The importance of communication in the modern workplace
“Without proper and clear communication, no organization can survive” (Ball). What we are now and where the world is right now did not happen by chance. Everything has undergone through conception and development. Everything started from a thought or idea and the intent to share them. What linked all these stages is what we call “Communication.”
So much research has been made on the history, nature, methods and forms of communication. Too much attention has been paid to learning the theoretical aspect of it. But 1communication is not something that should be left to chance. The “how’s” of oral and written communication and how to effectively apply them are the basics that were overlooked by many. So many factors have been identified in the process of communication, making it seemingly complicated to others. But as food and shelter are basic needs, communication is a need that is as basic as these needs to an organization.
Basically, people come to organize because somehow they share the same goals, beliefs and need. This sharing is basically through communication. In the workplace, every individual have their own roles to play towards achieving one goal-the company’s goal. As illustrated by Kevin Eilenberry, an organization is like a basketball team. “At any point in the game, in order to be successful, the entire team has to be working in harmony. It is in this type of organization where the basics of communication apply. The role of each player has to be communicated to them through oral and written form. The rules of the basketball game and made known to players in a written form. The roles of the point guard, the power forward, the off guard are communicated to them through established written rules. In the workplace set up, the roles of the company accountant, the human resource manager, the
1 Does Uptalk make You Upchuck?. http://hodum.com/uptalk.shtml. retrieved September 08, 2006
clerk and the messenger are handed down to them in through their written job descriptions. It is so vital for an organization to make sure that all instructions and rules are made clear to everyone to ensure that every player knows where to start working. Written rules also set minimum or expected level of a player’s performance and his limitations. However, it has to be clear that employer cannot rely on the fact that each employee knows their individual roles in the success of the company. Each employee’s individual role is interrelated and therefore they are to work as a team. Having their individual outputs does not end up there. They are to know how their outputs affect each other’s output and how these will contribute to achieving the company’s goal. It is in this stage where effective oral communication applies. In the basketball team, their aim is to win. Having knowledge of their individual roles does not guarantee their victory. The coach must have to explain each player’s role in the specific game plan. Additional instructions which depend on the situation and game plan have to be communicated to the players orally. In this situation, oral communication is of higher priority because of the need of immediate feedback and the short time frame allotted. In the workplace, only the basics are communicated through written methods because they are of routine nature. Oral communication is required in “other tasks that maybe assigned from time to time”. When the boss needs to clarify something on an employee’s report, when the secretary has to entertain a customer inquiry, when a clerk needs a technician’s assistance, oral communication is employed. In these scenarios, it is clear that everyone in the workplace has to relate to each other effectively through proper communication so that the team can go on working towards the company’s goal.
It is not a matter of transmitting information. It is not a matter of “message sent” and “message received” cycle. Along the process of communication, anything can go wrong. 2If we start the idea that miscommunication is normal, and then we will be careful in sending messages which will make communication work. The choice of communication medium is
2 Communication Skills. http://hodu.com/skills.shtml. retrieved September 08, 2006
very critical. What is highly required in the workplace is not just communication but good and effective communication. As Jacaranda Bill stressed, “…the secret of successful organization is communication…it doesn’t only mean that both parties have to speak the same language. It must be fluent, clear and enriched with meaningful information.”
When dealing with the client, it all starts with inquiry, conversation over the phone and personal meetings. Both parties, the client and the agent perhaps have to make negotiations. The project specifics, the company policies, requirements, the price and the deadlines have to be clear to both parties. When they finally agree, a contract has to be signed. In this illustration, we can see how communication skills play as the basic element in doing business. There are things that print ads and posters cannot satisfy. Even though you have made everything clear and concise in the company ads, there maybe questions that may still arise. The client has to call your office for more inquiry. Yes, you can make everything clear through print ads, but it may require you several pages for it, and you may just bore the prospected client in reading the material. You have wasted your money; you have wasted the client’s time. We have to understand that written and oral communications skills are not alternatives to each other, rather they serve as back ups for each other. Anyone who is doing business with somebody should have the skill of constant communication with the client during the development of the project. A computer programmer for example has to learn how to report regularly to the client on the development of the computer software he is working on. Both parties have to exchange information for the benefit of the project. Communication leads to the assurance that both parties are leading to the same expected result. 3Good communication ensures repeating business with the client.”
Inter-office memoranda, meetings, personal discussions, presentation and reports, even electronic mails are but common forms of communication in the office set up. It is these
3 Bill, Jacaranda. The Importance of Communication. http://www.rentacoder.com/RentACoder/SoftwareCoders/articles/TheImportanceofCommunication.asp. retrieved September 07, 2006
methods where employees and employers relate to each other. It is in these common communication channels where they share and acquire ideas and learn new things from each other. I would say that it is effective communication that keeps the company going. As Brady Wilson said in his article entitled “Quality Linked to Conversation”, “…the quality of an organization is directly linked to the quality of conversations of the people in that organization.” Every employee should not just learn the ABCs of writing business correspondence for the sake of transmitting information. Rather, each must learn how this correspondence will create business for the company. Inter-office memoranda are nit just meant to inform new rules or remind the dos and don’ts that may seem to be overlooked. They should serve as attitude meter. “…please be reminded that beginning October 01, 2006, we will be strictly implementing three days suspension of anyone who incurs three counts of tardiness in a week. For your information and strict compliance.” Through this kind of memorandum, the management is able to communicate to the employees to come to the office early and start the day on time. Thus, the concerned employees will have to realize that the management does not tolerate tardiness. The employees will then make an effort to come to the office early, thereby somehow improving her attendance performance. In this scenario, we come to know that without proper communication, the employees will not be reminded, and thus will not improve their performance. Monthly reports also are not meant for the sole purpose of summarizing what has been done and what still to be accomplished. They should serve as an evaluation tool for the employers on the employee’s performance. To the owners and shareholders, reports should contain facts and figures that show how their investments have been doing. To the employees, reports should serve as a driving force to do their best in their job so that they can hand down good reports at the end of every period. Meeting should serve its purpose of bringing out issues and solving any problem not just for information dissemination. They are meant to discuss details and extraordinary events that come out during the operation of the business. Communication through meetings settle things, bring
out what’s new, discuss if something has to acquire or dispose off for the benefit of the company. There have been researches that showed that 4when meetings are run effectively, the team come to better decisions than individuals. Imagine a scenario where the sales manager was surprised when a client suddenly refused to sign up the sales contract. In the absence of communication, the manager wouldn’t know why things have messed up and how come a million dollar contract will turn into a scratch. Without meetings, without reports, without personal discussions, the possibility of losing from the tract is so great.
