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COMMUNICATION IN THE WORKPLACE: GUIDELINES FOR IMPROVING EFFECTIVENESS

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Communication is the process of transmitting information and common understanding from one person to another. Communication in the workplace is critical to establishing and maintaining quality working relationships in organisations. This paper discusses the communication process, barriers to communication, and provides guideline for administrators to improve communication effectiveness.
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COMMUNICATION IN THE WORKPLACE: GUIDELINES FOR IMPROVING
EFFECTIVENESS
Akua Ahyia Adu-Oppong1 & Emmanuel Agyin-Birikorang2
1College of Technology Education, Kumasi-University of Education, Winneba- Ghana
2 University of Education, Winneba- Ghana
ABSTRACT
Communication is the process of transmitting information and common understanding from one person to another.
Communication in the workplace is critical to establishing and maintaining quality working relationships in
organisations. This paper discusses the communication process, barriers to communication, and provides guideline for
administrators to improve communication effectiveness.
Key words: Communication, Effectiveness, Administrators, Workplace, Guidelines
Introduction
Fundamental and vital to all administrative functions, communication is a means of transmitting information and
making oneself understood by another or others (Sanchez & Guo, 2005). Communicating effectively is an art and must
be practiced effectively at workplace for better output and successful achievement of goals of an organisation.
Communication is a major challenge for administrators because they are responsible for providing information, which
results in efficient and effective performance in organisations. The study of communication is important, because every
administrative function and activity involves some form of direct or indirect communication. Whether planning and
organising or leading and monitoring, administrators communicate with and through other people. This implies that every
person’s communication skills affect both personal and organisational effectiveness (Brun, 2010; Summers, 2010). It
seems reasonable to conclude that one of the most inhibiting forces to organisational effectiveness is a lack of effective
communication (Lutgen-Sandvik, 2010). Good communication skills are very important to ones success as an
administrator (Yate, 2009). It is therefore essential for administrators to endeavour to become effective communicators.
This paper discusses the communication process and the importance of communication in the workplace and provides
guidelines on how administrators can improve their communication skills and effectiveness.
Communication
Communication can be defined as the process of transmitting information and common understanding from one
person to another (Keyton, 2011). It is the creation or exchange of thoughts, ideas, emotions, and understanding between
sender(s) and receiver(s). It is essential to building and maintaining relationships in the workplace. Although
administrators spend most of their time communicating (sending or receiving information), one cannot assume that
meaningful communication occurs in all exchanges (Dunn, 2002). Once a memorandum, letter, fax, or e-mail has been
sent, many are inclined to believe that communication has taken place. However, communication does not occur until
information and understanding have passed between sender and the intended receiver.
To make oneself understood as intended is an important part of communication. A receiver may hear a sender but
still not understand what the sender’s message means. Being constantly engaged in encoding and decoding messages
does not ensure that an administrator is an expert in communication. Understanding is a personal matter between people,
and different people may interpret messages differently. If the idea received is not the one intended, communication has
not taken place; the sender has merely spoken or written.
Communication Process
Two common elements in every communication exchange are the sender and the receiver. Figure 1 reflects the
definition and identifies the important elements of the communication process (McShare & Von Glinow, 2003)
Sender Receiver
Medium
Barriers
Environmental
Personal
Figure 1: The Communication Process
Message
Receive
Decode
Feedback
Create
Encode
Feedback
Receive
Decode
Message
Create
Encode
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Figure 1 illustrates the communication process. The sender initiates the communication. A sender uses words and
symbols to put forth information into a message for the receiver, the individual(s) receiving the message. In the
workplace, the sender is a person who has a need or desire to convey an idea or concept to others, the sender is a person,
department, or unit of an organisation or system who originates the message. The sender encodes the idea by selecting
words, symbols, or gestures with which to compose a message. The message is the outcome of the encoding, which takes
the form of verbal, nonverbal, or written language. The receiver is the individual to whom the message is sent, the
receiver decodes the received message into meaningful information. Accurate decoding of the message by the receiver is
critical to effective communication. The closer the decoded message gets to the intent of the sender, the more effective
the communication. However, environmental and personal barriers can hamper the communication process. A barrier is
anything that distorts the message. Different perceptions of the message, language barriers, interruptions, emotions, and
attitudes are examples of barriers.
Finally, feedback occurs when the receiver responds to the sender's message and returns the message to the sender.
Feedback allows the sender to determine whether the message has been received and understood. Feedback is the
destination’s reaction to a message (Certo, 1992). It is an important element of communication since it allows for
information to be shared between the receiver and sender in a two-way communication. The elements in the
communication process determine the quality of communication. A problem in any one of these elements can reduce
communication effectiveness (Keyton, 2011).
Channels of Communication
A message is sent through a medium or channel, which is the carrier of the communication. Selection of the
particular medium for transmitting the message can be critical, because there are many choices. The medium can be
verbal, nonverbal, written, computer-aided or electronic. For written media, an administrator or other organisation
members may choose from memos, letters, reports, bulletin boards, handbooks, newsletters, and the like. For verbal
media, choices include face-to-face conversations, telephone, computer, public address systems, closed-circuit television,
tape-recorded messages, sound or slide shows, e-mail, and so on. Nonverbal gestures, facial expressions, body position,
and even clothing can transmit messages. People decode information selectively (Keyton, 2010).
Importance of Communication in the Workplace
There is no denying the importance of communication in the workplace, considering the fact that in an organisation
people belonging to different social and professional backgrounds come together to work for the same goals. Often it is
seen that administrators do not realise the importance of communication at work and thus do not convey their ideas,
organisational goals, vision, etc. very clearly. When administrators in an organisation are unable to create an environment
which promotes open and clear communication, it can have negative repercussions on the work culture and the employee
productivity. The importance of effective workplace communication is discussed below:
Creates job satisfaction- Organisations which encourage an open and easy correspondence between seniors and
subordinates face lesser employee turnover. If the work environment is friendly where the subordinates are
encouraged to communicate their ideas to their administrators regarding work-related issues, and their feedback
is given due consideration, it motivates the employees to work better and makes them feel valued in the
organisation. Thus, effective communication in the workplace helps in building loyalty and trust which
eventually attributes to greater job satisfaction.
Lesser conflicts- Open communication in the workplace can help prevent and resolve many conflicts.
Workplace conflicts are easily resolved through open and clear communication and mutual discussions; this can
lead to personal and professional growth.
Increases productivity- Effective communication at work is the most important issue for the success and failure
of an organisation. Every organisation has a set of clearly defined goals, objectives and vision. If an
administrator is clear in his/her communication, the subordinates will know exactly what the organisation wants
and thus, will be able to deliver the same to the best of their abilities. Thus, the importance of communication
skills can be judged from the fact that it leads to better deliverance of work, increasing workplace productivity.
Formation of relationships- Open communication, whether between the employees and administrators or
between the management and employees, leads to the formation of better personal and professional
relationships. This makes the employees feel genuinely cared and valued for, and they are more likely to remain
loyal to the organisation. This creates a friendly environment and promotes a better working relationship which
is conducive to the work.
Proper utilisation of resources- If an organisation faces problems, crisis and conflicts due to miscommunication
between the staff members, it causes unnecessary delays in the daily work. This leads to wastage of resources
and lowers the overall work productivity. So an environment of good communication is a must for any
organisation to better utilise its resources and increase productivity.
Barriers to Effective Communication
An administrator has no greater responsibility than to develop effective communication (Pauley, 2010). Why then
does communication break down? On the surface, the answer is relatively simple. The elements of communication as the
sender, the encoding, the message, the medium, the decoding, the receiver, and the feedback have been identified. If
barriers exist in these elements in any way, complete clarity of meaning and understanding does not occur. According to
Shaw (2011) the greatest problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished. As illustrated in
Figure 1, several forms of barriers can impede the communication process. Rakich and Darr (2000) classify these barriers
into two categories: environmental and personal. Both barriers can block, filter, or distort the message as it is encoded
and sent, as well as when it is decoded and received.
