Communication is arguably the corner stone on which any successful relationship, be it business or personal, is built. The importance of effective communication has been acknowledged and as Bedell and Lennox demonstrate, a lot of research has been taken on the subject and numerous books written so as to help people hone their communication skills (7). In the work place, good communication skills are mandatory since they increase the likelihood of increased productivity which is desirable for all organizations. As such, communication is at the heart of any business endeavor and good communication skills are very important for people at the work place. This paper shall give a detailed discussion on what constitutes good and poor communication in the workplace. The paper will begin by defining communication in the work setting as well as the basic communication model. The benefits that may be reaped from good communication will be articulated and effects of bad communication in the workplace highlighted as well.
All this will be in a bid to demonstrate that good communication is necessary in the workplace.
Communication in the Workplace
Communication involves the sending and receiving of messages and it forms an integral part of any culture. It is through the communication process that ideas are shared and information exchanged between parties. This activity is vital for the well being of any organization and a lack of communication mostly results in negative outcomes.
Communication in the workplace includes communicating with one’s colleagues and supervisors. Johnson asserts that this communication may be in various ways including but not limited to: writing, talking, nonverbal communication (such as body language and gestures), visual communication and electronic communication (3). The particular communication means that one chooses to use is the one that is deemed most appropriate for a given message. Sending of a message using an appropriate channel is very important since if an inappropriate channel is use, the message might fail to reach the receiver, or if it does, the receiver might fail to understand it.
The Communication Model
The communication model includes various major components which together make up the communication process. The first component is the sender who is responsible for coming up with the message. The message which the sender intends to come up with is the other major component.
Ideally, it should not be muddled which means that it should be clear to understand. The third component is the channel which can be defined as the means through which the message is to be passed across. The fourth component is the receiver who is the person that the message was meant for. On receiving the message, the receiver givers feedback which is a response to the message sent. Feedback is the receiver’s way of telling the sender if the message was received as it had been intended or not. For effective communication to have been accomplished in the workplace, the communication process as outlined above must run through with the message having the desired effect that the sender wanted on the receiver.
Greene and Burleson assert that to establish yourself as an effective communicator in any circumstance, you should know your audience which is to say that you should know the people you are sending the message (13). Effective communication results in minimal misunderstanding between the parties involved. This being the case, if the communication fails to have the impact that the sender wished to make, then it can be said that communication failed. This failure is normally caused by various factors which are known as barriers to communication.
These barriers include; ambiguous messages, use of wrong channels, poor listening skills, interruptions during the communication process and physical distractions.
Effects of Good Communication in the Workplace
Effective communication can be used to make the employees in the workplace align their goals and objectives to that of the organization. This is because communication can have the effect of making the employees more focused on achieving the objective of the organization. This is especially so when communication is used in the workplace to let the employees know of the vision of the organization. A vision can be loosely defined as the detailed mental image of things to come. Communication of a vision not only helps to establish the character of the key personnel in the workplace but it also provides meaning and a sense of belong to the workers and other stakeholders as they deem themselves as part of something greater Rees and Porter 182). Communicating a vision to the employees gives them a glimpse of what to expect and as such, people can work towards achieving the same. Good communication skills such as active listening result in people gaining profound insights into the other parties view point and hence fostering better relationships.
This is because active listening is characterized by giving verbal affirmations to demonstrate that you understand what the speaker is saying as well as nudge him to proceed. Rees and Porter suggest that in addition to what is being said, non-verbal cues must be taken into consideration in active listening (71). Non-verbal signals include the signals that one is sending as well as the ones they receive. By being an active listener, one makes a conscious effort to avoid sending signals that suggest boredom or disinterest in the speaker or his message. This results in better workplace relationships which translate to increased productivity. In the workplace, there are various people who take up leadership roles.
Leadership most often refers to a process through which one person uses the help and support of others towards achieving a particular goal or task. The success of a leader in the workplace depends on his ability to inspire his/her followers. This can only occur if the leader is able to exude personal character traits such as self confidence, honesty and trust. These traits can only be seen through their actions and ability to communicate with others. As such, a person’s ability to communicate effectively with others in the workplace will ensure the success of his/her leadership role. Language plays a very significant role in communication since words are the primary means through which we communicate with others.
In the workplace, the employees may have a certain form of “language” which consists of terminologies that are basic to the field of operation. This may be what outsiders may refer to as “jargon”. In the workplace, most people understand this “jargon” since they are all trained for the particular profession. This makes the communication process very effective since everyone understands each other.
Poor Workplace Communication and Their Effects
Having poor listening habits can hamper effective communication in the workplace. One of the poor listening habits is interrupting a speaker while he is making his point (Johnson 23). This leads to a disruption of the flow of ideas as well as a lack of understanding by the listener since in most cases they cut the listener short before getting the entire point.