Communication must not be left to common sense. It must not be entrusted to the perception of the receiver of the message. If you mean A, make sure the receiver receives the message as A. In the contemporary workplace, where every second counts, miscommunication is not an excuse. Let us look into this actual event posted on the 5website: A chief airplane washer hooked up the high pressure up to the suds machine and turned it on. He suddenly received an emergency call and has to leave work to go home. Ina rush manner, he yelled to his assistant Don, “Don, turn it off.” The assistant thought he heard, “Don’t turn it off.” Don just shrugs and left the area. What happened? The place almost turned into a submarine; drowned in water and bubbles. A mess! A lack of clarity or common sense? I would say both. The chief should at least have told the assistant that he will not coming back, or at least he’s got an emergency. Don, on the other hand should have thought that he shouldn’t left the area with the machine on knowing the chief will not be around. Even though he heard, “Don’t turn it off”, he should have thought twice. A miscommunication and communication left to common sense.
Lastly, let us look into how communication is important in employee productivity. In a 1990 P and Q survey results on how to improve employee productivity, more than 88 percent of the respondents agree that lack of cooperation and communication among different
4 Clemmer, Jim. A Coach’s Playbook for Workplace Teams. http://hodu.com/teams.hstml. retrieved September 08, 2006
components of business leads to reduced productivity. One by one, let us analyze how true this survey results in the three types of communication- were the downward, upward and lateral types. When we say downward communication, message flows from the top management down to the lower level. Typical examples of this are directives and instructions for the purpose of controlling and guiding those at the lower level on their performance. It is this type of communication where details are given attention to because of respect and fear from those in the higher positions. Most often, employees work hard not because they want to but because they need to. When an employee does not love his job, it will be hard for him to “walk the extra mile” for the sake of the company. Unsatisfied employees just do what are asked of them, and sometimes don’t likely give their best. Downward communication should therefore come not just in a commanding package but in an incentive package. During meetings, the management may ask the employees on their needs; say for example, the need of the department. Even when informal conversations have chance, the employers may take the opportunity to ask his employees how they are doing with their jobs. Through simple communications like this, those at the lower level may feel that the management are looking after them and have at least concern. This can boost the morale of the employees and can even add to their energy in working, thus increasing their level of productivity. Monetary bonuses and incentives will somehow contribute to this productivity, but not the love for the job. Simple expressions of recognitions like, “Good job”, “you’re doing well”, and “congratulations” will do something for employees to be consistent and do better the next time. It has to be clear information flowing through downward communication must be as clear, concrete and concise as possible, especially on matters of instructions. Remember that thee importance of this type of communication is on matters of employee productivity. It must not create in anyway confusion to the concerned. It is therefore clear that in the absence of communication from the management to the lower level, there will be no working guide for the workers. They may possibly do their jobs erratically and just create a big mess. For
example, the company is engaged in the service of hosting big events. If the details of the event plan such as the budget have not been properly communicated, the assigned personnel may just go on with the design that will be highly appreciated by all attendees and the client but is beyond the budget. Through effective downward communication, the management can set limits which serve as guidelines and starting point for employees. If all information is properly communicated, there is an assurance of coming up with the expected results.
Of the three types, upward communication is the least practiced one. Few employees have learned and have the courage to communicate with their bosses especially on matters of requests. Very often, this comes in written form and handed down thru the secretary, left in the manager’s table and wait for his response. This may not be that much effective if the manager or the owner is often out of the office to busy to the point of having no more time to sit down and read those in his incoming tray. Depending on the situation, those at the lower level must choose the most effective medium to address their concern. The clarity rule must always be kept in mind. 5The clearer you are in communicating what you want, the faster it will come to you” (Edwards). There are cases when your concerns need to be discussed, so when opportunity comes, be clear and concrete. It is in the way employees communicate to the management where the grant on the request depends. The boss may reject the proposal the first time he reads, but may thoroughly understand the need when properly discussed.
Even though employees work on their own, somehow their jobs are related to each other. Somehow, they need each other for assistance. Informal discussions on certain matters concerning the company help them come up with better ideas on product and system improvement. Within the department, they can solve problems on their own before it comes to the knowledge of the top management. With this, they are helping each other improve their
5 Edwards, Mariette. How To Ask For What You Want. http://hodu.com/ask-want.shtml. retrived September 08, 2006
own department’s performance. When personal issues arise, it will always be communication which can solve any problem. If there be anyone who needs improvement in his job, personal discussions, not debates and excessive criticism, will be of great help.
On matters of communication in the workplace, clarity and being concise should always be rules. To have an assurance of good results, the choice of communication medium is of high priority. In an organization where effective communication exists, the expected results of every game plan will no doubt be achieved.
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