Communication builds relationships and results
© Eduardo Munoz/Reuters/Corbis
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The Key Point
How well do you communicate? Many people think they are effective communicators, but evidencesuggests otherwise. In this chapter we identify the challenges of communication in organizationalcontexts, and describe what we can do to become more skilled communicators.
What’s Inside?
Bringing OB to LIFE
Worth Considering . . . or Best Avoided?
Finding the Leader in You
OB in Popular Culture
Research Insight
Chapter at a Glance
What Is Communication?
What Are Barriers to Effective Communication?
What Is the Nature of Communication in Organizational Contexts?
What Is the Nature of Communication in Relational Contexts?
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Why Is Feedback So Important?
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11.1 The Nature of Communication
Communication is the lifeblood of the organization. All organizational behavior—good and bad—stemsfrom communication. Yet, despite the fact that we spend most of our lives communicating, we are notalways very good at it.
In this chapter we examine communication in organizational and relational contexts to identify factorsassociated with effective and ineffective communication. A basic premise of this chapter is that tocommunicate effectively we need to have good relationships, and to have good relationships we need tocommunicate effectively.
Importance of Communication
Communication has always been important, but the nature of communication is changing inorganizations and in the world. Widely available information is empowering people and societies inunprecedented ways. For example, the Egyptian Revolution of 2012 was called the “FacebookRevolution” because Egyptian citizens used Facebook to organize a revolution behind the scenes. Inorganizations, managers are not able to control information like they once could, and this is changingthe nature of power in organizations. When Yahoo! announced that it would no longer allow employeesto work at home, employees rebelled by anonymously posting company memos online. What managershad intended to be private company policy quickly snowballed into a major international news storyand critique.
Communication is the glue that holds organizations together. It is the way we share information, ideas,and expectations as well as display emotions to coordinate action. Therefore we need to make effectivecommunication a top priority in organizations.
The Communication Process
Although we all know what communication is, it is useful to review the basic communication model toset up a discussion of how and why communication breakdowns occur. As illustrated in Figure 11.1(ϐig11-1) , communication( is a process of sending andreceiving messages with attached meanings. The key elements in the communication process include asource, which encodes an intended meaning into a message, and a receiver, which decodes the messageinto a perceived meaning. The receiver may or may not give feedback to the source.
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Communication is the process of sending and receiving symbols with attached meanings.
FIGURE 11.1 (ϐig11-1)The communication process.
The information source, or sender ( , is a person or group trying to communicate with someone else. The source seeks tocommunicate, in part, to change the attitudes, knowledge, or behavior of the receiver. A team leader, forexample, may want to communicate with a division manager in order to explain why the team needsmore time or resources to ϐinish an assigned project. This involves encoding
( —the process of translatingan idea or thought into a message consisting of verbal, written, or nonverbal symbols (such asgestures), or some combination of these. Messages are transmitted through various communicationchannels ( , such as face-toface meetings, e-mail, texts, videoconferencing, Skype, blogs, and newsletters. The choice of channelcan have an important impact on the communication process. Some people are better at particularchannels, and certain channels are better able to handle some types of messages. In the case of theteam leader communicating with the division manager, for example, it can make quite a differencewhether the message is delivered in person or electronically.
The sender is a person or group trying to communicate with someone else.
Encoding is the process of translating an idea or thought into a message consisting of
verbal, written, or nonverbal symbols (such as gestures), or some combination of them.
Communication channels are the pathways through which messages are
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The communication process is not complete even though a message is sent. The receiver( is the individual or group ofindividuals to whom a message is directed. In order for meaning to be assigned to any receivedmessage, its contents must be interpreted through decoding. This process of translation is complicatedby many factors, including the knowledge and experience of the receiver and his or her relationshipwith the sender. A message may also be interpreted with the added inϐluence of other points of view,such as those offered by co-workers, colleagues, or family members. Problems can occur in receivingwhen the decoding results in the message being interpreted differently from what was originallyintended.
The receiver is the individual or group of individuals to whom a message is directed.
Feedback ( is the processthrough which the receiver communicates with the sender by returning another message. Feedbackrepresents two-way communication, going from sender to receiver and back again. Compared to oneway communication, which ϐlows from sender to receiver only, two-way communication is moreaccurate and effective, although it may also be more costly and time consuming. Because of theirefϐiciency, one-way forms of communication—mass e-mails, reports, newsletters, division-widemeetings, and the like—are frequently used in work settings. Although one-way messages are easy forthe sender, they might be more time consuming in the long run when receivers are unsure what thesender means or wants done.
Feedback communicates how one feels about something that another person has done orsaid.
Perception Alert! Is Wealth Due to Good Connections or Hard Work?
If asked to choose which of the following statements is closest to the truth, how would you respond?Most rich people today are wealthy mainly because of their own hard work, ambition, oreducation.
Most rich people today are wealthy mainly because they know the right people or were borninto wealthy families.
This question was in a Pew Research survey with the following results. Overall, 46 percent of
respondents chose B—the “good connections” alternative—while 42 percent chose A—the “hard work”alternative. Interestingly, when respondents were categorized as upper or lower class, 56 percent of theuppers attributed their success to hard work while 53 percent of the lowers attributed the uppers’success to connections. In another Pew Research survey, 76 percent of respondents believed that “therich get richer while the poor get poorer.”
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© Studio DL/Corbis
Although this process appears to be elementary, it is not as simple as it looks. Many factors can inhibiteffective transmission of a message. One of these is noise. Noise ( is the term used to describe any disturbance that disruptscommunication and interferes with the transference of messages within the communication process. Ifyour stomach is growling because your class is right before lunch, or if you are worried about an examlater in the day, it can interfere with your ability to pay attention to what your professor and classmatesare saying. In addition, if you don’t like a person, your emotions may trigger a “voice” in your head thatyou can’t turn off, disrupting your ability to hear and listen effectively. These are all noise in thecommunication process.
Noise is anything that interferes with the effectiveness of communication.
Nonverbal Communication
Nonverbal communication ( is communication through means other than words. The most common forms are facialexpressions, body position, eye contact, and other physical gestures. Studies show that when verbaland nonverbal communication do not match, receivers pay more attention to the nonverbal. This isbecause the nonverbal side of communication often holds the key to what someone is really thinking ormeaning. Do you know how to tell if someone is lying? Watch for avoidance of eye contact and signs ofstress, such as ϐidgeting, sweating, and, in more serious cases, dilated pupils.
Nonverbal communication occurs through facial expressions, body motions, eye contact,
and other physical gestures.
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Nonverbal communication affects the impressions we make on others. Because of this, we should paycareful attention to both verbal and nonverbal aspects of our communication, including dress,
timeliness, and demeanor. It is well known that interviewers tend to respond more favorably to jobcandidates whose nonverbal cues are positive, such as eye contact and erect posture, than to thosedisplaying negative nonverbal cues, such as looking down or slouching. The way we choose to design orarrange physical space also has powerful effects on how we interpret one another.1( This can be seen in choice ofworkspace designs, such as that found in various ofϐice layouts or buildings. Figure 11.2(ϐig11-2) shows three differentofϐice arrangements and the messages they may communicate to visitors. Check the diagrams againstthe furniture arrangement in your ofϐice or that of your instructor or a person with whom you arefamiliar. What are you or they saying to visitors by the choice of furniture placement?2(
FIGURE 11.2 (ϐig11-2)Furniture placement and nonverbal communication in the ofϐice.