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Environmental Barriers
Environmental barriers are characteristic of the organization and its environmental setting. Examples of
environmental barriers include competition for attention and time between senders and receivers. Multiple and
simultaneous demands cause messages to be incorrectly decoded. The receiver hears the message, but does not
understand it. Due to inadequate attention paid to the message, the receiver is not really “listening.” Listening is a process
that integrates physical, emotional, and intellectual inputs into the quest for meaning and understanding. Listening is
effective only when the receiver understands the sender’s messages as intended. Thus, without engaging in active
listening, the receiver fails to comprehend the message.
Time is another barrier. Lack of time prevents the sender from carefully thinking through and thoroughly structuring
the message accordingly, and limits the receiver’s ability to decipher the message and determine its meaning. Other
environmental barriers include the organisation’s managerial philosophy, multiple levels of hierarchy, and power or
status relationships between senders and receivers (Sanchez & Guo, 2005).
Managerial philosophy can promote or inhibit effective communication. Managers who are not interested in
promoting intra-organisational communication upward or disseminating information downward will establish procedural
and organisational blockages. By requiring that all communication follow the chain of command, lack of attention and
concern toward employees is a sign of a managerial philosophy that restricts communication flows. Furthermore, when
subordinates encounter administrators who fail to act, they are unwilling to communicate upward in the future, because
communications are not taken seriously. Managerial philosophy not only affects communication within the organisation,
but also impacts the organisation’s communications with external stakeholders.
Power or status relationships can also effect transmission of a message. An unharmonious supervisorsubordinate
relationship can interfere with the flow and content of information. Moreover, a staff member’s previous experiences in
the workplace may prevent open communication due to fear of negative sanctions as a result. For instance, a poor
supervisorsubordinate relationship inhibits the subordinate from reporting that the project is not working as planned.
Fear of the power and status of the administrator is a common barrier to communication.
Another environmental barrier that may lead to miscommunication is the use of specific terminology unfamiliar to
the receiver or when messages are especially complex. Communication between people who use different terminology
can be unproductive simply because people attach different meanings to the same words. Thus, misunderstanding can
occur due to unfamiliar terminology. Today's complex organisational systems are highly specialised, organisations have
staff and technical experts developing and using specialised terminology that only other similar staff and technical
experts can understand, and if people do not understand the words, they cannot understand the message.
Personal Barriers
Personal barriers arise due to an individual’s frame of reference or beliefs and values. They are based on one’s socio-
economic background and prior experiences and shape how messages are encoded and decoded. One may also
consciously or unconsciously engage in selective perception or be influenced by fear or jealously. For example, some
cultures believe in “do not speak unless spoken to” or “never question elders” (Longest et al., 2000). These inhibit
communication. Others accept all communication at face value without filtering out erroneous information. Still others
provide self-promotion information, intentionally transmitting and distorting messages for personal gain. Unless one has
had the same experiences as others, it is difficult to completely understand their message. In addition to frame of
reference, one’s beliefs, values, and prejudices also can alter and block messages. Preconceived opinions and prejudices
are formed based on varying personalities and backgrounds.
Two additional personal barriers are status quo and evaluating the sender to determine whether one should retain or
filter out messages. For instance, an administrator always ignores the complaints from the receptionist, because the
receptionist tends to exaggerate issues and events. However, one must be careful to evaluate and distinguish
exaggerations from legitimate messages. Status quo is when individuals prefer the present situation. They intentionally
filter out information that is unpleasant. For example, an administrator refuses to tell staff of an impending dismissal. To
prevent disorder, the administrator postpones the communication to retain status quo.
A final personal barrier is lack of empathy, in other words, insensitivity to the emotional states of senders and
receivers. Empathy is the ability to put one's self into another's shoes. The empathetic person is able to see the world
through the eyes of the other person. Research shows that lack of empathy is one of the major obstacles to effective
communication (Eisenberg, 2010).
Overcoming Communication Barriers
Recognising that environmental and personal barriers exist is the first step to effective communication. By becoming
cognisant of their existence, one can consciously minimise their impact. However, positive actions are needed to
overcome these barriers. Longest et al (2000) provide us with several guidelines for overcoming communication barriers:
Environmental barriers are reduced if receivers and senders ensure that attention is given to their messages and
that adequate time is devoted to listening to what is being communicated.
A management philosophy that encourages the free flow of communication is constructive.
Reducing the number of links (levels in the organisational hierarchy or steps between the sender and the receiver
reduces opportunities for distortion.
The power/status barrier can be removed by consciously tailoring words and symbols so that messages are
understandable; reinforcing words with actions significantly improves communication among different
power/status levels.
Using multiple channels to reinforce complex messages decreases the likelihood of misunderstanding.
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Personal barriers to effective communication are reduced by conscious efforts of senders and receivers to understand
each other’s values and beliefs. One must recognise that people engage in selective perception and are prone to jealously
and fear. Sharing empathy with those to whom messages are directed is the best way to increase effective
communication.
Use techniques that extend beyond traditional organisational lines to facilitate communication. For instance, the
use of diagonal communication that flows through task forces or committees enhances communication
throughout the organisation.
Use management processes that are cross-organisational rather than confined to functional or department
procedures. Implementing management processes in the areas of planning, controlling, and managing
information systems facilitate communication.
Use human resources policies and procedures (job training and job rotation) to enhance cooperation among
members in organisations.
Use management processes to resolve conflicts in an equitable manner to produce effective communication.
Improving Communication Effectiveness
Once environmental and personal barriers are dealt with, a way is paved for improving communication in the
organisation. Effective communication being a two-way process requires effort and skill by both sender and receiver.
Administrators will at times assume each of these roles in the communication process. In view of this, guidelines for
improving communication effectiveness, including senders’ and receivers’ responsibilities are discussed below:
Sender's Responsibilities
Several communication theorists (Cheney, 2011; Keyton, 2011; Tourish, 2010; Lunenburg, 2010) have proposed
ten guidelines of good communication, which are particularly applicable to the sender. These guidelines, together with a
basic understanding of the communication process itself, should provide a good foundation for developing and
maintaining an effective set of interpersonal communication skills, which administrators can use when communicating
with various stakeholders.
1. Administrators need to clarify their ideas before communicating. The more systematically administrators
analyse the problem or idea to be communicated, the clearer it becomes. This is the first step toward effective
communication. Many communications fail because of inadequate planning. Good planning must consider the goals,
attitudes, and needs of those who will receive the communication and those who will be affected by it.
2. Administrators need to examine the true purpose of each communication. Before administrators communicate,
they must ask themselves what they really want to accomplish with their message (obtain information, initiate action, or
change another person's attitude?) Administrators need to identify their most important goal and then adapt their
language, tone, and total approach to serve that specific objective. Administrators should not try to accomplish too much
with each communication because the sharper the focus of their message, the greater its chances of success.
3. Administrators need to consider the total physical and human setting. Meaning and intent are conveyed by
more than words alone. Many other factors influence the overall impact of a communication, and administrators must be
sensitive to the total setting in which they communicate: the circumstances under which an announcement or decision is
made; the physical setting, whether the communication is made in private or otherwise; the social climate that pervades
work relationships within the department and sets the tone of its communications; custom and practice, the degree to
which the communication conforms to, or departs from, the expectations of the audience. Administrators should
constantly be aware of the total setting in which they communicate. Like all living things, communication must be
capable of adapting to its environment.
4. Administrators need to consult with others, when appropriate, in planning communications. Frequently, it is
desirable or necessary to seek the participation of others in planning a communication or in developing the facts on which
to base the communication. Such consultation often lends additional insight and objectivity to the message. Moreover,
those who have helped plan the communication will give it their active support.
