Communication is essential for an organisation to operate effectively and efficiently. Effective communication helps to ensure that information is relayed accordingly and accurately within the organisation. If the relay of information is inaccurate, the organisation’s productivity may be affected. This essay will describe the concept of communication in relation to management and explain how effective communication is undermined by barriers such as cultural differences, generational differences and filtering of information by referring to academic literature such as journal articles.
Furthermore, an example will be used to explain how managers can increase the productivity and performance of their organisation by developing an effective system of communication. There are numerous definitions for communication but for the purpose of this essay communication will be defined as, the relay of information from one person to another (Robbins et al. 2011, p. 326). The authors also note that communication is a key element in the role of managers as their job is to plan, lead, organise and control.
Mikitka (2009) also confirms this by stating that managers need good communication skills as their job requires them to increase efficiency, satisfy customers, implement strategies and disseminate information. Managers should also improve the communication skills of the employees (Bambacas & Patrickson 2008). The authors further state that employees will perform better if they are able to communicate with one another effectively. Therefore, communication skills are essential for an effective and efficient management.
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Cultural differences is a barrier for effective communication because different cultures provide people with different ways of thinking, understanding and communicating. Tagreed (2012) states that The growing presence of workers from different races and cultures has made dramatic changes to workplaces. The author further states that managers and co-workers must note that words and expressions used to communicate can have vastly different meanings and implications for people from different backgrounds, and they must be careful to ensure that their intended messages are understood clearly as they communicate with culturally diverse co-workers.
Sensitive topics such as race, religion and politics should not be discussed within the organisation as it may create conflicts (Bambacas & Patrickson 2008). Managers should note that work methods vary among different cultures. The Asian culture emphasises on collectivism while the American culture emphasises on individualism (Tagreed 2012). The author explains this by stating that managers who do not understand this difference will face problems as they may assign team based work to employees who are accustomed to working individually and ask employees who are accustomed to team based work to work individually.
This may cause a problem as employees might not communicate with each other effectively. Gender is regarded differently in various cultures. Lin (2006) notes that females are still considered weak and not capable of decision making in some Asian cultures. The author mentions that if a female from America works in and Asian organisation, she will not be allowed to suggest ideas and participate in meetings. The author further notes that if a female from an Asian culture works in an American organisation, it is in her nature to be quiet and not communicate to her male co-workers including the manager.
This may affect the relay of information as there is no effective communication. A key factor that makes cultural differences a barrier to effective communication is language. English is not the commonly spoken language in some cultures (Tagreed 2012). The author also states that globalisation has caused many organisations to operate in English. This has become a problem as employees who are not good in English are afraid or embarrassed to communicate to others (Lin 2006). The author further mentions that even if they do communicate, information passed is commonly inaccurate.
The reason for this is because, they did not understand the information passed to them by their English speaking co-workers or the English speaking co-workers did not understand their accent (Tagreed 2012). This may result in inaccurate information being relayed. Generational Diversity is also a barrier for effective communication as different generations have different ways of relaying and processing information. Tolbize (2008) states that generational diversity has made the workplace more rigid and demanding. The author further states that the four ain generations in the current workforce are the Veterans, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y. Kyles (2005) notes that people communicate differently to others even if the difference in age is five years. The Veterans are also known as the traditional generation. The reason for this because the Veterans are strict followers of formality and authority (Tolbize 2008). The author further states that the Veterans and Baby Boomers do not question authority and use formal methods and language when communicating. Generation X and Y are more flexible in their work life (Tolbize 2008).
The author notes that they prefer informal communication and do not appreciate authority. These differences may cause a problem in communication as most middle or senior managers are Veterans or Baby Boomers and they would expect their employees to respect authority and communicate formally. Generational diversity also has an impact on work methods that may affect communication. Veterans and Baby Boomers prefer team work as they believe that by communicating with each other and sharing ideas they may develop new and innovative ideas that may increase the productivity of the organisation (Azaroff 2006).
The author further states that Generation X and Y prefer working individually as they consider team work to be unproductive. The author also notes that Generation Y will not be communicating much with others if they are assigned team work. Technology is another aspect of communication being affected by generational diversity. Kyles (2005) states the Veterans and Baby Boomers were born before technology was implemented and as a result they are not accustomed and do not rely on technology to communicate.
