Friday, January 27, 2006

A New Perspective of Organizational Communication

One cannot help wondering sometimes whether major problems in organizations are due to lack of effective communication at all levels. These problems can range between bad morale, declining performance, non-compliance with safety regulations, or destructive conflicts. The root cause may be the same for all these complicated problems: miscommunication.

Since organizations are defined as ‘people working together to achieve common purpose and hold themselves collectively responsible for the results,’ human interaction is thus emphasized. In other words communication becomes the main tool of both initiating and setting the right direction of this interaction in the work-place to focus on accomplishing organizational goals and objectives. The clearer these objectives are to the employees, and the more they are allowed to participate in setting and discussing these goals among themselves, the more committed and accountable they become. Open communication at all level of management is crucial in involving employees in the buying-in the organizational culture and shared values. According to Katz, studies indicate that managers spend 75% or more of their time communicating with others so that people can do their jobs with more comprehension. In fact, other studies proved that the productivity of the employees who ‘understand’ their role in achieving organizational objectives is much higher than those who are doing what they are told to do in a directive way. This calls over the relationship between open communications with employees reflecting trust in them as business partners and in their judgment in taking the right decisions. Communication here is used as an empowerment tool.

The Japanese reached a mark of excellence in pushing open communication down to the shop-floor workers level in their organizations. Decisions may take a longer time compared with the western style of decision making process, but once a decision is made it is ‘adopted’ by all layers of employment in the organization and a ‘collective’ effort will enhance realizing the decisions made as efficiently and effectively as humanly possible. The miracle here is that ‘perception’ which complicates communication and making each and every individual’s response and feedback in a very personal unique experience. The Japanese style of organizational communication is used here as a ‘loyalty enhancer’ where the organizational culture is built around team-work and its dynamics in group rather than individual accomplishments, and where the employees assume ‘ownership’ of the business, and the organization becomes ‘home’ for them.

Negotiation is another domain where we can feel the impact of effective communication in reaching win/win situations through applying the art and science of persuasion, good listening, self-control, and alertness. In fact negotiations can be defined as ‘a communication process where each party is trying to achieve preset objectives through effective communication.” If business knowledge and goal setting are vital to business success, communication skills could make the difference between success and failure when it comes to negotiating a business deal. A skilled negotiator needs to correctly ‘read’ his opponent both verbally and non-verbally before developing a position, approach, and tactics to achieve his objectives. Getting the right messages from a negotiating party is a winning edge that lends leverage to the party who uses his communication competency better. In fact, effective communication is the essence of mastering salesmanship. I cannot imagine a salesperson that is incompetent in ‘selling’ his/her product or service to his customer.

If we talk about creative problem solving, we will find that good communication underlies the process of analyzing, understanding, defining problems. The whole process depends on gathering information which again cannot be done with communicating effectively with all concerned parties of the problem. Brain storming to generate alternatives and selecting the best solution to solve the problem including coaching and counseling in behavior related and personality conflict problems. The diversity in the work-place with all the differences of people’s demographics, backgrounds, and ethnicity make the challenge even tougher. Sensitivity training helps organizational leaders identify any cultural biasness and prejudices. This type of training sometimes include a confrontation component, having conflicting parties express frankly what they feel about each other which – if not done right – can turn into chaos and personal vendettas.

Although enhancing organizational communication is every manger’s responsibility, it is – in my opinion – the prime responsibility of top management. They should ensure open communication channels at all level of employment in their organizations. Systems like open door policies, employees’ advisory boards, HR committees, and recreational activities committees are different ways of pushing down open communication throughout the whole organization. Managers should learn to listen to their people, respect their opinion, and value and recognize their contribution if they want optimize their performance. I can safely say here that the more positively they interact with their teams, the committed and motivated they become.

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