Having poor listing habits can also make one appear as inattentive or unreceptive to information if you are communicating with a colleague. If you are communicating with a senior member of the organization, poor listening may be seen as a sign of disrespect which may have negative consequences for the individual. To acquire effective listening skills, one is therefore called upon to be patient and to listen to what is being said with an open mind. A person can only talk when the speaker has completed delivering his message. Another common problem that is observed in workplace communication is unclear communication. This unclear communication may result in numerous errors or even missed deadlines as a person wastes time either trying to decipher the message or request for confirmation on the same. Such occurrences if frequent may be the root of other issues in the workplace such as low productivity or even low morale by the employees if it is the top management which is responsible for the unclear communication. The workplace is mostly a place where there exist various people who might have various cultural backgrounds.
In this workplace scenario, effective listening can be greatly hampered by the stereotypical perceptions we harbor (Cleary 56). This is because stereotyping leads to disassociation from other people and disregard for their opinions since the other people are in most cases not regarded as equals. Stereotyping in the workplace will invariably result in a decrease in productivity since each person in the workplace needs to feel that their ideas are being given due merit and they are being treated with respect.
To overcome the barrier to communication that is presented by stereotyping, one needs to be aware of any stereotypical views or bias they may have. After that, a person can try to ensure that these preconceived notions do not cloud his opinion in the workplace. Most workplaces are structured around the rigid hierarchical organization structure which is based on the high-level having more authority over the subordinates. In such a setting, the effectiveness of communication is greatly reduced since employees are given messages without being expected to respond in most cases. The reason why such an environment results to poor communication is because it does not utilize feedback.
Without feedback, Cleary reveals that communication is not truly two-way and as such, its effectiveness cannot be guaranteed. In addition to this, employees are not encouraged to speak out (121). The workers are therefore content to do what they are told without automatically and with little enthusiasm. This lack of a healthy communication results in decreased productivity since the employees may fail to identify with the goals of the organization. .
Improving Workplace Communication
Both verbal and nonverbal behaviors are important in interpersonal communication and a balanced use of the two can greatly boost communication. In the workplace, one should ensure that they use both these for effective communication to be achieved.
Greene and Burleson assert that “virtually any behavior or skill is incompetent at the extremes of disuse or excessive use” (119). In many face to face interactions, most people are guilty of focusing on what is being said (verbal communication) at the expense of non-verbal communication cues. This may result in poor communication since a person may miss out on signals that could help them gauge the mood or how receptive the other person is to the information being communicated.
One of the means through which the communication process in the workplace can be enhanced is through the use of assertive communication. This is because assertiveness is one of the styles of communication that is believed to greatly enhance a person’s effectiveness in the communication process therefore leading to the most desirable outcomes. Bedell and Lennox articulate that assertiveness promotes interpersonal behavior that “attempts to maximize the person’s satisfaction of wants while considering the wants of other people” (22). Listening is the most basic communication activity that man undertakes.
However, most people fail to recognize what it is or its potency in the communication efforts. The frequent use of the terms “hearing” and “listening” interchangeably highlights the common misconception of what listening actually is. Cleary states that hearing is a natural ability which most people are born with and it only accounts for part of the listening process (125). She goes on to articulate that hearing is passive and entails sound waves stimulating the sensory receptors of the ear in a predominantly biological function. Hearing is therefore an innate ability in most human beings requiring no active input from a person in the communication process.
Listening is a complex endeavor and it involves a hearing and understanding what is said, forming an opinion on what is said and finally committing the message to memory for future retrieval. Only after his has been done can the listener respond to the speaker so as to provide feedback as to his/her perception of the message. In the workplace, people have differing personalities and while some are confident of themselves and their abilities, others are shy and unsure.
The confident person will be willing to make his point be heard by others since he considers it worthwhile. The shy and unsure person may keep silent since they do not consider their opinions worth to be expressed or responded to by others. This hurts communication in the workplace since the input of every individual is important. To reverse this situation, people should be taught how to be assertive. This training increases a person’s self-esteem since assertive communication is based on the understanding that we all have a right to be afforded respect and we also bear the responsibility to reciprocate this respectfulness to others (Wilson and Gallois 221).
This paper set out to give a detailed discussion on the effects of communication in the work place.
To this end, this paper has discussed what makes up the communication model and the effects that good and bad communication habits can have in the workplace setting. From the discussions presented herein, it is evident that habits such as consistent inattentiveness, poor listening habits and stereotyping can have a negative effect on the productivity of people in the workplace. This paper has argued that effective listening skills as well as assertiveness can play a great role in increasing the effectiveness of communication in the workplace.
From the discussions offered in this paper, it can be authoritatively stated that effective communication is hugely beneficial for all parties involve in the workplace.
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The Communication Handbook: A Student Guide to Effective Communication. Juta and Company Ltd, 2004. Print. Greene, John and Burleson, Raney. Handbook of communication and social interaction skills.
Routledge, 2003. Print. Johnson, Simon. Communicate in the Workplace. Max Johnson, 2002. Print. Rees, D and Porter, C. Skills of Management.
Cengage Learning EMEA, 2008. Print. Wilson, Klaus and Gallois, Charles. Assertion and its Social Context. USA: Routledge, 1993.