IDEO Selects for Collaborative Leaders
IDEO has built a business based on design thinking—an approach that engages diverse people inraucous dialogue to generate breakthrough ideas and creative solutions. Design thinking requires acertain kind of leader, so IDEO seeks out individuals who are smart and willing to engage incollaborative work: “We ask ourselves what will this person be like at dinner, or during a brainstorm, orduring a conϐlict? We are eclectic, diverse, and there is always room for another angle.”
Brainstorming is a fundamental element of design thinking, and failure is an accepted part of theculture. To succeed at IDEO, you have to be able to function with “confusion, incomplete information,paradox, irony, and fun for its own sake.” Once ideas are developed, the key is storytelling throughvideos, skits, narratives, animations, and even comic strips. Free ϐlow of ideas is enabled bydiscouraging formal titles, dress codes, and encouraging employees to move around—especially duringmental blocks. According to general manager Tom Kelley, “It’s suspicious when employees are at theirdesk all day because it makes you wonder how they pretend to work.”
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The creativity is reϐlected in the physical space that often looks like “cacophonous kindergartenclassrooms.” As described by Tom Peters, “Walk into the ofϐices of IDEO design in Palo Alto, California,immediately you’ll be caught up in the energy, buzz, creative disarray, and sheer lunacy of it all.” Lunacyor not, for IDEO, design thinking is the key to success.
Courtesy of IDEO
What’s the Lesson Here?
How would you fare at IDEO? Does the communication environment ϐit with your leadershipstyle? Would you ϐind the confusion and ambiguity exhilarating or frustrating?Because nonverbal communication is so powerful, those who are more effective at communication arecareful to use it to their advantage. For some, this means recognizing the importance of presence( , or the act of speakingwithout using words. Analysis of Adolf Hitler’s speeches shows he was a master at managing presence.Hitler knew how to use silence to great effect. He would stand in front of large audiences in completesilence for several minutes, all the while in total command of the room. Steve Jobs of Apple used thesame technique during product demonstrations. In fact, Jobs was so good at managing presence that itmade it more difϐicult for his successor, Tim Cook, who pales in comparison.
Presence is the act of speaking without using words.
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11.2 Communication Barriers
PHYSICAL BARRIERS ( BARRIERS ( BARRIERS ( interpersonal communication, it is important to understand the barriers that can easily createcommunication problems. The most common barriers in the workplace include interpersonal issues,physical distractions, meaning (or “semantic”) barriers, and cultural barriers.
Interpersonal Barriers
Interpersonal barriers ( when individuals are not able to objectively listen to the sender due to things such as lack oftrust, personality clashes, a bad reputation, or stereotypes/prejudices. Interpersonal barriers arereϐlected in a quote paraphrased from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “I can’t hear what you say because whoyou are rings so loudly in my ears.” When strong, interpersonal barriers are present, receivers andsenders often distort communication by evaluating and judging a message or failing to communicate iteffectively. Think of how you communicate with someone you don’t like, or a co-worker or a classmatewho rubs you the wrong way. Do you listen effectively, or do you ignore them? Do you shareinformation, or do you keep your interactions short, and perhaps even evasive?
Interpersonal barriers occur when individuals are not able to objectively listen due topersonality issues.
Such problems are indicative of selective listening and ϐiltering. In selective listening( , individuals block outinformation or only hear things that match preconceived notions. Someone who does not trust willassume that the other is not telling the truth, or may “hear” things in the communication that are notaccurate. An employee who believes a co-worker is incompetent may disregard important informationif it comes from that person. Individuals may also ϐilter ( information by conveying only some of the information. If we don’tlike a co-worker, we may decide to leave out critical details or pointers that would help him or her to bemore successful in getting things done.
Selective listening involves blocking out information and only hearing things that thelistener wants to hear.
Filtering leaves out critical details.
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Another major problem in interpersonal communication is avoidance. Avoidance occurs whenindividuals choose to ignore or deny a problem or issue, rather than confront it. It is a major barrier toopenness and honesty in communication. Avoidance occurs because individuals fear the conversationwill be uncomfortable, or worry that trying to talk about the problem will only make it worse. This fearoften comes with a lack of understanding about how to approach difϐicult conversations. Avoidance canbe overcome by learning to use supportive communication principles, as described in a later section.Avoidance occurs when individuals ignore or deny a problem rather than confront it.
Physical Barriers
Physical distractions ( areanother barrier that can interfere with the effectiveness of a communication attempt. Some of thesedistractions are evident in the following conversation between an employee, George, and his manager.3(
Physical distractions include interruptions from noises, visitors, and the like, that
interfere with communication.
Okay, George, let’s hear your problem (phone rings, boss picks it up, promises to deliverthe report “just as soon as I can get it done”). Uh, now, where were we—oh, you’re havinga problem with marketing. So (the manager’s secretary brings in some papers that needimmediate signatures; he scribbles his name and the secretary leaves) . . . you say they’renot cooperative? I tell you what, George, why don’t you (phone rings again, lunch partnerdrops by) . . . uh, take a stab at handling it yourself. I’ve got to go now.
Besides what may have been poor intentions in the ϐirst place, George’s manager allowed physicaldistractions to create information overload. As a result, the communication with George suffered.
Setting priorities and planning can eliminate this mistake. If George has something to say, his managershould set aside adequate time for the meeting. In addition, interruptions such as telephone calls, dropin visitors, and the like should be prevented. At a minimum, George’s manager could start by closing thedoor to the ofϐice and instructing his secretary not to disturb them.
Semantic Barriers
Semantic barriers ( involvea poor choice or use of words and mixed messages. When in doubt regarding the clarity of your writtenor spoken messages, the popular KISS principle of communication is always worth remembering: “Keepit short and simple.” Of course, that is often easier said than done. The following illustrations of the“bafϐlegab” that once tried to pass as actual “executive communication” are a case in point.4(
Semantic barriers involve a poor choice or use of words and mixed messages.
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“We solicit any recommendations that you wish to make, and you may be assured that anysuch recommendations will be given our careful consideration.”
“Consumer elements are continuing to stress the fundamental necessity of a stabilization ofthe price structure at a lower level than exists at the present time.”
One has to wonder why these messages weren’t stated more understandably: (A) “Send us yourrecommendations; they will be carefully considered.” (B) “Consumers want lower prices.” Cultural Barriers
We all know that globalization is here to stay. What we might not realize is that the success of
international business often rests with the quality of cross-cultural communication. A commonproblem in cross-cultural communication is ethnocentrism ( , the tendency to believe one’s culture and its values are superiorto those of others. It is often accompanied by an unwillingness to try to understand alternative pointsof view and to take the values they represent seriously. Another problem in cross-cultural
communication arises from parochialism ( —assuming that the ways of your culture are the only ways of doing things. It isparochial for traveling American businesspeople to insist that all of their business contacts speakEnglish, whereas it is ethnocentric for them to think that anyone who dines with a spoon rather than aknife and fork lacks proper table manners.