5. Administrators need to be mindful, while communicating, of the overtones as well as the basic content of the
message. The administrator’s tone of voice, expression, and apparent receptiveness to the responses of others all have
tremendous impact on those the administrator wishes to reach. Frequently overlooked, these subtleties of communication
often affect a listener's reaction to a message even more than its basic content. Similarly, the administrator’s choice of
language particularly his/her awareness of the fine shades of meaning and emotion in the words used predetermines in
large part the reactions of the listeners.
6. Administrators need to take the opportunity, when it arises, to convey something of help or value to the
receiver. Consideration of the other person's interests and needs, trying to look at things from the other person's point of
view frequently points up opportunities to convey something of immediate benefit or long-range value to the other
person. Staff members are most responsive to administrators whose messages take staff interests into account.
7. Administrators need to follow up their communication. An administrator’s best efforts at communication may
be wasted, and he/she may never know whether he/she has succeeded in expressing his/her true meaning and intent if
he/she does not follow up to see how well he/she has put his/her message across. An administrator can do this by asking
questions, by encouraging the receiver to express his/her reactions, by follow-up contacts, and by subsequent review of
performance. An administrator needs to make certain that every important communication has feedback so that complete
understanding and appropriate action result.
8. Administrators need to communicate for tomorrow as well as today. Although communications may be aimed
primarily at meeting the demands of an immediate situation, they must be planned with the past in mind if they are to
maintain consistency in the receiver's view. Most important, however, communications must be consistent with long-
range interests and goals. For example, it is not easy to communicate frankly on such matters as poor performance or the
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shortcomings of a loyal staff member, but postponing disagreeable communications makes these matters more difficult in
the long run and is actually unfair to staff and the organisation.
9. Administrators need to be sure that their actions support their communications. In the final analysis, the most
persuasive kind of communication is not what administrators say, but what they do. When administrators’ actions or
attitudes contradict their words, others tend to discount what they have said. For every administrator, this means that
good supervisory practices such as clear assignment of responsibility and authority, fair rewards for effort, and sound
policy enforcement serve to communicate more than all the gifts of oratory.
10. Administrators need to seek, not only to be understood, but to understand and be a good listener. When an
administrator starts talking, he/she often ceases to listen, at least in that larger sense of being attuned to the other person's
unspoken reactions and attitudes. Even more serious is the occasional inattentiveness an administrator may be guilty of
when others are attempting to communicate with him. Listening is one of the most important, most difficult, and most
neglected skills in communication. It demands that the administrator concentrate not only on the explicit meanings
another person is expressing, but also on the implicit meanings, unspoken words, and undertones that may be far more
significant. Thus, an administrator must learn to listen with the inner ear if he/she is to know the inner person.
Receiver's Responsibilities
Communication depends on the ability not only to send but also to receive messages. So the ability to listen
effectively greatly enhances the communication process (Lunenburg, 2010). But many of us are not good listeners.
Effective listening skills can be developed, however. Kneen (2011) proposes ten guidelines for good listening:
1. Stop talking. You cannot listen if you are talking.
2. Put the talker at ease. Help a person feel free to talk. This is often called a permissive environment.
3. Show a talker that you want to listen. Look and act interested. Listen to understand rather than to oppose.
Listening requires two ears, one for meaning and one for feeling.
4. Remove distractions. Stay focused and pay attention.
5. Empathize with talkers. Try to help yourself see the other person's point of view.
6. Be patient. Allow plenty of time. Do not interrupt a talker. Do not start for the door or walk away.
7. Hold your temper. An angry person takes the wrong meaning from words.
8. Go easy on argument and criticism. These put people on the defensive, and they may clam up or become
angry. Do not argue: Even if you win, you lose.
9. Ask questions. This encourages a talker and shows that you are listening. It helps to develop points further.
10. Stop talking. This is first and last, because all other guides depend on it. You cannot do an effective
listening job while you are talking. Nature gave people two ears but only one tongue, which is a gentle hint that
they should listen more than they talk. Administrators who do not listen have less information for making sound
decisions.
Conclusion
Communication in the workplace is critical to establishing and maintaining quality working relationships in
organisations. As a process of transmitting information and common understanding from one person to another, effective
communication in the workplace is important because every administrative function and activity involves some form of
direct or indirect communication. Consequently, to improve the effectiveness of communications, administrators must
develop an awareness of the importance of sender's and receiver's responsibilities and adhere to active listening skills.