The author further states that they prefer face to face communication, phone calls or written letters as opposed to E-mails. Generation X and Y were born during the time of technological advancements and modernisation of industries (Kyles 2005). As a result, they prefer electronic means of communication such as E-mails and Instant messaging. These small differences affect effective communication in an organisation. Filtering of information is a barrier to effective communication as the information being relayed has been altered. Filtering an be defined as, the distortion or withholding of information to manage a person’s reactions (Butschi & Steyn 2006). The authors state that filtering can be intentional or accidental and it prevents members of an organization from getting the actual facts of a situation . Managers should note that filtering of information does not only affect effective communication but also the morale of employees (Tourish & Robson 2003). The authors further explain by stating that employees may have insecurities if they discover that information is being withheld from them .
Filtering of information is also used to make information relayed appear more favourable to the intended person (Butschi & Steyn 2006). Another reason to frequent filtering of information in an organisation is to reduce information overload. Tourish & Robson (2003) state that many individuals have certain capacity to process information. The authors note that accidental filtering of information is common when employees or managers have an overload of work. They further state that time is another reason for the filtering of information.
For example, employees or managers tend to summarise information if they are in a rush. Filtering of information, be it intentional or accidental, can lead to miscommunications in an organisation as information is translated or interpreted differently creating different versions. Managers should have a system to overcome these communication barriers as it will greatly affect the organisations productivity and performance. Managers can develop an effective system of communication by promoting the use of simple and unbiased language, promoting active listening and giving constructive feedback.
Therkelsen & Fiebich (2001) state that effective communication is achieved when information is relayed and understood accurately. The authors further state that by using simple and clear words instead of ambiguous words and jargons information will be understood and relayed easily. The authors also state that words used should not be biased as it may be offensive to others. For example, instead of saying cleaning lady or cleaner, people should address them as maintenance worker. Managers should provide employees with guidelines on standard of speech and conduct to improve communication within the organisation.
Managers should promote active listening because information is misunderstood in many occasions. Therkelsen & Fiebich (2001) state that there is a difference between listening and hearing. The authors define listening as, hearing with proper understanding of the message that is relayed. The authors also note that a sender may strive to deliver a message clearly. But the receiver’s ability to listen effectively is equally vital to successful communication. Listening takes practice and concentration and the only way to get practice is by communicating with people often (Therkelsen & Fiebich 2001).
Managers and employees should give constructive feedback to each other as often as possible. Feedback does not have to be formal or verbal but it has to be constructive. Tourish & Robson (2003) state that constructive feedback helps people understand their mistakes and increases morale. The authors also state that even negative feedback can be delivered constructively. They also note that constructive feedback will lead to effective communication between managers and employees. Adopting these methods will increase effective communication with the organisation without compromising its productivity or performance.
In conclusion, promoting effective communication with an organisation is not a simple task. However, by identifying and overcoming the barriers systematically, effective communication can be achieved. This essay has defined and described communication in relation to management and has identified cultural diversity, generational diversity and filtering of information as barriers to effective communication. Furthermore, examples have been used to show how to overcome these barriers without affecting the productivity and performance of the organisation.
- Azaroff, R. 2006, "Ideas for managing a multigenerational workforce", Federal Computer Week, vol. 20, no. 31, pp. 56-56.
- Bambacas, M & Patrickson, M 2008, “Interpersonal communication skills that enhance organisational commitment”, Journal of Communication Management, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 51-72
- Butschi, G & Steyn, B. 2006, "Theory on strategic communication management is the key to unlocking the boardroom", Journal of Communication Management, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 106-109.
- Kyles, D. 2005, "Managing Your Multigenerational Workforce", Strategic Finance, vol. 7, no. 6, pp. 52-55.
- Lin , L, 2006, “Cross-cultural Communications and Pragmatics Principle”, Cross-cultural Communication, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. n/a
- Mikitka, M. J. 2009, "Managing the Multi-Generational Workforce", Material Handling Management, vol. 64, no. 8, pp. 11-11.
- Robbins, S, DeCenzo, D, Coulter, M, Woods, M, 2011, Management: The Essentials, 1st edn, Pearson Australia.
- Tagreed, I. K. 2012, "Cross-cultural Differences in Management", International Journal of Business and Social Science, vol. 3, no. 6, pp. n/a
- Therkelsen, D. J. & Fiebich, C. L. 010, "Message to desired action: A communication effectiveness model", Journal of Communication Management, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 374-390.
- Tolbize, A, 2008, ‘Generational differences in the workplace’, Research and Training Center on Community Living, University of Minnesota, viewed on 19 August 2012, <rtc. umn. edu/docs/2_18_Gen_diff_workplace. pdf>
- Tourish, D. & Robson, P. 2003, "Critical upward feedback in organisations: Processes, problems and implications for communication management", Journal of Communication Management, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 150-167.
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