Ethnocentrism is the tendency to believe one’s culture and its values are superior tothose of others.
Parochialism assumes that the ways of your culture are the only ways of doing things.
Cross-Cultural Communication and The Amazing Race
You hear it often enough: To be successful in today’s business world you must be culturally aware. Thisis particularly true when it comes to communication. Being proϐicient in other languages is animportant skill. The ability to recognize the nuances of communication in other cultures, such as bodylanguage and the use of space, is even more important. Ethnocentrism, the belief that the ways of ourown culture are superior, must be avoided in order to communicate effectively.
In Season 6 of The Amazing Race, contestants travel to Dakar, Senegal, to ϐind the ϐinal resting place of anationally famous poet. The stress of competition combined with the difϐiculties of a new culture causeproblems for some of the teams. Gus and Hera are clearly uncomfortable with the conditions they face.Adam and Rebecca, limited in terms of language skills, nevertheless make fun of their taxi driver’sinability to communicate with them. Freddy and Kendra get into an argument with a driver over the cabfare. Kris and Jon are excited by the prospects of experiencing a new culture. At the same time, Kris isPrint,sec216,se…12 of 43 2/3/2018, 10:34 AM
appalled by how other competitors in the race are handling the situation.
CBS/Nancy Daniels/Landov LLC
When Jonathan screams for someone to speak to him in English, he is clearly exhibiting the “uglyAmerican behavior” that Kris abhors. It is one thing to be uncomfortable with new surroundings, but tobe abusive when individuals from other cultures do not respond the way you want shows disrespect forthe host country.
Get to Know Yourself Better Assessment 4, Global Readiness Index, in the OB Skills Workbook measuresyour global readiness. The increasingly global nature of business demands workers who understandother cultures and are comfortable interacting with individuals whose values and practices may bequite different. If you were suddenly dropped into an unfamiliar country, how would you respond?The difϐiculties with cross-cultural communication are perhaps most obvious in respect to languagedifferences. Advertising messages, for example, may work well in one country but not when translatedinto the language of another. Problems accompanied the introduction of Ford’s European small carmodel, the “Ka,” into Japan (in Japanese, ka means “mosquito”). Gestures may also be used quitedifferently in the various cultures of the world. For example, crossed legs are quite acceptable in theUnited Kingdom but are rude in Saudi Arabia if the sole of the foot is directed toward someone.
Pointing at someone to get his or her attention may be acceptable in Canada, but in Asia it is consideredinappropriate and even offensive.5 (
The role of language in cross-cultural communication has additional and sometimes even more subtlesides. The anthropologist Edward T. Hall notes important differences in the ways different cultures uselanguage, and he suggests that these differences often cause misunderstanding.6( Members of low-contextPrint,sec216,se…13 of 43 2/3/2018, 10:34 AM
cultures ( are very explicit inusing the spoken and written word. In these cultures, such as those of Australia, Canada, and the UnitedStates, the message is largely conveyed by the words someone uses, and not particularly by the contextin which they are spoken. In contrast, members of high-context cultures
( use words to convey only alimited part of the message. The rest must be inferred or interpreted from the context, which includesbody language, the physical setting, and past relationships—all of which add meaning to what is beingsaid. Many Asian and Middle Eastern cultures are considered high context, according to Hall, whereasmost Western cultures are low context.
In low-context cultures, messages are expressed mainly by the spoken and writtenword.
In high-context cultures, words convey only part of a message, while the rest of themessage must be inferred from body language and additional contextual cues.
International business experts advise that one of the best ways to gain understanding of culturaldifferences is to learn at least some of the language of the country with which one is dealing. Says oneglobal manager: “Speaking and understanding the local language gives you more insight; you can avoidmisunderstandings.” A former American member of the board of a German multinational says:
“Language proϐiciency gives a [non-German] board member a better grasp of what is going on . . . notjust the facts and ϐigures but also texture and nuance.”7 ( Although the prospect of learning another language may sound daunting, thereis little doubt that it can be well worth the effort.
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11.3 Communication in Organizational ContextsLEARNING ROADMAP
VOICE AND SILENCE ( Communication Channels
Organizations are designed based on bureaucratic organizing principles; that is, jobs are arranged inhierarchical fashion with speciϐied job descriptions and formal reporting relationships. However, muchinformation in organizations is also passed along more spontaneously through informal
communication networks. These illustrate two types of information ϐlows in organizations: formal andinformal communication channels.
Formal channels ( followthe chain of command established by an organization’s hierarchy of authority. For example, anorganization chart indicates the proper routing for ofϐicial messages passing from one level or part ofthe hierarchy to another. Because formal channels are recognized as authoritative, it is typical forcommunication of policies, procedures, and other ofϐicial announcements to adhere to them. On theother hand, much “networking” takes place through the use of informal channels
( that do not adhere to theorganization’s hierarchy of authority. They coexist with the formal channels but frequently divergefrom them by skipping levels in the hierarchy or cutting across divisional lines. Informal channels helpto create open communications in organizations and ensure that the right people are in contact withone another.
Formal channels follow the ofϐicial chain of command.
Informal channels do not follow the chain of command.
FIGURE 11.3 (ϐig11-3)Richness of communication channels.
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A common informal communication channel is the grapevine ( , or network of friendships and acquaintances through whichrumors and other unofϐicial information are passed from person to person. Grapevines have theadvantage of being able to transmit information quickly and efϐiciently. They also help fulϐill the needsof people involved in them. Being part of a grapevine can provide a sense of security that comes from“being in the know” when important things are going on. It also provides social satisfaction asinformation is exchanged interpersonally. The primary disadvantage of grapevines arises when theytransmit incorrect or untimely information. Rumors can be very dysfunctional, both to people and toorganizations. One of the best ways to avoid rumors is to make sure that key persons in a grapevine getthe right information from the start.
A grapevine transfers information through networks of friendships and acquaintances.
Channel richness ( indicatesthe capacity of a channel to convey information. And as indicated in Figure 11.3(ϐig11-3) , the richest channels areface to face. Next are telephone, videoconferences and text, followed by e-mail, reports, and letters. Theleanest channels are posted notices and bulletins. When messages get more complex and open ended,richer channels are necessary to achieve effective communication. Leaner channels work well for moreroutine and straightforward messages, such as announcing the location of a previously scheduledmeeting.
Channel richness indicates the capacity of a channel to convey information.
Communication Flows
Information in organizations ϐlows in many directions: downward, laterally, and upward. Downwardcommunication ( follows thechain of command from top to bottom. Lower-level personnel need to know what higher levels aredoing and be reminded of key policies, strategies, objectives, and technical developments. Of specialimportance are feedback and information on performance results. Sharing such information helpsminimize the spread of rumors and inaccuracies regarding higher-level intentions, as well as create asense of security and involvement among receivers who believe they know the whole story.
