Types and Factors related to Efficacy of Communication


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Types of Communication

One of the important tasks of a management leader is to structure the total situation for his followers so that they perceive and understand it properly. This has reference to clarifying, explaining and elucidating particular aspects of management policy to the men. This structuring of the situation basically implies that the leader himself should understand the situation properly and then communicate his understanding to his followers.

This communication is usually of two types – personal and impersonal. Personal communications are possible only with small groups or organizations. For example, if the management of a textile mill is desirable, that the charge man in each section meets his workers informally and informs then regarding the steps that made the company decide on the installation of these looms and how these are likely to affect them. The advantages of such personal communications are many. First, it leads to a better understanding of the situation as a result of discussions and questions and answers. Secondly, it leads to a distinct improvement in the attitude of the workers towards the leader and the organization which that leader represents. Impersonal communications are mostly the rule in dealing with large groups. For example, in large industries, management communicate their decisions, etc. to the general body of employees through such devices as printed letters, pamphlets, employee magazines, public address system, etc. The disadvantages of such communications are:

• The personal interest, recognition and warmth are lost.
• Possibility of feedback and discussions are less and hence their effectiveness in reducing employee anxieties and insecurities is decreased.

In case of both personal and impersonal communications in industry, the goals are the same and definite. These are to improve employee performances and their attitude towards management and also to create a name for the company with the public in general regarding good employee relations.

Factors related to Efficacy of Communication

Most of the experimental studies on communication have been done with specially created small groups in psychological laboratories following upon the methods for study of group dynamics development by Kurt Lewin and his associates. Studies on aspects of communication in ongoing industrial organizations have been rather few. All these studies have clarified to some extent the variables that are related to effective communication. These can be grouped as follows:

• Communication Skill of the Leader - The type of skill required by a leader for effective communication varies according to the situation. For example, the skill required by the chairman of the board of directors to communicate his ideas in a board meeting is different from the skills required by the foreman trying to communicate certain changes in the work schedule to one or more of his workers in a face to face situation. Again, both these skills are very different from the skills required in communicating certain policy matters to a large body of men over the microphone. Studies on leadership have shown that, in general, men who occupy successful leader positions are usually strong in certain qualities or skills. Such men usually have:

1. Great facility with language; simple and persuasive speech and writing.
2. Fairly wide and varied interests and aptitudes.
3. Emotional maturity and well rounded personality.
4. Possession of social skill to an above average degree.
5. High ability to assess and estimate the opinion of their groups on issues that are significant; that is, high sensitivity to group opinions.

The above are also the qualities that the leader needs in order that he may communicate effectively with his men. Either accurate perception or reading of the situation and linguistic facility and social skill are required on the part of the leader if he is to be in a position to communicate his ideas effectively to his followers. We know of special schools and courses that have been designed to develop these qualities. However, the claims of these training institutes have not been scientifically studied. The situation is further confused by the observation that (i) experience in leadership positions by itself tends to improve leader like qualities and (ii) effective leadership is relative to the group and the task, and a person who is not a leader in situation A may be the natural leader in situation B or converse creates an affirmative position.

• Properties of the group like its size, the nature of the communication network or channel, social climate of the group, and physical factors like seating arrangement, etc. of the group. The structure of a group consists of different positions and their arrangements in respect of one another. The manner of which the individuals occupying these different positions interact with each other in carrying on the business of the group is governed to a large extent by these arrangements. For example, one such arrangement relates to the channel of communication or communication network. It is this channel or network which determines whether A can communicate with B directly; or that such direct communication is not possible, but A has to go through C in order to communicate with B, and so on for all the positions in the group. Every organization develops its own communication network and requires all its members to adhere to the principles of communication.

The characteristics of such communication networks are of very great significance for development of a proper organization and leadership in the group, and also for its performance.

The experiments on communication networks thus give us an idea about the different ways in which communication channel facilitates or hinders the development of group solidarity and morale, and quality and quantity of performance. Executives in charge of organizations have to set up channels such that they automatically occupy central leading positions; but care should be taken that all other positions are not reduced to total ineffectiveness by virtue of their peripheral positions in the channel. In that case, the talents of these other members will be lost to the organization and they are also likely to develop feelings of indifference or even hostility to the organization and its leader.

It may be mentioned here in passing that in a conference or a group discussion situation, sometimes such a simple thing like seating arrangement may determine to a large extent as to which members are to communicate with whom. At least one experiment has been conducted to demonstrate that where a small group of about a dozen or so members is seated in a circle, the greater the physical distance between two members, the greater is the chance that they will follow one another verbally and interact with each other during the discussion. Of course, in a conference where one person takes up the comments of another, it is determined also by such factors like the content of the statement made by the first individual, the stimulus value it has for others, the extent to which the two individuals are participating in the discussion, etc. But apart from these factors, physical distance between seats also affects the discussion. In a circular arrangement of seats, the experiment showed that occupants of diametrically opposite seats interacted most often.

Yet another factor that may facilitate or retard communication is what may be called the social climate of the group or organization. In a group discussion, for example, where the leader is permissive and there is emotional harmony between members, communication between members will be less restricted. On the other hand, if the leader is highly authoritarian and has an ego-deflating attitude toward others, communication is likely to be blocked. One of the disadvantages of group discussion under such an authoritarian and restrictive leader is that as a result of blocking of communication from other members of the group, the solution of the problem in hand does not get the benefit of diverse opinions and is, therefore, likely to be poorer in quality. Advantage is that the solution might be arrived at more speedily and in a shorter time. Secondly, this blocking of communication is likely to engender hostility amongst the men towards the leader.

The laboratory studies set up experimental communication patterns and investigate into their effects on performance and morale. The task of studying communication channels as they exist in ongoing organizations, industrial or otherwise, is infinitely more complex and there is also a lack of adequate field methods of observation for studying these. Consequently, not many studies have been made with live organizations, though a beginning has been made.

Studies of communication in industries are few and far between. In most such organizations communication networks are imposed by general policy by men at the top of the organization. The network is maintained by the regulation that one must communicate through the proper channel. However, all existing communication links are not set up exclusively by orders from above; some new communication links spring up spontaneously depending upon organizational and member needs and idiosyncrasies. The communication structure of a group or organization is thus composed of the total pattern of positions and communication links. It has already been noted how the leader is usually in the central position connected to everyone else through a comparatively few communication links and that people in the periphery tend to be more dissatisfied than the rest. The liaison person via whom information between two subgroups flows is a potential bottleneck for communication between parts of the organization.

Another interest aspect of the problem is that transmission of information by any link is highly selective. How a man views the information he has received and the exact form in which he tends to pass it on to the next link are highly distorted by the individual's own needs and perception of the situation. It is not uncommon for a supervisor to screen the information he passes on to his superior according to what he feels the latter would like to hear. Also, some communications passed on are quite irrelevant to the task. It has been found that the more unpleasant a member's position is in a hierarchy, the stronger is the tendency in him to send such task-irrelevant communications to members at different levels. These seem to be attention getting in nature and very often serve as an escape from one's unpleasant situation. The tendency to communicate to men high up on the part of low status people also very often serves as a substitute for real promotion in the hierarchy. It can thus be seen how human nature together with defective communication methods may set up real tendencies against the achievement of organizational goals.


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