A vital factor in a company's success is good communication among its employees.
According to the book In Search of Excellence (Peters and Waterman) excellent
companies have a vast network of informal, open communication. Their staff keep
in contact with one another on an informal and formal basis. Management encourages
easy and frequent communication.
How do you rate communication within your own company? Are you happy with it or
do you think it could be improved? Perhaps some of the following factors affecting
in-company communication are familiar to you?
Failing to get the message
Many managers believe they give clear instructions to their employees. In fact,
research has shown that employees very often do not realise they have been told
to do something. When managers give instructions they should endeavour to ensure
that these have been understood and interpreted correctly.
Breakdown in communication
People can have difficulty communicating with other employees of higher job status.
This "social distance" may affect how openly employees speak about their work. People
of the same rank may talk frankly to one another about how things are going. However,
they may be less honest with someone higher up in the hierarchy - for fear of prejudicing
their position in the company. For this reason employees often "filter" information.
They alter the facts to tell the boss what s/he wants to hear. One way of reducing
social distance is to cut down the ways in which employees can indicate higher status.
In Japanese companies, for example, it is usual for all staff to wear the same uniform.
Many companies have a common dining area for all staff.
The physical element
Physical surroundings and distance can affect how well people communicate. The farther
away one person is from another, the less often they communicate. Some research
has shown that when the distance is more than 10 metres, the probability of communicating
at least once a week is only 8%. This compares with 25% for people less than 5 metres
apart! The physical layout of an office should therefore be carefully planned. Open-plan
offices, for example, are designed to encourage quick and easy communication. Some
companies prefer to install escalators, rather than lifts, to increase the chances
of employees meeting face-to-face.
People perceive things in different ways. The world of a sender of a message is
not the same as that of the receiver. Because their knowledge and experience is
different, the sender and receiver are always on slightly different wavelengths.
So the message may get distorted.
How can good communication be fostered?
The most important thing for all managers to remember is that communication is a
two-way process. They should encourage their employees to ask questions and to react
to what the managers are saying. Feedback is vital. The most useful question a manager
can ask is "Did you understand that?"
Reading for meaning
When you read an article, you can often guess the words you do not know from the
Find words or expressions in the above article which have the following meanings: