Open Communication – The Importance of Effective Communication in Business
Employees that are union members may have some difficulties in having supervisors ask employees individually about their problems and concerns. It should be explained openly that the intent is to help employees in their job performance, not to avoid grievances by usurping the union prerogatives as the employee representative. Most grievance procedures begin with employee supervisor discussion anyway, and the intention is to air and respond to an employee complaint.
A manager requests supervisors to report, within a set period of time, the main job problem or concern of a selected group of employees. While the questioning can be carried out by a staff person, the technique is much more effective and supervisors defenses are much lower if the reporting is done through the chain of command-employee to supervisor, and supervisor to manager. The net result, discussion of major job problems at several levels, can provide a basic analysis of employee communications.
Another approach to communications analysis may be employed in resolving a job problem or conflict between two units or groups. This approach involves having each group or unit state its problem, concern, or position and recommend a solution. Such an open airing of the issue can be enough to start the process of improving communications. Generally, in inter group or inter unit conflict, a third – party may help but is not necessary to resolve the conflict. A manager and two subordinates (or two subordinate groups) can handle the method very well.
The larger an organization, the greater is the tendency to move from individual and small-group face-to-face communications to mass communications. Even though entered into good faith, mass communication tends to be one way communication and leans toward persuading rather than informing.
Mass communication in big business organizations is often undertaken with what amounts to religious zeal, a zeal which results from top management dedication to selling its point of view. But, unfortunately, interests and needs of the individual may be lost in the effort to sell the group.
Managers in larger organizations must strive to keep the proper role of employee communications in perspective. Although managers may fully intend to keep employees informed of events which affect their jobs, they are to commit the following three errors:
I. Top management personnel may presume that they can most effectively convey company policy to employees, often setting up a corporate staff specialist to handle the responsibility.
1 Too much reliance may be placed on written media.
2 Employee feedback may be overlooked altogether or used too infrequently.
Even when a large organization is communications oriented, its efforts can be misdirected. Nothing destroys effective communications more than a broad, generalized organization-centered communications survey. Such surveys are almost always self-serving, and may ambition such questions as:
• Are we getting our management message through?
• How can we improve our written media?
• Do employees identify with corporate objectives?
• Is the free-enterprise system understood?
• How much X-type information do you need? (This question is appropriate only if all or most employees need some of that type of information.)
While some institutional employee communications are desirable and necessary, they should not be overdone. Corporate employee media are inclined to spout the party line, to place much too much emphasis on activities and perspectives of upper management, to avoid sticky issues, to contain old information, and to be more concerned with format than meaningful content. Such media suffers from the compulsion of a staff specialist to fill up space, meet deadlines, and avoid political errors.