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Effective Communication

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The Importance of Effective Communication

Table of Contents

A Little Theory | The Communication Process|

* Barriers to Communication

Basic Skills: Listening and Giving Feedback | Keys to Active Listening | Constructive Feedback: | Why managers are often reluctant to provide feedback| Effective Feedback |


* A Short Case Example of Effective Communication

* A Planning Form for Constructive Feedback

* Evaluating the Feedback Session

* Three Kinds of Interviews

Links to Articles on Interpersonal Behavior and Communication

* Dave Barry on Relationships between Men and Women


People in organizations typically spend over 75% of their time in an interpersonal situation; thus it is no surprise to find that at the root of a large number of organizational problems is poor communications. Effective communication is an essential component of organizational success whether it is at the interpersonal, intergroup, intragroup, organizational, or external levels.

In this chapter we will cover the basic process of communication and then we will cover some of the most difficult communication issues managers face-providing constructive and effective feedback and performance appraisal.

The Communication Process

Although all of us have been communicating with others since our infancy, the process of transmitting information from an individual (or group) to another is a very complex process with many sources of potential error.

Consider the simple example:

* Terry: "I won't make it to work again tomorrow; this pregnancy keeps me nausious and my doctor says I should probably be reduced to part time.

* Boss: Terry, this is the third day you've missed and your appointments keep backing up; we have to cover for you and this is messing all of us up.

Message to be sent decode

some error likely encoded by receiver

some error likely) message received

In any communication at least some of the "meaning" lost in simple transmission of a message from the sender to the receiver. In many situations a lot of the true message is lost and the message that is heard is often far different than the one intended. This is most obvious in cross-cultural situations where language is an issue. But it is also common among people of the same cuture.

Look at the example. Terry has what appears to be a simple message to convey-she won't make it to work today because of nausia. But she had to translate the thoughts into words and this is the first potential source of error. Was she just trying to convey that she would be late; was she trying to convey anything else. It turns out she was. She was upset because she perceived that her co-workers weren't as sympathetic to her situation as they should be. Her co-workers, however, were really being pressured by Terry's continued absences, and her late calls. They wished she would just take a leave of absence, but Terry refuses because she would have to take it without pay.

Thus what appears to be a simple communication is, in reality, quite complex. Terry is communicating far more than that she would miss work; she is conveying a number of complex emotions, complicated by her own complex feelings about pregnancy, work, and her future.

She sent a message but the message is more than the words; it includes the tone, the timing of the call, and the way she expressed herself.

Similarly, the boss goes through a complex communication process in "hearing" the message. The message that Terry sent had to be decoded and given meaning. There are many ways to decode the simple message that Terry gave and the way the message is heard will influence the response to Terry.

In this case the boss heard far more than a simple message that Terry won't be at work today. The boss "heard" hostility from Terry, indifference, lack of consideration, among other emotions. Terry may not have meant this, but this is what the boss heard.

Communications is so difficult because at each step in the process there major potential for error. By the time a message gets from a sender to a receiver there are four basic places where transmission errors can take place and at each place, there are a multitude of potential sources of error. Thus it is no surprise that social psychologists estimate that there is usually a 40-60% loss of meaning in the transmission of messages from sender to receiver.

It is critical to understand this process, understand and be aware of the potential sources of errors and constantly counteract these tendencies by making a conscientious effort to make sure there is a minimal loss of meaning in your conversation.

It is also very important to understand that a majoring of communication is non-verbal. This means that when we attribute meaning to what someone else is saying, the verbal part of the message actually means less than the non-verbal part. The non-verbal part includes such things as body language and tone.

Barriers to Effective Communication

There are a wide number of sources of noise or interference that can enter into the communication process. This can occur when people now each other very well and should understand the sources of error. In a work setting, it is even more common since interactions involve people who not only don't have years of experience with each other, but communication is complicated by the complex and often conflictual relationships that exist at work. In a work setting, the following suggests a number of sources of noise:

* Language: The choice of words or language in which a sender encodes a message will influence the quality of communication. Because language is a symbolic representation of a phenomenon, room for interpreation and distortion of the meaning exists. In the above example, the Boss uses language (this is the third day you've missed) that is likely to convey far more than objective information. To Terry it conveys indifference to her medical problems. Note that the same words will be interpreted different



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