Downward communication follows the chain of command from top to bottom.
Lateral communication ( isthe ϐlow of information across the organization. The biggest barrier to lateral communication isorganizational silos, units that are isolated from one another by strong departmental or divisionallines. In siloed organizations, units tend to communicate more inside than outside, and they often focuson protecting turf and information rather than sharing it. This is in direct contrast to what we need intoday’s organizations, which is timely and accurate information in the hands of workers.
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Lateral communication is the ϐlow of messages at the same levels across organizations.
Organizational silos are units that are isolated from one another by strongdepartmental or divisional lines.
Inside organizations, people must communicate across departmental or functional boundaries andlisten to one another’s needs as “internal customers.” More effective organizations design lateralcommunication into the organizational structure, in the form of cross-departmental committees, teams,or task forces as well as matrix structures. There is also growing attention to organizational ecology—the study of how building design may inϐluence communication and productivity by improving lateralcommunications.
Privacy in the Age of Social Networking
Is there a clear line between your personal and professional life? In the age of social networking, theanswer to this question is becoming less clear. Today many companies are using the Internet toevaluate current and prospective employees, and if you fail to maintain a “professional” demeanor youcould suffer consequences. There are stories of college athletes disciplined because of something theyposted on their Web site, employees who are ϐired for what they say online about the company or theirco-workers, or individuals who aren’t hired because of a photo on their Facebook page.
To complicate matters, employment law in many states is still quite unclear and often provides littleprotection to workers who are punished for their online postings. Take the case of Stacy Snyder, agetwenty-ϐive, a senior at Millersville University in Millersville, Pennsylvania, who was dismissed from thestudent teaching program at a high school after the school staff came across a photograph on herMySpace proϐile showing her wearing a pirate’s hat while sipping from a large plastic cup with thecaption “drunken pirate.”
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Ms. Snyder ϐiled a lawsuit in federal court in Philadelphia contending her rights to free expression hadbeen violated. Millersville University, in a motion asking the court to dismiss the case, countered thatMs. Snyder’s student teaching had been unsatisfactory—although school ofϐicials acknowledged thatshe was dismissed based on her MySpace photograph. They said her posting was unprofessional andmight promote underage drinking, citing a passage in the teacher’s handbook that staff members are“to be well-groomed and appropriately dressed.”
Do the Research The cases of Stacy Snyder and others raise interesting questions. As long as no lawsare broken, should what an employee does after hours be the organization’s business? Or should therebe a line between an employee’s professional and private life?
The ϐlow of messages from lower to higher organizational levels is upward communication( . Upward communicationkeeps higher levels informed about what lower-level workers are doing and experiencing in their jobs.A key issue in upward communication is status differences. Status differences
( create potential
communication barriers between persons of higher and lower ranks.
Upward communication is the ϐlow of messages from lower to higher organizational
Status differences are differences between persons of higher and lower ranks.
Communication is frequently biased when ϐlowing upward in organizational hierarchies. Subordinatesmay ϐilter information and tell their superiors only what they think the bosses want to hear. They doPrint,sec216,se…18 of 43 2/3/2018, 10:34 AM
this out of fear of retribution for bringing bad news, an unwillingness to identify personal mistakes, orjust a general desire to please. Regardless of the reason, the result is the same: The higher-leveldecision maker may end up taking the wrong actions because of biased and inaccurate informationsupplied from below.
Research Insight
Leadership Behavior and Employee Voice: Is the Door Really Open?
In today’s environment, the willingness of all members to provide thoughts and ideas about criticalwork processes characterizes successful learning in various types of teams. Yet, despite this “learningimperative,” many individuals do not work in environments where they feel it is safe to speak up. Toaddress these issues, James Detert and Ethan Burris engaged in a study of employee voice—providinginformation intended to improve organizational functioning to those with authority to act, even if theinformation challenges and upsets the status quo.
Detert and Burris found that leaders being positive isn’t enough. For employees to speak up they needleaders who are open to change and willing to act. Leaders being open is important because it providesa “safe” environment. The authors concluded that the signals leaders send are key inputs to employeesin assessing the potential costs and beneϐits of speaking up.
Do the Research Do you think the ϐindings are applicable to your work situation? How would youconduct a study in your workplace to ϐind out? What other variables would you include?Source: J. Detert and E. Burris, “Leadership Behavior and Employee Voice: Is the Door Really Open?”Academy of Management Journal 50 (2007), pp. 869–884.
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desire to be polite and a reluctance to transmit bad news.8 ( One of the best ways to counteract the mum effect is to developstrong trusting relationships. Therefore, organizations that want to enhance upward communicationand reduce the mum effect work hard to develop high-quality relationships and trusting work climatesthroughout the organization.
Voice and Silence
The choice to speak up (i.e., to confront situations) rather than remain silent is known as voice.9( Employees engage in voice whenthey share ideas, information, suggestions, or concerns upward in organizations. Voice is importantbecause it helps improve decision making and promote responsiveness in dynamic business conditions.It also facilitates team performance by encouraging team members to share concerns if they think theteam is missing information or headed in the wrong direction—correcting problems before theyescalate.10 (
Voice involves speaking up to share ideas, information, suggestions or concerns upwardin organizations.
Despite this, many employees choose to remain silent rather than voice.11 ( Silence occurs when employees have input that could bevaluable but choose not to share it. Research shows that two key factors play into the choice to voice orremain silent. The ϐirst is the perceived efϔicacy of voice, or whether the employee believes their voicewill make a difference. If perceived efϐicacy is low, employees will think “Why bother? No one will listenand nothing will change.”
Silence occurs when employees choose not to share input that could be valuable.
The second is perceived risk. Employees will be less likely to voice if they believe speaking up toauthority will damage their credibility and/or relationships. Consistent with the mum effect, manyemployees deliberately withhold information from those in positions of power because they fearnegative consequences, such as bad performance evaluations, undesirable job assignments, or evenbeing ϐired.
Employees are more likely to remain silent in hierarchical or bureaucratic structures, and when theywork in a fear climate. Therefore, organizations should create environments that are open andsupportive. Formal structural channels for employees to provide information, such as hotlines,
grievance procedures, and suggestion systems, are also helpful.
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11.4 Communication in Relational ContextsLEARNING ROADMAP
ACTIVE LISTENING ( of the work that gets done in organizations occurs through relationships. Surprisingly, althoughwe live our lives in relationships, most of us are not aware of, or ever taught, how to develop goodquality relationships. Many times people think relationships just happen. When relationships developpoorly, we have a tendency to blame the other: “There is something wrong with the other person,” or“They are just impossible to deal with.” But relationships are much more manageable than we mightthink . . . it comes down to how we communicate in relational contexts.
Relationship Development
Relationships develop through a relational testing process. This begins when one person makes adisclosure—an opening up or revelation about oneself—to another. For example, a simple disclosureis sharing one’s likes or dislikes with another.
Relational testing is a process through which individuals make disclosures and formopinions or attributions about the other based on the disclosures.
A disclosure is an opening up or revelation to another of something about oneself.
Once a disclosure is made, the other automatically begins to form a judgment. If the other shares thelike or dislike, the individuals experience a sense of bonding, or attachment, with one another. If theother does not share the likes or dislikes, a positive connection is not felt and the relationship mayremain at arm’s length.
A deeper disclosure is a more intensely personal revelation, such as an intimate detail about one’spersonal history. Deeper disclosures are typically appropriate only in very high-quality relationships inwhich individuals know and trust one another. Inappropriate disclosures made too early in exchangescan derail the process and result in ineffective relationship development.
This sequential process represents the active “scorekeeping” stage of the testing process. If a test ispassed, the relationship progresses, and disclosures may become more revealing. If a test is failed,
individuals begin to hold back, and interactions may even take on a negative tone. This process is muchlike the classic game of Chutes and Ladders (see Figure 11.4 (ϐig11-4) ). When relational tests go well they can act like “ladders,”Print,sec216,se…21 of 43 2/3/2018, 10:34 AM
escalating the relationship to higher levels. When relational violations occur they can act like “chutes,”dropping the relationship back down to lower levels.
Relational testing is really easy to see in the context of going out with someone. When you ϐirst hangout you share information with the other and watch for a reaction; you also listen for what the othershares with you. When things go well, you “hit it off” and things ϐlow smoothly—you enjoy theinteraction, and you like what the other person has to say. This leads you to share more information.When things go poorly, tests are not being passed for at least one individual and the interactions canbecome awkward and uncomfortable.
Because we are taught to be polite, sometimes it can be hard to tell how things are really going ifindividuals are covering up their true feelings or reactions. In professional settings, we engage intesting without even thinking about it. We don’t do it on purpose—it’s a natural part of how humansinteract. Oftentimes, opinions get formed on a very trivial or limited information.
FIGURE 11.4 (ϐig11-4)Relational Testing Process.
The key point is to understand that testing processes are going on around us all of the time, and if youwant to more carefully manage your relationships, you need to be more consciously aware of when andPrint,sec216,se…22 of 43 2/3/2018, 10:34 AM
how testing is occurring. When it is happening, you have to pay attention so you can manage theprocess more effectively. This does not mean being dishonest or fake; in fact, being fake is a quick wayto fail a test! It does mean being careful how you engage with others with whom you have not yetestablished a relationship (e.g., a new boss).
Relationship Maintenance
Once relationships are established, testing processes take on a different form. They go from activetesting to watching for relational violations.12 ( A relational violation is a violation of the “boundary” of acceptable behavior in arelationship. These boundaries will vary depending on the nature of the relationship. In marriage,
inϐidelity is a boundary violation. In a high-quality manager–subordinate relationship, breaking trust isa boundary violation. In a poor-quality manager–subordinate relationship, it may take more seriousoffense, such as sabotage or a work screwup, to constitute a boundary violation. The point is that thetesting process is now not active “scorekeeping,” or evaluating nearly every interaction, but rather oneof noticing testing only when the relationship has been violated.13 (
A relational violation is a violation of the “boundary” of acceptable behavior in arelationship.
As long as violations don’t occur, individuals interact in the context of the relational boundaries, and therelationship proceeds just ϐine. When violations do occur, however, testing kicks back. If therelationship survives the violation—and some don’t—it is now at a lower quality, or even in a negativestate. For it to recover, it must go through relational repair.
Relational repair involves actions to return the relationship to a positive state. Relational repair isagain a testing process, but this time the intention is to rebuild or reestablish the relationship quality.For example, a violation of trust can be repaired with a sincere apology, followed by actionsdemonstrating trustworthiness. A violation of professional respect can be repaired with strong displaysof professional competence.
Relational repair involves actions to return the relationship to a positive state.
In most cases, relational repair requires effective communication. As you can imagine, not everyone hasthese skills, and those who have them often use them intuitively—not quite aware of what they aredoing. One set of principles that can help individuals engage in relational repair, as well as inrelationships, is supportive communication principles. WORTH CONSIDERING …OR BEST AVOIDED?
Everyone on the Team Seems Really Happy. Is It Time to Create Some Disharmony?Print,sec216,se…23 of 43 2/3/2018, 10:34 AM
“There is no ‘I’ in team” goes the common cry. But basketball superstar Michael Jordan once responded,“There is an ‘I’ in win.” What’s the point here? Jordan is suggesting that someone as expert as he at atask shouldn’t always be subordinated to the team. Rather, the team’s job may be to support his or hertalents so that they shine to their brightest.
In his book, There Is an I in Team: What Elite Athletes and Coaches Really Know About High Performance(Harvard Business Review Press, 2012), Cambridge scholar Mark de Rond turns to the world of sportsto ϐind insights into making the best of teams and teamwork in the business world. He notes that sportsmetaphors abound in the workplace. We talk about “heavy hitters” and ask teammates to “step up tothe plate.” But instead of the “I” in win that Michael Jordan talked about, the real world of teamwork isdominated by the quest for cooperation, perhaps at the cost of needed friction. And that’s aperformance problem.
Both du Rond and Harvard’s Richard Hackman worry that harmony among teammates rather than highperformance often becomes the team goal. Hackman says the problem is especially acute when thequest for harmony causes highly talented members to “self censor their contributions.”
“When teams work well,” du Rond says, “it is because, not in spite, of individual differences.” Ratherthan trying to avoid or smooth over them, we need to ϐind ways to accommodate these differences inteams. If superstars bring a bit of conϐlict to the situation, the result may well be added creativity and aperformance boost that would otherwise not exist. Instead of trying to make everyone happy, perhapsit’s time for managers and team leaders to accept that disharmony can be functional. A bit of teamtension may be a price worth paying to bring someone with exceptional talents into the team equation.Print,sec216,se…24 of 43 2/3/2018, 10:34 AM
© Duomo/Corbis
Do the Analysis
Okay, so maybe there is a superstar on your team. Does that mean that poor team contributions andeven bad personality should be forgiven? Is there a point where talent simply overrides any negativesthat the star brings to the team? Or is du Rond leading us, and our teams, astray? What is the linebetween real performance contribution and negative impact caused by personality and temperamentclashes? Given what we know about teams and your personal experiences with them, should we beϐinding ways to accommodate the superstar or avoid them?
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Supportive Communication Principles
Supportive communication principles ( focus on joint problem solving. They are especially effective in dealing with relationalbreakdowns or in addressing problematic behaviors before they escalate into relational violations.14(
Supportive communication principles are a set of tools focused on joint problem solving.
Supportive communication principles help us avoid problems of defensiveness and disconϔirmation ininterpersonal communication. We all know these problems. You feel defensive when you think you arebeing attacked and need to protect yourself. Signs of defensiveness ( are people beginning to get angry or aggressive in acommunication, or lashing out. You have a feeling of disconϐirmation ( when you sense that you are being put down and your selfworth is being questioned. When people are disconϐirmed they withdraw from a conversation orengage in show-off behaviors to try to build themselves back up.
Defensiveness occurs when individuals feel they are being attacked and need to protectthemselves.
Disconϐirmation occurs when an individual feels his or her self-worth is beingquestioned.
