Chapter 10 Communication Chapter 10 Communication
I. What is Communication?
Communication is the process by which information is exchanged between a sender and a
receiver. The sender must encode his or her thoughts into some form that can be transmitted
to the receiver. The receiver must perceive the message and accurately decode it to achieve
understanding. Feedback involves yet another communication episode that tells the original
sender whether the receiver received and understood the message. Effective
communication occurs when the right people receive the right information in a timely
II. Basics of Organizational Communication
There are a number of basic issues about organizational communication.
A. Communication by Strict Chain of Command
When communication flows in accordance with an organization chart, we say that
communication follows along the chain of command or lines of authority and formal
In downward communication, information flows from the top of the organization toward the
bottom. In upward communication, information flows from the bottom of the organization
toward the top. Horizontal communication refers to information that flows between
departments or functional units, usually as a means of coordinating effort.
A lot of organizational communication follows the formal lines of authority shown on
organizational charts. However, the reality of organizational communication shows that the
formal chain of command is an incomplete and sometimes ineffective path of communication.
B. Deficiencies in the Chain of Command
Sticking strictly to the chain of command is often ineffective.
Informal Communication. The formal chain of command fails to consider informal
communication between members. This type of communication might not benefit the
organization since inaccurate rumours might be spread across the organization.
Filtering. At times, effective communication using the chain of command is inhibited by
filtering, which is the tendency for a message to be watered down or stopped altogether at
some point during transmission. Employees use upward filtering to keep negative performance
information out of their supervisor's hands. Supervisors use downward filtering to play the
"information is power" card.
To prevent filtering, some organizations have an open-door policy in which any
organizational member can communicate directly with a manager without going through the
chain of command. Managers may also wish to go outside normal channels if information has
Slowness. Even when the chain of command relays information accurately, it is painfully slow
especially for horizontal communication between departments.
III. Manager-Employee Communication Manager-employee communication consists of one-to-one exchange of information between a
boss and an employee. It represents a key element in upward and downward communication
in organizations. Most employees prefer their immediate supervisors as a source of
A. How Good Is Manager-Employee Communication?
Research indicates that managers and employees often disagree in their perceptions of such
fundamental workplace issues as employee use of time, how long it takes to learn a job, pay,
authority, employee skills and abilities, performance, and the manager's leadership style.
These perceptual differences indicate a lack of openness in communication which might
contribute to role conflict and ambiguity and reduce employee satisfaction.
B. Barriers to Effective Manager-Employee Communication
In addition to basic differences in personality and perception, a number of factors can cause
communication problems between managers and employees.
Conflicting Role Demands. Many managers have difficulties balancing the social-emotional
needs of workers and the role demands of the task.
The Mum Effect. The mum effect is the tendency to avoid communicating unfavourable news
to others. People often prefer to “keep mum” than convey bad news that might provoke
negative reactions on the part of the receiver. The mum effect applies to both employees and
IV. The Grapevine
A great deal of information travels quickly through organizations as a result of the grapevine.
A. Characteristics of the Grapevine
The grapevine is the informal communication network that exists in any organization. The
grapevine cuts across formal lines of communication. Although the grapevine is generally
thought of as involving word of mouth, written notes, e-mail and fax messages have may also
be involved. Organizations may have several loosely coordinated grapevine systems, and the
grapevine may transmit information that is relevant to the performance of the organization as
well as personal gossip. Non-controversial organizationally related information is often
accurate while personal information that is emotionally charged is likely to be distorted.
B. Who Participates in the Grapevine?
Personality characteristics play a role in the grapevine. Extroverts are more likely to pass on
information than introverts. The physical location and task elements of members are also
related to their opportunities to participate in the grapevine. Locations that receive a lot of
traffic or employees that must travel through the organization in the course of their jobs both
facilitate the operation of the grapevine.
C. Pros and Cons of the Grapevine
At times, the grapevine can be a regular substitute for formal communication either by
managerial default or as a deliberate attempt to "test the waters" on some proposed initiative
by "leaking" information. The grapevine can also add a little interest and diversion to the work
setting. A problem can occur in the grapevine when it spreads too many rumours. A rumour is an
unverified belief that is in general circulation. When false rumours get out of hand, companies
must institute rumour control through early and accurate communication.
V. The Verbal Language of Work
Jargon is the specialized language used by job holders or members of particular occupations
or organizations to communicate with each other. Although it is efficient for communicating
with peers and insiders, jargon can serve as a barrier to communicating with outsiders and the
general public, as well as adding to the burden of spouses attempting to relate to their
VI. The Nonverbal Language of Work
Nonverbal communication refers to the transmission of messages by some medium other
than speech or writing. It can be a very powerful part of the communication process since the
information provided is sometimes "the real stuff" while words serve as a smoke screen.
A. Body Language
Body language is nonverbal communication that occurs by means of the sender's bodily
motions, facial expressions, or the sender's physical location in relation to the receiver. Two
important messages are the extent to which the sender likes and is interested in the receiver
and the sender’s views concerning the relative status of the sender and the receiver. Senders
who feel themselves to be of higher status than the receiver act more relaxed than those who
perceive themselves to be of lower status.
One area in which research shows that body language has an impact is on the outcome of
employment interview decisions.
B. Props, Artifacts, and Costumes
Nonverbal communication can also occur through the use of various objects such as props,
artifacts, and costumes.
Office Décor and Arrangement. The decor and arrangement of furniture in a person’s office
conveys nonverbal information to visitors.
Does Clothing Communicate? Research has also shown that the clothes we wear are indeed
forms of nonverbal communication. The clothing organizational members wear sends signals
about their competence, seriousness, and promotability. Proper clothing can enhance one's
esteem and self-confidence, while improper clothing will hurt the image of a worker in the
eyes of executives and supervisors.
VII. Gender Differences in Communication
According to Deborah Tannen, there are gender differences in communication styles and these
differences influence the way that men and women are perceived and treated in the workplace.
Gender differences in communication revolve around what Tannen refers to as the “One Up,
One Down” position. Men tend to be more sensitive to power dynamics and will use
communication as a way to position themselves in a one-up situation and avoid a one-down
position. Females are more concerned with rapport building and they communicate in ways that avoid
putting others down. As a result, women often find themselves in a one-down position which
can have a negative effect on the rewards they receive and their careers.
There are a number of key differences in male and female communication styles and rituals
that often place women in a one-down position:
Getting credit. Men are more likely to blow their horn about something they have done
compared to women and as a result men are more likely to receive credit for their
Confidence and boasting. Men tend to be more boastful about themselves and their
capabilities and minimize their doubts so they are perceived as more confident.
Asking questions. Men are less likely than women to ask questions in situations that
can put them in a one-down position and threaten their independence.
Apologies. Women and men differ in their use of apologies. Men avoid ritual apologies
because it is a sign of weakness that can place them in a one-down position.
Feedback. Women often blunt criticism with praise while men are more blunt and
Compliments. Women exchange compliments as part of a common ritual. Men are
more concerned about being in a one-up position and placing others in a one-down
position so they do not compliment others as frequently.
Ritual opposition. Men often use ritual opposition or fighting as a form of
communication and the exchange of ideas. Many women have difficulty working in
such an environment and tend to come across as insecure and unable to defend their
Managing up and down. Men spend much more time communicating with their
superiors and talking about their achievements. Women tend to downplay th