Issues Affecting Communication in the Workplace

This essay will focus primarily on three main issues that can undermine effective communication namely cultural diversity, emotions and language (Robbins et al. 2011 p. 331). The importance of feedback in an organisation to improve communication would also be reviewed (Iyer & Israel 2012 p. 55). Through feedback received, communication unveils opportunities to improve the individual and general performances of the organisation (Daneci-Patrau 2011 p. 496).
Communication in an organisation comprises of many dimensions pning formal and informal means of internal communication and external communications (Iyer & Israel 2012 p. 52). Communication is an ongoing process in which feelings, ideas, values and perceptions are transferred from one person to another through symbols which can be in the form of nonverbal, verbal and graphic communication (Dwyer 2009). Organisational communication refers to the transferring of information among members of an organisation, as well as in correctly understanding the message contained in the information (Daneci-Patrau 2011p. 88). In order for an organisation to function effectively coordination of all aspects of the organisation must be achieved and this can only be done through effective communication which enables the organisation to meet its goals and objectives (Daneci-Patrau 2011). Effective communication is necessary in understanding management behaviour, reducing misunderstanding and building trust in and amongst members of an organisation (Daneci-Patrau 2011).
Managers play an important role in ensuring the flow of communication through the organisation by using an effective system whereby feedback is received and acted upon (Daneci-Patrau 2011 496). Dwyer (2009 p. 9) states that leaders and managers with effective communication skills are able to work directly with people thereby minimising direct controls and encouraging more understanding, commitment, motivation and productivity within the organisation.

The occurrence of misunderstanding and inefficiency in an organisation can be attributed to lack of communication (Iyer & Israel 2012). Means of communication has grown significantly with the advancement in technology. Managers now have access to various communication channels such as emails, teleconferencing, computers, mobile phones and fax which speeds up the business of communicating (Alger, Delahunty & Diamantopoulos 1997).
Communication channels must be established through appropriate methods and on all levels in an organisation both on an individual and group level between various people in the workplace ranging from clients, who are either internal or external to the organisation, staff members from within and outside it, those in managerial positions and line personnel (Klenk & Hickey 2010). The role of an organisation and management is to facilitate and coordinate communication within the organisation.
Klenk & Hickey (2010) states that organisational communication relates to the transactional and symbolic process that facilitates the coordination of activities through mutual adjustments of behaviour of individual parts to achieve a common goal. Communication in an organisation is not just the mere exchange of information, it is more comprehensive than that and includes constructive meanings between members of the organisation who influence each other in the context of asymmetrical power relationships during which they compete for power, resources and legitimacy (Klenk and Hickey 2010).
Managers within organisations are in positions of power and personal influence in their relationships with employees and should be proactive in communicating with staff (White, Vanc & Stafford 2010). A number of studies have linked internal communication and the degree to which employees are given feedback to their job satisfaction and performance (White, Vanc & Stafford 2010).
Vos (2009) measures performance in the communication area based on the following criteria: the management must support the holistic assessment of the organisation, the assessment must be an integral part of the communication function, the assessment process must be a team activity and those responsible for implementing these changes must be part of the team, the assessment must be well-prepared and well-organised and before commencement, those concerned should be well-informed of the organisation’s communication activities. Communication breakdown occurs when the message is not fully understood by the receiver.
Breakdowns occur in situations when messages are distorted or blocked in some ways (Alger, Delahunty & Diamantopoulos 1997). These breakdowns are of major concern to the organisation as it may cost them both time and money (Alger, Delahunty & Diamantopoulos 1997). The first undermining factor we will be looking at is culture. Cultural diversity in the workplace is increasingly growing as most organisations today are multicultural in nature (Robbins et al. 2011). Culture is dynamic and a constantly changing in nature over time (Dwyer 2009).
Communication barriers can also arise from different languages spoken, values and customs of individuals from various ethnic backgrounds. (Robbins, DeCenzo, Coulter &Woods 2011, p. 331). Culture refers to the norms, beliefs, customs, ethics, codes, mores, values, sentiments, behaviour and attitudes of individuals in a society (Kumar & Chakravarthi 2009). The more common the culture between two people, the greater the likelihood of achieving mutual understanding and effective communication(Alger, Delahunty & Diamantopoulos 1997).
Culture can form barriers in communication when individuals are not aware of each other’s differences in values or customs (Kumar & Chakravarthi 2009). Managers today work with people from different nationalities and it is therefore important for them to be culturally competent through gaining knowledge of the cultural aspects of individual and countries they interact with to ensure effective and efficient communication (Todarita & Ranf 2009). Another issue that can undermine effective communication is one’s emotion.