Relationships under stress are particularly susceptible to problems of defensiveness anddisconϐirmation. Therefore, in situations of relational repair it is doubly important to watch for anddiffuse defensiveness and disconϐirmation by stopping and refocusing the conversation as soon asthese problems begin to appear.
The ϐirst, and most important, technique to consider in supportive communication is to focus on theproblem and not the person. If you focus on the person, the most likely reaction is for the other tobecome defensive or disconϐirmed. A trick many people use to remember this is “I” statements ratherthan “you” statements. “You” statements are like ϐinger pointing: “You screwed up the order I sent you”or “You undermined me in the meeting.” An “I” statement, and a focus on the problem, would be “I had aproblem with my order the other day and would like to talk with you about what went wrong with it”or “I felt undermined in the meeting the other day when I was interrupted in the middle of mypresentation and not able to continue.”
Supportive Communication Principles
Focus on the problem and not the person.
Not “You are bad!” but rather “You are behaving badly.”
Be speciϐic, not global, and objective, not judgmental.
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Avoid using never or always, as in “You never listen to me.”
Own, rather than disown, the communication.
“I believe we need to change” rather than “Management tells us we have to change.”Getty Images, Inc.
Be congruent—match the words with the body language.
Don’t say “No I’m not angry!” if your body language says you are.
The second technique is to focus on a problem that the two of you can do something about. Rememberthat the focus should be on joint problem solving. This means the framing of the message should be on ashared problem, and the tone should be on how you can work together to ϐix it and both beneϐit in theprocess. It helps in this part of the conversation if you can make it clear to the other person how youcare about him or her or the relationship and that the other person trusts your motives. If anotherperceives that you are out for yourself or out to attack, the conversation will break down. For example,“I’d like to talk with you about how we can manage the budget more effectively so we can avoidproblems in the future” rather than “You overspent on the budget and now I have to ϐix your mess.”Beyond this, the other techniques help you think about the kinds of words you should choose to makethe conversation more effective. For example, you should be speciϔic/not global, and objective/notjudgmental. Speciϐic/not global means not using words like never or always. These words are easy toargue, and you will quickly ϐind the other person saying “It’s not true.” Try to be more factual andobjective. Instead of saying “You never listen to me,” say “The other day in the meeting you interruptedme three times and that made it hard for me to get my point across.”
The principles also tell you to own the communication and make sure to be congruent. Owning thecommunication means you take responsibility for what you say rather than place it on a third party. Amanager who says, “Corporate tells us we need to better document our work hours,” sends a weakerPrint,sec216,se…27 of 43 2/3/2018, 10:34 AM
message than one who says, “I believe that better documenting our work hours will help us be moreeffective in running our business.” Being congruent means matching the words (verbal) and the bodylanguage (nonverbal). If your words say, “No, I’m not mad,” but your body language conveys anger, thenyou are not being honest or forthright. The other person will know it, and this may cause him or her tobe less open and committed to the conversation in return.
Tough Talk from Bosses a Real Turnoff for Workers
Lots of times the answer to this question is “It’s my boss.” A survey by Development DimensionsInternational reports that difϐicult conversations with bosses are what employees often dread the most.Those conversations rank ahead of going back to work after vacation. They even rank higher thangetting a speeding ticket or paying taxes. The inϐluence of boss behavior—words and actions—onmotivation was clear. Some 98 percent of those working for their “best boss ever” said they were highlymotivated in their jobs; only 13 percent of those working for their “worst boss ever” said so.
Ice Tea Images/Age Fotostock America, Inc.
Active Listening
Supportive communication principles emphasize the importance of active listening( . Active listening again focuseson problem solving, but this time from the standpoint of trying to help another person. For example,active listening is often used in counseling situations. In these situations, your intent is to help theother person sort through problems involving emotions, attitudes, motivation, personality issues, andso on. To do this effectively, you need to keep the focus on the counselee and his or her issue(s) and notyou and your issue(s).
Active listening involves listening to another person with the purpose of helping a personthink through his or her problem.
The biggest mistake people make in this kind of listening is jumping to advice too early or changing thefocus of the conversation onto themselves. A good principle to keep in mind during active listening isPrint,sec216,se…28 of 43 2/3/2018, 10:34 AM
“We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we speak.”15( When you are engaged in activelistening, your goal is to keep the focus on the other person, and to help that other person engage ineffective self-reϐlection and problem solving.
Active listening involves understanding the various types of listening responses and matching yourresponse to the situation. What is most important to remember is that to counsel someone, you want touse reϔlecting and probing more often than advising or deϔlecting. Reϐlecting and probing are “opening”types of responses that encourage others to elaborate and process. Advising and deϐlecting are “closed”types of responses and should only be used sparingly, and at the end of the conversation rather thanthe beginning.16 (ϐlecting means paraphrasing back what the other said. Reϐlecting can also mean summarizing whatwas said or taking a step further by asking a question for clariϐication or elaboration. Reϐlecting allowsus to show we are really listening and to give the speaker a chance to correct any misunderstanding wemay have. Probing means asking for additional information. In probing you want to be careful aboutthe kinds of questions you ask so you do not come across as judgmental (e.g., “How could you havedone that?”). You also don’t want to change the subject before the current subject is resolved. Effectiveprobing ϐlows from what was previously said, and asks for elaboration, clariϐication, and repetition ifneeded.
Reϐlecting involves paraphrasing back what the speaker said, summarizing what wassaid, or taking a step further by asking a question for clariϐication or elaboration.
Probing is asking for additional information that helps elaborate, clarify, or repeat if
Types of Active Listening Responses
Reϐlecting: paraphrasing back what the speaker said, summarizing what was said, or takinga step further by asking a question for clariϐication or elaboration.
“So you were upset by the way your manager treated you.”
“So do I hear you saying that you were upset by the way your manager treated you?”Probing: asking for additional information that helps elaborate, clarify, or repeat ifnecessary.
“Why do you think you were so upset about the way your manager treated you?”“What else happened that made you upset?”
Deϐlecting: shifting to another topic.
“I know. That happens to me all the time.”
“Did you hear what happened to Raj the other day?”
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Advising: telling someone what to do.
“You need to take care of that right away.”
“Talk to the manager and tell him you won’t put up with it anymore.”
Deϐlecting means shifting to another topic. When we deϐlect to another topic we risk coming across asuninterested in what is being said or being too preoccupied to listen. Many of us unwittingly deϐlect bysharing our own personal experiences. While we think this is being helpful in letting the speaker knowhe or she is not alone, it can be ineffective if it diverts the conversation to us and not them. The bestlisteners keep deϐlecting to a minimum.17 (
Deϐlecting is shifting the conversation to another topic.
Advising means telling someone what to do. This is a closed response, because once you tell someonewhat to do that typically can end a conversation. While we think we are helping others by advisingthem, we actually may be hurting because doing so can communicate a position of superiority ratherthan mutuality. Again, the best listeners work to control their desire to advise unless speciϐically askedto do so and to deliver the advice in the context of supportiveness rather than presumptuousness.
Advising is telling someone what to do.
