The word communication has been derived from the Latin word ‘communis’ which means ‘common’ which consequently implies common understanding.

“Communication is a process of exchange of ideas, views, facts, feelings etc., between two or more people to create common understanding.”

“Communication refers to the process by which a person (known as sender) transmits information or messages to another person (known as receiver).”

The purpose of communication in organisation is to convey orders, instructions, or information so as to bring desired changes in the performance and or the attitude of employees.


Elements of Communication Process

Communication is a process that involves various steps also called its elements like source, encoding, media/channel, receiver, decoding, noise and feedback etc. as explained below:

  1. Sender/communicator:

Sender is the person who conveys his thoughts or ideas to the receiver. The sender is source of communication.

  1. Message/subject matter:

It is the content of ideas, feelings, suggestions, order etc., that is to be communicated.

  1. Encoding:

It is the process of  converting the message into communication symbols such as words, pictures, gestures etc.,

  1. Media:

It is the path through which encoded message is transmitted  to receiver. The channel may be in written form, face to face, phone, call, internet etc.,

  1. Decoding:

It is the process of converting encoded symbols of the sender to understand the message of the sender.

  1. Receiver/communicatee:

He is the person who receives communication of the sender.

  1. Feedback:

It includes all those actions of receiver indicating that he has received and understood message of sender.

  1. Noise:

Noise means some obstruction or hindrance to communication. This hindrance may be caused to sender, message or receiver.

Some examples of noise are:

(a) Ambiguous symbols that lead to faulty encoding.

(b) A poor telephone connection.

(c) An inattentive receiver.

(d) Faulty decoding (to give wrong meaning to message).

(e) Prejudices obstructing the poor understanding of message.

(f ) Gestures and postures that may distort the message.


Importance of Communication

Communication results in the consumption of 90 percent time of a manager in communicating  and serves as the lubricant in the management process.

The importance of communication can be understood from the following:

  1. Basis of coordination:

Communication acts as basis of coordination. It provides coordination among  departments, activities and persons in the organisation by explaining about organisational goals, the mode of their achievement and inter relationships between different individuals etc.

  1. Smooth working of an enterprise:

Communication helps in smooth working of an enterprise by facilitating organizational interactions and by bringing coordination into the human and physical elements of an organisation . When communication stops, organized activity ceases to exist.

  1. Acts as basis of decision making:

Communication provides needed information for decision making. In its absence, it may not be possible for the managers to take any meaningful decision.

  1. Increases managerial efficiency:

Communication facilitates effective performance of managerial functions like conveying the goals and targets, issueing instructions, allocating jobs and responsibilities and looking after the performance of subordinates.

  1. Promotes cooperation and industrial peace:

The two way communication promotes cooperation and mutual understanding between the management and workers that makes all the actions of a good management possible and fruitful.

  1. Establishes effective leadership:

Communication serves as basis of leadership. Effective communication helps to influence subordinates. While influencing people, leader should possess good communication skills.

  1. Boosts morale and provides motivation:

An efficient system of communication enables management to motivate, influence and satisfy the subordinates on the one hand and helps workers in adjusting with their  physical and social aspects of work.

Communication is the basis of participative and democratic pattern of management.


Types of Communication

    Formal and Informal Communication(On the basis of channel used)

The path through which information flows is called channel of communication .

On the basis of channel used, communication can be:

Formal Communication:

The paths of communication which are based on relationship establish formally by management are the formal channels e.g. the General Manager communicates a decision to the production manager who may then issue orders or instructions to the foremen.

Informal communication:

Communication, which takes place on the basis of informal or social relations among staff, is called informal communication. e.g. any sharing of information between a production supervisor and an accountant, as they happen to be friends or so. It may be purely personal or related to organisational matters.

    Upward, Downward, Horizontal and Diagonal Communication(On the basis of the flow or direction of communication)

On the basis of the flow or direction of communication in organisations, it can be classified as upward, downward, horizontal or diagonal.

Upward Communication:

When employees make any request, appeal, report, suggest or communicate ideas to the superior, the flow of communication is upward i.e. from bottom to top.

Examples: Foreman’s report regarding breakdown of machinery to the factory manager, application for grant of leave, submission of progress report, request for grants etc.

Downward communication:

When communication is made from superiors to subordinate , it is called a downward communication.

Examples: When superiors issue orders and instructions to subordinates, sending notice to employees to attend a meeting, ordering subordinates to complete an assigned work, passing on guidelines framed by top management to the subordinates.

Communication of work assignments, notices, requests for performance, etc. through bulletin boards, memos, reports, speeches, meetings, etc, are all forms of downward communication.

