In business, communication carries a fair amount of importance in keeping the daily operations going. Good communication skills are one of the first things that employers look for in potential new hires. It's valuable enough that, without it, things are sure to go awry.
This article will expand on the value and role that communication plays in organizational behavior and in the workplace. You will learn about the different ways it can be of use and what possible problems can arise from poor communication abilities. Additional information will include ways of improving communication in business and what practices should be avoided.
As mentioned before, communication is a vital component in business because it is a key part of daily operations.1 Like with decision making, it sets things in motion for the business and gets things done. Communications impact how tasks are assigned, if deadlines are met, the quality of a final product, and how rewards and punishments are done.2 A company cannot attract and interact with their customers without effective communication abilities, which means that the business can't do business.
In many ways, communication in the professional world is like breathing for businesses. If you can't communicate effectively of if there are problems preventing you from doing so, it gets very difficult to do things. Simply being able to talk or understand a language doesn't mean that you have good communication skills either, you need to be able to interpret the message being conveyed. Only about 8% of what words a person uses contribute to what they are saying; tone makes up 37% and body language and expression fills the remaining 55%.3 If you only look at the surface when interacting with people, it can be very easy to miss out on what they're trying to get across to you.
What It Does To Organizational Behavior
Communication works about the same way in organizational behavior as it does in the rest of the business. It lets employees get things done and allows the daily routine to run smoothly. The effectiveness of communication in organizational behavior often assists in setting the tone of the work environment and the interactions between employees. Cooperation between co-workers on tasks and in teamwork is contingent on how well everyone is able to communicate with each other, so it's usually a prized skill.4
In terms of the hierarchy in organizational behavior, effective communication often helps maintain the chain of command. Information flows from level to level, or from department to department, with leaders of each delegating tasks to the appropriate parties. Without each person doing their part in the line, the message can be miscommunicated and the productivity of the group as a whole is hindered. People only know how well they've managed to communicate information based on the results at the end of the line and from group feedback. Inefficient communication brings the entire system down and knocks it out of balance.
When communication isn't being effective in a group setting, it usually means that there is some kind of problem occurring that is keeping things from working as they should. This can be a result of ability, distraction, a lack of cooperation, or the topic being discussed. Whatever the reason for the issue(s), you can't really do anything until you find the source of the problem. Most communication difficulties can be traced back to a flesh-and-blood person who is involved in some degree. In business, employees who are having difficulty or causing problems with communication tend to have an effect on organizational behavior because of their interactions with their co-workers.
- The Telephone Effect-The game of telephone effects are an applicable issue for effective communication. If someone misunderstands the information being communicated to them, they will end up passing along the incorrect message to the next person. The more misunderstandings there, the more warped the message becomes just like in a game of telephone. In a setting where teamwork and effective communication are a must, this can cause serious problems for the group trying to work together. If staff members seem to be almost habitually getting their wires crossed, then it may be a sign that there's a communication problem somewhere in the system. The chances of a misunderstanding occurring increases as the number of people involved increases, so larger businesses may have multiple occurrences.
- An Increase in Errors-If there's a lot of communication problems, then there is most likely going to be a noticeable amount of errors as a result. When someone doesn't get the right information or all of the information necessary to complete a task, then it tends to not be done the way it was supposed to be done. While there is no guarantee that every task or assignment will be done to perfect specifications, a business should have a noticeably higher rate of success over failure. If the amount of errors outweighs the amount of successes, or there's an unexplained increase in those numbers, then it may signify that there's a problem. Determining if it's related to the communication abilities of those involved or some other issue may not be immediately known, but it's still quite likely.
- Poor Intrapersonal Relations-People who don't get along tend to not be able or willing to communicate very well with each other. Good communication skills tend to promote bonding and healthy intrapersonal relationships amongst the staff.5 Without it, there can be quite a bit of dysfunction and a lack of cohesion in the business environment. If there's no communication, or if what's there is of poor quality, then members of a team are not going to be able to work together to get things done. Typical markers can include fewer interactions, neutral or negative behavior, more tension or stress, lower morale, and a decrease in productivity amongst employees.
- Changes in Productivity and Quality-As some of the other indicators may have suggested, ineffective or problematic communication in a business can have a serious impact on productivity and quality of work. Communication is vital to so many parts of a business' function that issues present in one area can affect the performance of that area and others. Changes in productivity or quality are going to be one of the biggest and most obvious indicators that there is something wrong in a company's environment.