Effective communication skills in the workplace will improve an administrator’s ability to be a strong leader.
Administrators should therefore create an environment wherein problems, plans, issues, opinions, thoughts and ideas
pertaining to work, are discussed and handled in a professional, proficient manner through positive and effective
communication.
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A Theoretical Framework Integrated Marketing Communications to Integrated City Marketing Communications Öz Pazarlama çalışmalarında, bütünleşik pazarlama iletişimi (BPİ) konusunun benimsenmesi ve öneminin artmasıyla BPİ'nin şehir pazarlaması gibi yeni disiplinlere uygulanmasını mümkün hâle getirmiştir. Şehir pazarlamasında paydaş ve hissedarların çokluğu ile ürün çeşitliliği, tanıtım araçlarının birlikte ve ahenk içerisinde kullanılmasını gerektirmektedir. Son yıllarda şehir pazarlaması üzerine yürütülen çok sayıda araştırma ve çalışmaya rağmen arzu edilen başarıya ulaşılamaması, mevcut çalışmaların yeniden gözden geçirilmesi ve yeni yaklaşımların incelenmesi gerektiğini göstermektedir. Pazarlamada yeni yaklaşımlardan bir diğeri de; bütünleşik pazarlama iletişimidir. Şehir pazarlaması probleminin büyük ölçüde paydaş çeşitliliğine dayanması bütünleşik pazarlama iletişimini içine alan yeni bir çerçevenin oluşturulması gerektiğine işaret etmektedir. "Bütünleşik şehir pazarlaması iletişimi" şeklinde daha önce yapılmış kapsamlı bir araştırmaya rastlanmamıştır. Bu araştırmada, bütünleşik pazarlama iletişimi yaklaşımının şehir pazarlamasına uyarlanması üzerine teorik bir çerçeve oluşturulması ve oluşturulan çerçeveyle şehir pazarlaması çalışmalarına katkı sağlanması amaçlanmaktadır. Bütünleşik şehir pazarlaması iletişimi (BŞPİ) şeklinde adlandırılan bu çalışmayla tanıtım araçlarının birlikte ve uyum içinde kullanılması durumunda, hem paydaşların ve hem de hedef kitlelerin zihninde net mesajların uyanacağı düşünülmektedir. Araştırma yöntemi olarak bütünleşik pazarlama iletişimi ve şehir pazarlaması konusu üzerine literatür taraması yürütülmüş ve teorik bir çerçeve oluşturulmuştur. Teorik çerçeve oluşturulurken alanda daha önce yapılmış çalışmalardan ve araştırma modellerinden yararlanılmıştır. Elde edilen veriler BPİ modelinin şehre uygulanmasının şehir pazarlamasını daha etkin ve verimli kılacağı yönündedir. Abstract With the adoption and increasing importance of integrated marketing communication (IMC) in marketing studies, it has made it possible to apply IMC to new disciplines such as city marketing. Despite the large number of researches and studies carried out on city marketing in recent years, the lack of desired success shows that existing studies should be reviewed and new approaches should be examined. One of the new approaches in marketing is integrated marketing communication. There has not been any comprehensive research in the form of "integrated city marketing communication." In this research, it is aimed to create a theoretical framework on the adaptation of the integrated marketing communication approach to city marketing and to contribute to city marketing studies with the framework created. With this study, which is called integrated city marketing communication (ICMC), it is thought that if promotional tools are used together and in harmony, clear messages will be created in the minds of both stakeholders and target audiences. As a research method, a literature review has been carried out on integrated marketing communication and city marketing and a theoretical framework has been created. When creating the theoretical framework, previous studies and research models were used in the field. The data obtained are that applying the IMC model to the city will make city marketing more effective and efficient.
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Thank you for your interest in my work. This is a book published by Sage. I do not have copies to share. Perhaps your library can inter-library loan it for you. Best/joann
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