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11.5 Developmental Feedback
In most workplaces, there is too little feedback rather than too much. This is particularly the case fornegative feedback. People avoid giving unpleasant feedback because they fear heightening emotions inthe other that they will not know how to handle. For example, words intended to be polite and helpfulcan easily be interpreted as unpleasant and hostile. This risk is especially evident in the performanceappraisal process. To serve a person’s developmental needs, feedback—both the praise and thecriticism—must be well communicated.
Feedback Giving
Feedback is vital for human development. Therefore, giving another person honest and developmentalfeedback in a sensitive and caring way is critically important. It lets us know what we are doing welland not so well, and what we can do to improve.
Developmental feedback is giving feedback in an honest and constructive way that helpsanother to improve.
One tool that helps us understand this is the Johari Window (see Figure 11.5(ϐig11-5) ). The Johari Windowshows us that we know some things about ourselves that others know (“open”) and some things aboutourselves that others don’t know (“hidden”). But there are also some things about ourselves that wedon’t know but others do—this is our blind spot. The blind spot is blind to us but not to others. As youcan imagine, this is a problem because it means others are aware of something about us, but we are inthe dark! The only way to reduce blind spots is through feedback from others—which is why feedbackis so important. It helps us reduce our blind spots.
The Johari Window is a tool that helps people understand their relationship with self andothers.
Despite this, giving feedback is perhaps one of the most avoided activities in organizations. It doesn’thave to be, however. When delivered properly, giving feedback can be a rewarding experience. It helpsbuild relationships and strengthens trust. As with supportive communication principles, you shouldkeep in mind certain important techniques when giving feedback:18 (
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Make sure it is developmental: Be positive and focus on improvement.
Be timely: Provide feedback soon after the issue occurs so it is fresh in mind.
Prepare ahead of time: Be clear about what you want to say so you stick to the issue.
Be speciϔic: Don’t use generalities, as that will just leave them wondering.
FIGURE 11.5 (ϐig11-5) The Johari Window.
Do it in private: Have the discussion in a safe and comfortable place for the other.
Limit the focus: Stick to a behavior the person can do something about.
Reinforce: Don’t bring the person down—make sure he or she knows there are good thingsabout them too.
Show caring: Convey a sense of caring and that you are trying to help.
Feedback Seeking
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The Johari Window implies we should not only give feedback—we should also seek it. Pursuingfeedback allows us to learn more about ourselves and how others perceive us. In organizations, peopleengage in feedback seeking for multiple reasons: (1) to gather information for increasingperformance, (2) to learn what others think about them, and (3) to regulate one’s behavior.19(
Feedback seeking is seeking feedback about yourself from others.
Because feedback can be emotionally charged, people typically like to see feedback involving favorableinformation. But this is not always the case. If individuals are more self-conϐident, they are more willingto seek feedback regarding performance issues, even if that feedback may be bad. The premise is thatpeople prefer to know what they are doing wrong than perform poorly on a task. This seems to be lessthe case the longer that employees are in a job. Research shows that feedback seeking is lower for thosewho have been in a job longer, even though these employees ϐind feedback just as valuable as neweremployees do. This may be due to employees feeling they should be able to assess their ownperformance without needing to ask.20 (
When individuals fear that performance feedback will hurt their image, they are more likely to foregofeedback seeking and therefore won’t gain the beneϐits it can provide. Safe environments, whereemployees can trust others and there is little risk to their image or ego, can help overcomeavoidance.21 (
Feedback Orientation
A concept that can help us understand individual differences in how people receive feedback isfeedback orientation. Feedback orientation describes one’s overall receptivity to feedback. Thosewith a higher feedback orientation are better able to control and overcome their emotional reactions tofeedback. They also process feedback more meaningfully by avoiding common attribution errors suchas externalizing blame. This helps them to successfully apply feedback in establishing goals that willhelp them improve performance.22 (
Feedback orientation is a person’s overall receptivity to feedback.
“I know where we are. I know the bottom line and how it’s going to affect the bonus I get at the end of theyear.”
Removing Doubts by Embracing Open Information
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Transparency is in and secrecy is falling by the wayside in more organizations. But is there a limit tohow much co-workers should know about each other? It’s hard to ϐind an argument againsttransparency in any current discussion of leadership. So-called “open book management” is ϐinding itsway into more and more workplaces. In many ways it’s a cornerstone of collaborative organizations.Scene: At a small software company, all seventy employees join monthly strategicmanagement meetings and have free access to up-to-date ϐinancial information. Newhires take a ϐinancial literacy workshop so that they can understand the numbers. Oneemployee says, “I know where we are. I know the bottom line and how it’s going to affectthe bonus I get at the end of the year.”
Sounds good, doesn’t it? The ϐirm is Tenmast Software of Lexington, Kentucky, and it’s an example oftransparency at work. But one thing you can’t do at Tenmast is access salary information. That’s stillkept private.
Not so at SumAll, a small data-analytics ϐirm in Manhattan. Salaries are part of CEO Dane Atkinson’scommitment to running an open enterprise. Each employee is assigned to one of nine ϐixed-salarygrades, and everyone knows where everyone else stands. Atkinson wants to take salary concerns offthe table and refocus energies on the work to be done. “When it’s secret, you want to know it more,”says ofϐice manager Kimi Mongello.
© GlobalStock/iStockphoto
From the OB side of things, such openness about ϐinancials, pay, and other matters is supposed to be agood thing—motivating employees and removing concerns about equity. But what about the possibledownsides?
When RethinkDB, of Mountain View, California, tried pay transparency, it didn’t work as expected. CEOSlava Akhmechet says too many employees used the information to try and negotiate for higher pay. Itwas also hard to pay well enough to get exceptional new hires. He had to either raise everyone’ssalaries or ask for exceptions. So, the open pay approach was dropped.
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Feedback orientation is composed of four dimensions. Utility represents the belief that feedback isuseful in achieving goals or obtaining desired outcomes. Accountability is the feeling that one isaccountable to act on feedback he or she receives (e.g., “It is my responsibility to utilize feedback toimprove my performance”). Social awareness is consideration of others’ views of oneself and beingsensitive to these views. Feedback self-efϔicacy is an individual’s perceived competence in interpretingand responding to feedback appropriately (e.g., “I feel self-assured when dealing with feedback”).23(
Those with feedback orientation tend to be higher in feedback-seeking behavior and have betterrelationships. They also tend to receive higher performance ratings from their managers. An importantrole for managers, however, is enhancing climates for developmental feedback. They can do this bybeing accessible, encouraging feedback seeking, and consistently providing credible, high-qualityfeedback in a tactful manner.24 (,sec216,se…35 of 43 2/3/2018, 10:34 AM
11 Study Guide
Key Questions and Answers
What is communication?
Communication is the process of sending and receiving messages with attached meanings.The communication process involves encoding an intended meaning into a message, sendingthe message through a channel, and receiving and decoding the message into perceivedmeaning.
Noise is anything that interferes with the communication process.
Feedback is a return message from the original recipient back to the sender.
To be constructive, feedback must be direct, speciϐic, and given at an appropriate time.
