mainly, it can be bifurcated into the following categories:
- Downward Communication
- Upward Communication
Communication is said to be downward when it flows from top to bottom. In the organizational hierarchy, top to bottom represents flow of communication from superior to subordinate. The messages passed through downward communication are circulars, rules, instructions etc. The main purposes of downward communication are:
- To provide specific task directives or instructions on how to do the job.
- To provide information which produces an understanding of the task and its relationship to other organisational tasks and therefore, gives a rationale or reasons for the job?
- To provide information about organizational policies, procedure, and practices.
- To provide feedback on performance to the subordinate.
- To provide philosophical information regarding the organization’s mission or orientation towards goals of the organisation.
This is the exact opposite of upward communication. Upward communication occurs when people at the bottom communicate with those at the top. In downward communication, message flows from the subordinates to the superiors. Reports, explanations, suggestions etc are communicated in this manner. Upward communication is needed in the organisation because:
- To create receptiveness of communication.
- To create a feeling of belongingness through participation.
- To evaluate communication.
- To demonstrate a concern for the ideas of each individual.
In spite of the various advantages of upward communication, subordinates are reluctant to effectively communicate to their superiors. This is because of the fear of negative and punitive actions by the superior to the subordinate. The subordinates feel that superiors will not be happy with the messages sent by them and will lead to actions like suspension and dismissal. However, this tendency can be discouraged, if the following actions are taken.
- The supervisor must make known his need for messages from his subordinates and his interest in hearing from them.
- The supervisor should reward his subordinates for their upward communication efforts when this is possible.
- The supervisor should cultivate a relationship of mutual understanding and. respect between himself and his subordinates. Through his own actions, he.can gain the trust and respect that will also encourage more open communication.
- Superiors should emphasize to subordinates the positive uses made of their messages as well as the negative uses.
- Supervisors can delegate authority and encourage subordinates to feel responsible for specific action performances. The importance of upward communication will normally be felt under these conditions.
- If upward communication is still below desired levels, other steps may be necessary in order to gain needed information. Formal questionnaires, reports and other information sources may be called for.
Necessity of communication in Team building
A team is a group of people joined together for a common purpose for which they are all accountable. A team is not a mere collection of people; rather it represents the relationship between one another for cooperation and mutual understanding. Team work opens up great vistas for employee and organizational development. Communication needs also increase as a result of encouragement for team building as a means of achievement of organizational objectives.
Necessity of communication in Decision making
The process of decision making involves the selection of a most suitable course of action from among a number of alternatives. The selection of the best course of action necessitates the analysis of all other available courses of action and for that mangers require information from different sources. Decision making is inevitable in management and it has been rightly observed that whatever a manager does, he does through decision making. Information or data is one of the various elements of decision making and information collected from various sources are disseminated or distributed among those who need it.