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Communication Skills

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Overall summary

Communication is the interpersonal process of transmitting and understanding information. Common symbols, signs, and behavioral rules determine the effectiveness of communication, that is, the transference of intended meaning. Communication is an essential inherent feature of any organization, as it mediates knowledge management, contributes to decision-making, and establishes coordinated teamwork at tasks (McShane & Von Glinow 2004).

Importantly, as human beings, communication within a company serves relatedness needs. The psychological experience of connection with others, belongingness and identity with an organization mediate employee motivation and personal well-being. In turn organizational values, roles and norms are established that directly impact on the company's level and quality of productivity, services and customer focus (McShane & Von Glinow 2004).

Throughout the communication process noise is inevitable; factors exist that constrain and distort an intended message. Noise may be in the form of a psychological, social or environmental barrier. A psychological barrier such as information overload is due to

the processing capability of the human cognitive system. Advancing technologies both assist and hinder human information management at the cognitive level. From a cross-cultural perspective prejudice and stereotyping are examples of psychological barriers to communication. Also at the cognitive level, encoding of the symbols of communication takes place, as cultural differences shape the interpretation of a message, they can also at times distort the intended meaning (McShane & Von Glinow 2004).

A social barrier is evident with current technology services that decrease inter-personal distance, and retain users' anonymity, yet negate actual face-to-face experiences. Social barriers also exist when prejudice and stereotype about another's nationality or ethnic heritage exist. Alternatively, environmental barriers to communication could be weather conditions that affect telecommunications, or, in contrast, the location of a meeting for global leaders (McShane & Von Glinow 2004).

This paper aims to review two theories of communication pertinent to the organizational context. First a summary of the Law of telecosm and cross-cultural organizational communication will be provided. Secondly, a detailed review of each theory with current examples will be discussed. Finally, recommendations for organizational guidelines to tele-communications and cross-cultural communications will be presented.

Summary of Theories

The Law of telecosm states that as networks of computers expand in size that distance decreases immensely, to the point where philosophers consider the concept of "distance" between people becoming irrelevant. As more terminals connect with each other, the processing speed of each terminal increases, and so too do the transmitting capabilities of cable bandwidths. As such, an ever-increasing amount of information is available via the Internet on a 24/7 basis. Current research into workplace stress has identified the rapid rise in processing power of computers as a direct cause of workplace stress, anxiety, absenteeism and attrition. Information overload is a direct effect of increased processing power and seriously undermines workplace performance, including negating a workers ability to filter information, process information and to act effectively on decisions drawn from that information.

Other workplace issues due to advancing technology is the use of email to replace social interactions, to advertise personal classifieds, to vent one's anger at a co-worker or employee and as a personal mailbox for relationships. Also, email is considered to be increasingly impolite due to its anonymity, and that the lack of contextual information from face-to-face interactions can lead to misinterpretation of the emotional intent of email.

As face-to-face interaction remains the optimal source of human relatedness and subsequent communication, it is generally recognized that organizational cross-cultural communication knowledge is required. Cultures differ in their language, non-verbal behaviors, gender roles, leadership roles and communication styles. These factors affect how a message is heard and interpreted by the receiver. Also, personal differences in the ability to communicate can affect levels of trust between communicators, and so contribute to miscommunications. Improving one's knowledge about how another culture conceptualizes time and "locus of control" are just two examples of ways to improve communication across cultures.


The Law of Telecosm

The Law of telecosm states that as networks of computers expand, distance will become less, and that even the concept of "distance" between people will become obsolete (McShane & Von Glinow 2004). Faster than a memo, telecommunication has become asynchronous so that coordination with a receiver is not required (unlike a telephone). Another advantage of advancing technology is the increased control it can give to the user to mediate information load, and thereby minimize or reduce it. There are many forms of computer-mediated communication: email, Internet and intranets, videoconferencing, data mining and live chats. Clearly, understanding of telecommunications advantages and weaknesses are critical to enable an organization to select and manage appropriate technologies. However, for the scope of this paper, the focus will be organizational email.

Email can act to increase the frequency of communication between staff, as well as increase staff access to information, so enhance information sharing within the organization. Additionally, status differences can be reduced, as all staff may now be able to communicate with senior management. It is an excellent medium for coordinating activates and for sending information required to make decisions. Email has also been heralded as a way to enhance teamwork productivity and multitasking. Some argue that email has assisted to enhance cognitive processing capability, by way of subject lines and "Spam" titles that allow elimination of irrelevant materials (Conlin 2002).

However, contemporary research has identified serious issues regarding email that need to be included in organizational discourse. Metcalfe's Law states that the value of a computer network is a function of the processing power of all the terminals connected to it (Gilder 2000 cited in Conlin 2002). The expansion of the store width



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