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Chapter 10 – Communication
Communication is the process by which information is exchanged between a sender and a receiver. Interpersonal
communication involves the exchange of information between people.
Process and an Example
–Purchasing manager thinks, “I think we’re getting short on A-40s.”
–Purchasing manger keyboards memo to assistant requesting that he/she order A-40s.
–Purchasing manager sends memo by email.
–Assistant reads memo.
–Assistant checks parts catalogue to determine what an A-40 is.
–Assistant realizes that he must place an order for flange bolts.
–Assistant sends the manager a copy of the order.
Effective communication occurs when the right people receive the right information in a timely manner. Violating
any of these three conditions results in a communication episode that is ineffective.
Communication by Strict Chain of Command
The chain of command refers to the lines of authority and formal reporting relationships in an organization. Under
this system, three necessary forms of communication can be accomplished:
-Downward communication: Information that flows from the top of the organization toward the bottom. A vice-
president of production might instruct a plant manager to gear up for manufacturing a new product.
-Upward communication: Information that flows from the bottom of the organization toward the top. A chemical
engineer who conceives of a new plastic formula with unique properties might pass this on to the research and
development manager, who would then inform the relevant vice-president.
-Horizontal Communication: Information that flows between departments or functional units, usually as a means
of coordinating effort. Within a strict chain of command, such communication would flow up to and then down
from a common manager.
Deficiencies in the Chain of Command
The formal chain of command is an incomplete and sometimes ineffective path of communication. Managers need
–Informal communication: The chain of command does not consider informal communication between members.
Informal communication helps people accomplish their jobs more effectively. Not all-informal communication
benefits the organization.
–Filtering: The tendency for a message to be watered down or stopped during transmission. Both upward and
downward filtering can occur. The potential for filtering increases with the number of links in the communication
chain. Organizations often establish channels in addition to those in the formal chain of command. Many managers
establish an open door policy,in which any organizational member below them can communicate directly without
going through the chain. To prevent downward filtering, many organizations attempt to communicate directly with
potential receivers, bypassing the chain of command.
-Slowness: The chain of command can be very slow especially for horizontal communication between
departments. It is not a good mechanism for reacting quickly to customer problems. Cross-functional teams and
employee empowerment have been used to improve communication by short-circuiting the chain of command.
The one-to-one exchange of information between a boss and an employee. A key element in upward and
downward communication in organizations. Perceptions that managers are good communicators are positively
correlated with organizational performance. Managers and employees often differ in their perceptions of the
–How employees should and do allocate time.
–How long it takes to learn a job.
–The importance employees attach to pay.
–The amount of authority the employee has.
–The employee’s skills and abilities.
–The employee’s performance and obstacles to good performance.
–The manager’s leadership style.
These perceptual differences suggest a lack of openness in communication, which might contribute to role conflict
and ambiguity. A lack of openness in communication reduces employee job satisfaction.
Barriers to Effective Manager-Employee Communication
What causes communication problems between managers and employees?
Conflicting Role Demand: Many managers have difficulties balancing task and social-emotional role
demands. Two separate messages that focus on task and social-emotional issues will be more effective
than one message that combines both.
The Mum Effect: The tendency to avoid communicating unfavourable news to others. It is more likely
when the sender is responsible for the bad news. The mum effect applies to both employees and
Is an organization’s informal communication network. The grapevine cuts across formal lines of communication.
The grapevine does not just communicate information through word of mouth. Organizations often have several
grapevine systems. Transmits information that is relevant to the performance of the organization as well as
personal gossip. How accurate is the grapevine? Personal information and emotionally charged information are
most likely to be distorted. Only a proportion of those who receive grapevine news pass it on. Personality
characteristics play a role in grapevine participation. The nature of the information also influences who chooses to
pass it on. The physical location of organizational members is also related to the opportunity to both receive and
transmit information via the grapevine.
Is the grapevine desirable from the organization’s point of view? It can keep employees informed about important
organizational matters. It can provide a test of employee reactions to proposed changes without making formal
commitments. It can serve as a potent informal recruiting source.
The grapevine can become a problem when it becomes a constant pipeline for rumours. A rumour is an unverified
belief that is in general circulation. Because people cannot verify the information as accurate, rumours are
susceptible to severe distortion as they are passed from person to person. Rumours spread fastest and farthest
when: The information is especially ambiguous, the content of the rumour is important to those involved, the
rumour seems credible, and the recipient is anxious.
The Verbal Language of Work
Jargon refers to the specialized language used by job holders or members of particular occupations or
organizations. Jargon can be an efficient means of communicating with peers and provides a touch of status to
those who have mastered it. It can be a barrier to clear communication between departments and those outside of
the organization or profession. Jargon can be intimidating and confusing to new organizational members.
The Non-verbal Language of Work
Non-verbal communication refers to the transmission of messages by some medium other than speech or writing.
Major forms of non-verbal communication include: Body language, Props, artifacts, and costumes.
Body language is non-verbal communication that occurs by means of the sender’s bodily motions and facial
expressions or the sender’s physical location in relation to the receiver. Two important messages sent via body
–The extent to which the sender likes and is interested in the receiver.
–The sender’s views concerning the relative status of the sender and the receiver.