Communication is very central to human life and every now and then, our lives are affected in one way or another by our communication with others. On a daily basis, messages will be passed from one person to another either verbally or non-verbally.
People from different disciplines tend to define communication based on the environment in which they exist in. Despite the challenge of coming up with a commonly agreed definition, communication may be viewed as the transmission of information from a sender or receiver in a form that the receiver can clearly understand.
Communication provides a means for people to interact, be understood and understand others. In some isolated cases, however, it is possible for a communication to exhibit both effective and non effective characteristics depending on how it is executed.
In a work set up, where many different people are expected to work closely together, communication breakdowns are almost inevitable and achieving an effective two-way communication between the parties involved is a real challenge (Reece, Brandt & Howie, 2010). If not checked, ineffective communication at the work place will lead to a decline in the overall performance of the workers.
According to Green (2006), a person’s style of thinking and communicating are determined by the quality and depth of intelligence, emotions, adversity and vision, coupled with the ability to secure the optimum balance between them. Quite often, different situations will require different types of thinking and communication.
This paper talks about effective as well as ineffective communication skills and how they affect performance at the work place.
Ineffective communication refers to failure in conveying messages from a sender to a receiver. It may be caused by existing communication barriers or it may be the result of poor communication from those in leadership positions to their subordinates.
Reece, Brandt and Howie (2010) associated personal conflicts to the misunderstanding that results from ineffective communication. Without proper communication at the work place, workers get frustrated and their morale goes down. It can also create confusion and employees may not be aware of what is expected of them by their superiors.
The ability to communicate effectively may be hampered by various factors as discussed in the following subsections.
Today’s diverse work force reflects a variety of cultures and each of these has its unique qualities. Individual bearers of these different cultural traditions could easily come into conflict with one another. These notable differences end up causing conflicts among employees or between different generations, men and women, or employees with different value priorities (Reece, Brandt & Howie, 2010). To ensure that communication takes place effectively, the organization must address issues of stereotypes and disregard for other workers.
Unclear or confusing rules, regulations and performance standards determined by managers could lead to numerous conflicts that may bear negative consequences. Managers must recognize the need to provide clear communication to employees so as to clear any mix-ups that could create a rift among employees and between employees and those in management.
When employees do not trust management, believing in their leadership becomes a problem and later, this will hinder effective communication. As a consequence, employees may start regarding managers and their supervisors as enemies.
If the issue of ineffective communication at the work place is not carefully addressed, the outcome may be disastrous. Take for example, a company going through a difficult financial period eventually forcing top management to consider layoffs. How this is communicated to employees will carry either positive or negative repercussions. Ineffective communication may leave employees with nothing to look forward to and in the end the organization may lose its employees out of panic.
When communication is not as effective as it should be, workers may get hurt in the process, confusion may arise and there is a very high tendency for listeners to be misinformed.
The main reason for effective communication is to ensure that the communicator is able to communicate and be well understood by the listener. According to Green (2006), possessing effective communication skills offers a very strong foundation for one to succeed in accomplishing job related objectives.
With effective communication skills, it is possible for one to remain controlled, influence others or make positive changes. Green further argues that for any given situation, one should ensure that communications work towards minimizing any form of misunderstanding and enhancing potential understanding. This will guarantee smooth interaction among workers and greater output will be realized (Green, 2006).
Every person has an inner voice that creates an internal dialogue or self-talk that shapes and progresses his or her thinking and way of communication. To be an effective communicator, it is important for a person to be in touch with the inner self. The voice within a person significantly determines the extent to which he or she can engage with and inspire others.
An effective communicator must understand that effective communication is delivered not just through words, signs or gestures. The link between effective communication and the way one thinks must be recognized. According to Green (2006), intrapersonal skills which relate to a person’s inner traits can only be developed when one understands him or herself.
Before understanding intrapersonal skills, being equipped with the correct information is very fundamental. One must know how the brain interacts with the surrounding environment. Unknown to a lot of people, the brain is like a sponge that is capable of absorbing all the information from its surroundings. Green emphasized the need to gather enough information that will help in understanding how one relates with other people.
It is, however, essential for one to first frame his or her problem before gathering the necessary facts that will help in generating the most appropriate response (Green, 2006). Whenever one fails to communicate effectively, it is usually because he or she failed to listen carefully to his or her inner being. Research has demonstrated that once empowered with the sufficient information, individuals are likely to understand their circumstances and this boosts their confidence levels as they act.