Steps To Improve Communication
If it turns out that a business exhibits poor communication abilities or that there is a problem, then there are actions that can be taken. Individual employees can improve their communication skills by fixing the areas that they are not proficient in. Depending on what the root of their specific problem(s) is, they can do some of the following:
- Take The Time To Listen-When there's an instance of communication, it's typically because someone has a message to give to someone else. Regardless of there's a specific recipient or if a response is required, the message cannot be delivered if no one is actually listening to the deliverer. Actually taking the time to listen to what is being said can help avoid losing potentially vital information. Certain circumstances in a professional environment may require a person to listen very carefully in order for a task to be done. An example would be when there is a language barrier, where a literal misinterpretation could cause a completely different outcome than what is desired.6
- Be Patient-Employees can be very busy people with a lot of things to do in very little time. It can be difficult to not rush through things in order to meet a deadline or to take care of something that is a high priority. However, rushing through things can cause people to get sloppy in how they communicate. Patience in such instances can be incredibly important and necessary for things to get done as intended. This can be especially true in teams if everyone isn't moving at the same speed. Everyone's work ethic and abilities are going to be different, and that can affect their pace on tasks.
- Are You Being Clear?-Just because you understand what it is you're trying to convey, doesn't mean everyone else will too. People are not mind-readers and you shouldn't expect them to try to be. Being clear and transparent in your communications-especially if you are in a leadership position like a manager or supervisor-can help make sure that everyone is on the same page.7 This means avoiding any unnecessary fluff or vagueness that can be misinterpreted; bad news or good news, it doesn't need any embellishments.8
- Pay Attention!-Any method of communication isn't going to be very effective if no one is paying attention to what is being said. If someone's speaking to you, pause what you're doing and give them your full attention. Multi-tasking and anything that can divide your attention can impact your communication skills and your ability to process the information you are getting. Switching between tasks puts a strain on your brain's ability to process things-it's not built for multitasking in the first place-and makes it harder for you to filter out distractions.9 Learn to prioritize in your communications and direct your attention where it's needed the most.
- Get Feedback-If you are unsure if your communication abilities are lacking or if the improvements you've made are doing their job, consider getting feedback from your peers. No matter how careful or clear you try to be, there is still the possibility that someone wasn't paying attention or didn't understand you.10 Feedback can be obtained by simply asking the person if they understand or if they have any questions. This may be necessary if you're imparting a lot of information on someone, and you might want to make a few notes for yourself to make sure you hit the necessary points.
What Not To Do
As with several other aspects of organizational behavior, there are certain things that you should not try in order to make improvements or fix problems. A few for communicating with others include:
- Interrupt Others-Unless you have a pretty good reason for doing so, interrupting others is one of the most disrespectful things you can do when it comes to communication. In a business setting it can make you seem unprofessional, which may reflect badly on your superiors and the company. Does it still happen in professional settings? Yes it does, but that doesn't mean it is okay. Interrupting breaks a person's train of thought and can cause them to skip key points in their message. Many people will try to build-in natural breaks in their communication for others to jump in and ask questions or add to the discussion. Even if they don't offer that opportunity, you can still wait until they are done talking before you say anything.
- Be Apathetic-The topic at hand in a situation may not have anything to do with you or be directed solely at you to begin with. Even if you have no interest in what is being discussed, you should still take the time to pay attention and at least acknowledge that someone is speaking. This means you shouldn't distract others in the group or start playing on your phone (or walk away from the person mid-sentence). Being apathetic or uncaring in communication tends to send the message that you would rather be somewhere else. It's disrespectful and potentially distracting to everyone else in the conversation. The people you do this to may decide that you are not worth their time and may withhold information from you as a result. In situations where you are acting as a representative of the company, it can impact the business' reputation and get you in trouble with your seniors if it gets back to them.
- "Selective Hearing"-Picking and choosing what or who you want to listen to isn't going to help things get done. Being selective in communication because you don't care about the topic or the person speaking is never a good idea. Not only is it rude and disrespectful towards the person you're interacting with, but it can lead to miscommunication, a lack of trust, and errors in productivity. Depending on what the situation is and what a person's role in the business is, the problems that arise from being unnecessarily selective in your communication skills can have far reaching effects for the company. If you make a habit of it, people will begin to notice and it may affect your relationships with your peers and supervisors.