Horizontal flow of communication

Communication amongst members at the same level in the organisation is called horizontal flow of communication.

Examples: Production manager may communicate the production plan to the sales manager, a production manager may contact marketing manager to discuss about schedule of product delivery, product design, quality etc.

Diagonal Communication:

When communication is made between people who are neither in the same department nor at the same level of organisational hierarchy, it is called diagonal communication.

Examples: Cost accountant may request for reports from sales representatives for the purpose of distribution cost analysis.

    Verbal and Non-verbal Communication(On the basis of the mode used)

On the basis of the mode used, communication may be verbal or non-verbal.

Verbal Communication:

While communicating, managers may talk to their subordinates either face to face or on telephone or they may send letters, issue notices, or memos. These are all verbal communication.

Verbal modes of communication may be oral and written.

Oral communication:

Face to face communication, as in interviews, meetings and seminars, Issuing orders and instructions on telephone or through an intercommunication system is also oral communication.

Written Communication:

The written modes of communication include letters, circulars, notices and memos.

Gestural communication:

When verbal communication is supported by non-verbal communication such as facial expressions and body gestures, like wave of hand, a smile or a frown etc. it is called gestural communication.


Communication Networks:

Communication network  is the pattern through which communication flows within the organisation.

Types of communication networks in Formal Communication

  1. Single chain:

This network exists between a supervisor and his subordinates. Since many levels exist in an organisation structure, communication flows from every superior to his subordinate through single chain.

  1. Wheel:

In wheel network, all subordinates under one superior communicate through him only as he acts as a hub of the wheel. The subordinates are not allowed to talk among themselves.

  1. Circular:

When each person communicates with his adjoining two persons, he is said to be  part of  a circular network. In this case, communication flow is slow.

  1. Free flow:

When each person can communicate with others freely, such network is called free network. The flow of communication is fast in this case.

  1. Inverted V:

In this network, a subordinate is allowed to communicate with his immediate superior as well as his superiors superior. However, in later case, only prescribed communication takes place.

Informal Communication

Communication that takes place without following the formal lines of communication is said to be informal communication.

Informal system of communication is generally called as ‘grapevine’ because it spreads throughout the organisation with its branches going out in all directions in utter disregard to the levels of authority.

How does Informal Communication arise?

The informal communication arises out of needs of employees to exchange their views, which cannot be done through formal channels.

Examples of informal communications:

  1. Workers chit chating in a canteen about the behaviour of the superior.
  2. Discussion about rumours that some employees are likely to be transferred.

Can Informal Communication be eliminated?

The grapevine/ informal communication spreads rapidly and sometimes gets distorted. It is very difficult to detect the source of such communication. It also leads to generate rumours which are not authentic which may hamper work environment.

Sometimes, grapevine channels may be helpful as they carry information rapidly and, therefore, may be useful to the manager at times. Informal channels are used by the managers to transmit information so as to know the reactions of his/her subordinates.

So, an intelligent manager  should make use of positive aspects of informal channels and minimize negative aspects of this channel of communication.

Grapevine Network(Communication networks in Informal Communication)

Grapevine communication may follow different types of network..

  1. Single strand :

In single strand network, each person communicates to the other in sequence.

  1. Gossip network:

In gossip network, each person communicates with all on non selective basis.

  1. Probability network:

In probability network, the individual communicates randomly with other individual.

  1. Cluster network:

In cluster network, the individual communicates with only those people whom he trusts. Cluster is the most popular network in organisations.


Barriers to Communication:

Problems or breakdowns in communication resulting in incomplete or wrong understanding are called barriers to communication.

Types of barriers to communication :

semantic barriers, psychological barriers, organisational barriers, and personal barriers. These are briefly discussed below:

  1. Semantic barriers:

Semantics is  the branch of linguistics dealing with the meaning of words and sentences. Semantic barriers are related to problems and obstructions in the process of encoding and decoding of message into words or impressions.

Main semantic barriers are:

(a) Badly expressed message:

When intended meaning is not conveyed by a manager to his subordinates, may be on account of inadequate vocabulary, usage of wrong words, omission of needed words etc.

(b) Symbols with different meanings:

A word may have several meanings. Receiver has to understand the meaning for the word used by communicator, in the same sense. Wrong perception leads to communication problems.

(c) Faulty translations:

Sometimes the communication originally drafted in one language needs to be translated to the language understandable to the other party . If the translator is not proficient with both the languages, mistakes may occur causing different meanings .

(d) Unclarified assumptions:

Some communications may have certain assumptions which are subject to different interpretations.