Emotions refer to the physiological and psychological state at the immediate time of communication (Smeltzer & Waltman 1984). Robbins et al. (2011) also defines emotions in regards to communication, as how a receiver feels when the message is received and how he or she interprets it. There are two types of emotional abilities namely managing emotions and the use of emotions to facilitate thinking and communication associated with job performance in an organisation (Lindebaum 2009).
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a term that is used to substantiate personal skills and characteristics that are responsible for the ways in which individuals behave, feel and relate to others in a job context (Dwyer 2009). Emotionally intelligent leaders are able to have the social skills and awareness to associate effectively in different settings (Dwyer 2009). In personal, social and business relationships, managers are able to build satisfying relationships nd make effective decisions based on their EI (Dwyer 2009). When emotions are running high, individuals often disregard rational and objective thinking process and substitute it with emotional judgements (Robbins et al. 2011, p. 331). ‘Learning to recognise emotions and empathise with others, developing high self-esteem, managing emotional upsets and anger are all emotional skills that managers and staff should learn’ (Dwyer 2009). In addition, use of language can affect communication adversely.
To communicate effectively managers must learn to be clear and concise and tailor their language at an appropriate level so that their audience understands the meaning (Alger, Delahunty & Diamantopoulos 1997 p. 256). Due to the diverse backgrounds of employees in an organisation, different patterns of speech are formed easily in a specialized environment and this developed technical language is known as jargon (Robbins et al. 2011).
Although jargon may greatly help communication within specialized groups, it can impede communication among individuals who are not conversant with the language (Understanding and Managing Organisational Behaviour 2006). Age, education and cultural backgrounds are variables that influence the language a person uses and the definitions the individual applies to it (Robbins et al. 2011). An example of incorporating a language for better communication can be seen in Denmark where predominantly speaking Danish organisations are obliged to adopt English into their organisation (Tange & Lauring 2009). Language management and social interaction within the multilingual workplace national and corporate languages serve different needs and purposes, which is particularly evident in a country such as Denmark, where corporate language planning involves the imposition of an English lingua franca on organisations that are traditionally Danish-speaking’ (Tange & Lauring 2009). Tange & Lauring (2009) provides that language usage within multinational companies has suggested that multilingualism creates a complex managerial situation with great implications for cross-cultural communication. When communicating across cultures, awareness of the meaning of the words and idiomatic expressions in the language of another culture can prevent communication barriers and their consequences’ (Dwyer 2009 p. 41). Furthermore, feedback system is an example of a system that managers can use to improve communication in their respective organisation. Kaymaz (2011) defines feedback as the most important stage in the communication process. Communication is a two way process, and managers must be prepared to give feedback to employees and in return encourage feedback from employees (Hitt, Black, Porter & Hanson 2007).
Receiving feedback is important as it indicates to the sender that their message has been received and correctly understood and interpreted (Robbins et al. 2011). Once received, feedback can trigger another idea from the sender, initiating yet another cycle of communication which triggers yet another round of feedback, thereby continuing the cyclical nature of the communication process (Understanding and Managing Organisational Behaviour 2006). The provision of feedback helps reduce the likelihood of misinterpretation to occur in the workplace (Iyer & Israel 2012 p. 2). For example in an organisation that sells goods and services directly to customers, the organisation can evaluate their performance by encouraging feedback from customers based on employee service and conduct. ‘Customer feedback can help to identify problem areas and strengths, and generate ideas for service improvements’ (Wirtz, Tambyah & Mattila 2010). Measuring performance should not be seen as extra work but rather as part of normal business operations. Feedback should be seen as a method for continuous assessment and improvement.
In this sense, it can be seen as a strategic feedback system that improves communication within the organisation in general. Performance measurement leads to transparency and in turn drives innovation and creativity (Vos 2009). In conclusion, organisations do not have independent existence, they associate with many groups and individuals by means of effective communication and feedback to achieve their results and desired outcomes (Alger, Delahunty & Diamantopoulos 1997). Interaction with organisations occurs through different channels of communication and by different methods.
All organisations and managers need to be aware of the communication patterns that occur within their environment to ensure effective communication (Alger, Delahunty & Diamantopoulos 1997 p. 117). The complex world of management today presents countless occasions to those in managerial positions to express their ideas and convince or persuade others to accept their ideas (Showry & Manasa 2012). However, it can be an ordeal if one fails to focus on the critical foundation which is effective communication (Showry & Manasa 2012).
Factors such as language, culture and emotions can undermine effective communication in an organisation but through feed-back achieved, communication discloses opportunities to improve the individual and general performances of the organisation (Daneci-Patrau 2011). From this essay we can draw on the significance of effective communication in an organisation and how the lack of it can result in decreased productivity, poor interpersonal relationships between employees and employers and be the cause of other serious workplace issues that could lead to other negative outcomes (Mallet Hammer 2005). References
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