Another thing that greatly influences effective communication is one’s perception of reality. The information one gathers over time from the surrounding environment can have a serious impact on how communication and relationships happen. This so called mental map differs from one person to another and provides a script to guide one’s actions and communications.
An effective communicator recognizes that all communications are inherently flawed given that we all operate within our unique mental map of how we perceive the world (Green, 2006). Communications always fail to return the expected results because of failure to recognize that other people will inevitably see the world from a completely different point of view. An example is when companies fail to see the mentality of activists.
A value is something that one will do even when it hurts. It is something that is important to one’s life. When one values something, he or she will place importance on it. Just as much as everyone has beliefs, everyone has values. An effective communicator is likely to put a high value on connecting with people, building understanding and engaging gainfully with others. Core values permeate most of what one does and provide a key to understanding what has to be done and why it has to be done (Green, 2006).
For many people, being an effective communicator is a desirable quality especially at the work place. Effective communicators are people who are highly sought after for management positions in organizations. As has already been mentioned earlier, one can grow in communicating by embracing different good practices.
One of the suggestions given by Reece, Brandt and Howie (2010) is for the communicator to try and use communication skills that will enhance assertiveness. Being confident, maintaining eye contact and using firm gestures and good posture when communicating are some of the tactics that can help improve communication. To a large extent, these characteristics help to effectively relay the communication.
Reece, Brandt and Howie (2010) also suggested that it is helpful for a communicator to be soft on people but remain hard on the problem at hand. As a communicator seeks to resolve conflicts, he or she must do so without causing any harm to existing relationships. The challenge, however, is usually to treat the people and the problem separately.
There is always a tendency to handle the person and the problem as one. When an employee for example has a challenge when it comes to meeting deadlines, it is advisable for his or her supervisor to remain diplomatic and use patience and good tact to let the affected employee know the consequences of missed deadlines. The discussion should therefore be focused on the problem rather than the employee’s personality trait.
Another suggestion is for the communicator to learn negotiation skills. In the past, the responsibility of negotiating was often left to supervisors, departmental heads, team leaders, and other individuals with established authority and responsibility.
With the increased need for organizations to organize employees in work teams, many organizations are now empowering workers within teams and encouraging them to solve their own problems whenever possible. It is the responsibility of the employer to see to it that every worker gets an opportunity to learn how to effectively negotiate (Reece, Brandt & Howie, 2010).
A number of benefits may result from the use of effective communication. Effective communication at the work place inspires work to perform much better leading to improved performance that makes it possible for operational excellence to be realized.
The environment created by effective communication also fosters rich relationships that make it possible for an organization to implement ideas wit little resistance if any. For example, creation of working teams is very much simplified when rich relationships across the organization are already in place. Where ineffective communication is dominant, this is an exercise that can lead to operational night mares.
Research has also demonstrated that effective communication at the work place empowers workers to express themselves without any form of fear. This makes it possible for those in management to stay in touch with the feelings, thoughts and ideas of everyone within the organization.
To a large degree, effective communication will also ensure that organizational policies and regulations are well understood by every individual. This in turn creates an enabling environment for employees to work more freely. Every single employee needs to know where the organization is heading and the best way to guarantee this is to ensure that there is effective communication from those in top management regarding the direction that the organization is heading.
Effective communication is therefore the cornerstone for the success of any organization and must be handled with utmost concern.
Beyond any doubt, effective communication is critical for success at the work place. As many organizations embrace the need to create working teams, investment in ensuring that employees are able to communicate effectively is critical. Without giving much thought to this important aspect of cultivating healthy work relationships, team performance will not yield the desired results.
Effective communication will create a healthy work environment where all employees starting with top management will feel valued. Ineffective communication will only lead to conflicts and the outcome will be lack of efficiency and decreased performance.
When communication is used effectively, misunderstandings are minimized or eliminated, education takes place and people get empowered. Lack of proper communication on the other hand will create anxiety among workers and usually the workers will be left in a difficult position, not knowing how to react in moments of uncertainty.
Green, A. (2006). Effective Personal Communication Skills for Public Relations. London, UK: Kogan Page Publishers.
Reece, B. L., Brandt, R. & Howie, K. F. (2010). Effective Human Relations: Interpersonal and Organizational Applications. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.