Nonverbal communication occurs through means other than the spoken word (e.g., facialexpressions, body position, eye contact, and other physical gestures).
What are barriers to effective communication?
Interpersonal barriers detract from communication because individuals are not able to listenobjectively to the sender due to personal biases; they include selective listening, ϐiltering,and avoidance.
Physical distractions are barriers due to interruptions from noises, visitors, and so on.
Semantic barriers involve a poor choice or use of words and mixed messages.
Cultural barriers include parochialism and ethnocentrism, as well as differences in lowcontext versus high-context cultures.
What is the nature of communication in organizational contexts?
Organizational communication is the speciϐic process through which information moves andis exchanged within an organization.
Communication in organizations uses a variety of formal and informal channels; the richnessof the channel, or its capacity to convey information, must be adequate for the message.
Information ϐlows upward, downward, and laterally in organizations.
Organizational silos inhibit lateral communication, while upward communication isinhibited by status differences.
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The choice to speak up or remain silent is known as employee voice; voice is enhanced whenemployees perceive high efϐicacy that speaking up will make a difference and low risk thatthey will be harmed in the process.
What is the nature of communication in relational contexts?
The most common types of relationships in organizations are manager–subordinaterelationships, co-worker relationships, peer relationships, and customer–client
Relationships develop through a process of relational testing; individuals make disclosuresand, if the disclosure is positively received, the test is passed and the relationship willadvance.
Once relationships are established, they go from relational testing to watching for relationalviolations; relational violations occur when behavior goes outside the boundary of
acceptable behavior in the relationship.
Relational repair involves actions to return the relationship to a positive state.
Supportive communication tools help in developing and repairing relationships; they focuson joint problem solving while reducing defensiveness and disconϐirmation.
Active listening is designed to help another person think through a problem; it focuses onreϐlecting and probing more than advising and deϐlecting.
Why is feedback so important?
Most workplaces have too little feedback, not too much.
Developmental feedback is important because it lets us know what we are doing well andnot so well, and what we can do to improve.
The Johari Window reveals the nature of blind spots—things others know about us that wedon’t know; feedback helps individuals reduce their blind spots.
When done properly, giving feedback can be a rewarding experience because it helps buildrelationships and strengthen trust.
Feedback seeking is seeking feedback about yourself from others.
Feedback orientation describes one’s overall receptivity to feedback.
Terms to Know
Active listening ( (
Avoidance (,sec216,se…37 of 43 2/3/2018, 10:34 AM
Channel richness ( ( channels ( (ϐlecting ( feedback ( (ϐirmation ( communication (
Encoding ( ( ( orientation ( seeking ( (
Formal channels ( ( cultures ( channels ( barriers ( window ( communication ( cultures ( (
Nonverbal communication (
Organizational silos (,sec216,se…38 of 43 2/3/2018, 10:34 AM
Parochialism ( distractions ( ( (
Receiver (
Reϐlecting ( repair ( testing ( violation ( listening ( barriers ( (
Silence (
Status differences ( communication principles (
Upward communication ( (
Self-Test 11
Multiple Choice
1 ( . Incommunication, ____________ is anything that interferes with the transference of the message.a. (a) channel
b. (b) sender
c. (c) receiver
d. (d) noise
2 ( . When you giveconstructive criticism to someone, the communication will be most effective when thePrint,sec216,se…39 of 43 2/3/2018, 10:34 AM
criticism is ____________.
a. (a) general and nonspeciϐic
b. (b) given when the sender feels the need
c. (c) tied to things the recipient can do something about
d. (d) given all at once to get everything over with
3 ( . Whichcommunication is the best choice for sending a complex message?
a. (a) face-to-face
b. (b) written memorandum
c. (c) e-mail
d. (d) telephone call
4 ( . ____________occurs when words convey one meaning but body posture conveys something else.
a. (a) Ethnocentric message
b. (b) Incongruence
c. (c) Semantic problem
d. (d) Status effect
5 ( . Personal biasis an example of ____________ in the communication process.
a. (a) an interpersonal barrier
b. (b) a semantic barrier
c. (c) physical distractions
d. (d) proxemics
6 ( . Organizationalsilos ____________ communication.
a. (a) inhibit
b. (b) enhance
c. (c) do not affect
d. (d) promote
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7 ( . ____________ isan example of an informal channel through which information ϐlows in an organization.
a. (a) Top-down communication
b. (b) The mum effect
c. (c) The grapevine
d. (d) Transparency
8 ( . Relationshipsdevelop through a process of ____________.
a. (a) feedback seeking
b. (b) feedback giving
c. (c) active listening
d. (d) relational testing
9 ( . ____________cause a relationship to kick back into active testing processes.
a. (a) Relational violations
b. (b) Interpersonal barriers
c. (c) Semantic barriers
d. (d) Supportive communication principles
10 ( . In____________ communication the sender is likely to be most comfortable, whereas in ____________communication the receiver is likely to feel most informed.
a. (a) two-way; one-way
b. (b) top-down; bottom-up
c. (c) bottom-up; top-down
d. (d) one-way; two-way
11 ( . A managerwho wants to increase voice in his department should increase ____________.
a. (a) bureaucracy
b. (b) trust
c. (c) hierarchy
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d. (d) the grapevine
12 ( . ____________shows us why developmental feedback is so important.
a. (a) The Johari Window
b. (b) Relational testing
c. (c) Active listening
d. (d) Nonverbal communication
13 ( . If someoneis confused because they don’t understand the word that the other is using thecommunication is suffering from a ____________ barrier.
a. (a) listening
b. (b) interpersonal
c. (c) semantic
d. (d) cultural
14 ( . Among therules for active listening is ____________.
a. (a) remain silent and communicate only nonverbally
b. (b) use primarily advising and deϐlecting
c. (c) don’t let feelings become part of the process
d. (d) reϐlect back what you think you are hearing
15 ( . The primaryfocus of supportive communication principles is ____________.
a. (a) reducing defensiveness and disconϐirmation
b. (b) increasing voice
c. (c) reducing silence
d. (d) increasing feedback orientation
Short Response
16 ( . Why ischannel richness a useful concept for managers?
17 ( . What is thePrint,sec216,se…42 of 43 2/3/2018, 10:34 AM
role of informal communication channels in organizations today?
18 ( . Why iscommunication between lower and higher levels sometimes ϐiltered?
19 ( . What is thekey to using active listening effectively?
Applications Essay
20 ( . “People inthis organization don’t talk to one another any more. Everything is e-mail, e-mail, e-mail. Ifyou are mad at someone, you can just say it and then hide behind your computer.” With thesewords, Wesley expressed his frustrations with Delta General’s operations. Xiaomei echoedhis concerns, responding, “I agree, but surely the managing director should be able toimprove organizational communication without losing the advantages of e-mail.” As aconsultant overhearing this conversation, how do you suggest the managing directorrespond to Xiaomei’s challenge?
Steps to Further Learning 11
Top Choices from The OB Skills Workbook
These learning activities from The OB Skills Workbook found at the back of the book are suggested forChapter 11 ( . Case for Critical Thinking Team and Experiential
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