(e) Technical jargon:

It is common that specialists use technical vocabulary while explaining to persons who  are not specialists in the concerned field. Therefore, they may not understand the actual meaning of many such words.

(f) Body language and gesture decoding:

The body movement and gestures of communicator matters a lot in conveying the message. If there is no match between what is said and what is expressed in body movements, communications may result in wrong conclusions.

Psychological barriers:

Psychological barriers are the barriers due to emotional or psychological factors i.e. the state of mind of both the communicator and communicatee.

For example, a worried person cannot communicate properly and an angry receiver cannot understand the real meaning of message.

Main psychological barriers are:

(a) Premature evaluation:

Sometimes people draw conclusions of the message before the sender completes his message. Such premature evaluation may be due to pre-conceived notions or prejudices against the communication.

(b) Lack of attention:

The preoccupied mind of receiver and the resultant non-listening of message acts as a major psychological barrier.

(c) Loss by transmission and poor retention:

When communication passes through various levels, there is a problem of incomplete or wrong transmission of information.

Poor retention is another problem as many people cannot retain the information for a long time if they are inattentive or not interested.

(d) Distrust:

Lack of trust between communicator and communicate acts as a barrier. If the parties do not believe each other, they cannot understand each other’s message in the same sense.

Organisational barriers:

These factors are related to organisation structure, authority relationships, rules and regulations etc.

Some of such organisational barriers are:

(a) Organisational policy:

Effectiveness of communication is adversally affected If the organisational policy, explicit or implicit, is not supportive to free flow of communication.

For example, in a centralised organisation, people may not be encouraged to have free communication.

(b) Rules and regulations:

Rigid rules and complicated procedures can be a problem in communication. Communications  through prescribed channel may result in delays.

(c) Status:

Status of superior can create psychological distance between him and his subordinates. A status conscious manager also does not allow his subordinates to express their feelings freely.

(d) Complexity in organisation structure:

In an organisation where there are number of managerial levels, communication gets delayed and distorted as number of filtering points are more.

(e) Organisational facilities:

Facilities like frequent meetings, suggestion box, complaint box, social and cultural gathering, transparency in operations etc., will encourage free flow of communication. Lack of these facilities may create communication problems.

Personal barriers:

Personal barriers are the personal factors of both sender and receiver that can affect  effectiveness of communication.

Main personal barriers are:

(a) Fear of challenge to authority:

If a superior feels that a particular communication may adversely affect his authority, he or she is likely to withhold or suppress such communication.

(b) Lack of confidence of superior on his subordinates:

If superiors do not have confidence on the competency of their subordinates, they cannot seek their advice or opinions.

(c) Lack of willingness to communicate:

Sometimes, subordinates are not prepared to communicate with their superiors, if they perceive that it can adversely affect their  interests.

(d) Lack of proper incentives:

If there is no motivation or incentive for communication, subordinates may not take initiative to communicate.e.g. if there is no reward or appreciation for a good suggestion, the subordinates may not be willing to offer useful suggestions.


Improving Communication Effectiveness

Organisations should adopt suitable measures to overcome the barriers and improve communication effectiveness. Some such measures  are:

  1. Clarify the ideas before communication:

The problem to be communicated to subordinates should be clear in all its perspective to the superior himself. The entire problem should be studied in depth, and clearly conveyed to subordinates.

  1. Communicate according to the needs of receiver:

The level of the education and understanding levels of subordinates should be absolutely clear to the communicator so that he can adjust his communication according to the subordinates.

  1. Consult others before communicating:

Before actually communicating the message, it is better to involve others .Participation and involvement of subordinates help to gain ready acceptance and willing cooperation of subordinates.

  1. Be aware of languages, tone and content of message:

The contents of the message, tone and language to be used etc. should be carefully considered before making communication. The message should be communicated in stimulating to evoke desired response.

  1. Convey things of help and value to listeners:

It is better for the sender to know the interests and needs of the receiver. If the message relates directly or indirectly to such interests and needs it certainly evokes response from communicate.

  1. Ensure proper feedback:

The communicator should ensure the success of communication by asking questions regarding the message conveyed and the receiver be encouraged to respond .

  1. Communicate for present as well as future:

Generally, communication is needed to meet the existing commitments to maintain consistency, the communication should aim at future goals of the enterprise also.

  1. Follow up communications:

There should be regular follow up and review on the instructions given to subordinates. Such follow up measures help in removing hurdles if any in implementing the instructions..

  1. Be a good listener:

Manager should be a good listener. Patient and attentive listening solves half of the problems. Managers should also give indications of their interest in listening to their subordinates.


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