Communication and empowerment during change.

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Communication and Empowerment during Change

Organizational change is a complicated process that requires the individuals involved to consider many ongoing factors. Throughout the semester, communication and empowerment have been discussed in detail during classroom conversations, in-class activities, and CREW projects. Since I cannot include a thorough analysis of every aspect that should be addressed during change, I have chosen to focus on communication and empowerment. I will show through journal articles, in-class discussions and activities, interviews of IRS employees, and other sources, that change will not flow smoothly if either one of these aspects are missing. I understand that some changes happen unexpectedly, but to successfully make it through the change one must communicate with his/her employees (on many levels), and empower them in order to increase their acceptance and commitment to change.

First, a definition of organizational communication is necessary, "it refers to information dissemination (downwards, upwards, and laterally), the importance of this information and how effective the information is distributed and how well the employees understand and accept it." (Coetsee, 1999) This definition provides us with a window to see exactly how huge communication is within organizations, and especially during times of change. Many of the change models we studied in class displayed the importance of communicating vision as a major part of change. Communication is not just required in vision, but is an underlying theme throughout the change process. Communication is needed to explain the need for change and the driving reasons behind it. It must be used to define the path that will be taken, and to reassure those who are still apprehensive. Communication aids in getting effective input, and challenging misconceptions or addressing concerns. It should be used to clarify and/or redefine work roles and expectations. In addition, as many of our change models pointed out, communication is the root of feedback. This applies to both managers giving employees feedback, and vice versa.

One major theme within communication is how it will be disseminated, and which medium will be the most beneficial. I think that the St. Mary's exercise was a great example of this. We were given very limited face-to-face interaction with any of our superiors. At times, I actually felt myself craving face-to-face contact. Klein mentions in his journal article, "face-to-face communication has a greater impact than any other single medium." (1996) The interactive nature of this type of communication is what makes it so effective. It allows for immediate feedback, whereas email, voicemail, memos, etc. require a waiting period before a response is given. Again, in the St. Mary's exercise, many people kept saying that all they wanted was to have their questions answered. J. Schrmack (personal communication, April 25 2003), a manager with the IRS, stated that after a mandated reorganization of the IRS, he is now over to two hours away from some of his employees. He admitted that they only meet face-to-face about once every three months. However, the employees that are the furthest away are also employees that have been in service for over twenty years; he used this to justify the lack of personal interaction. He did not indicate that this lack of face-to-face interaction had hindered any relationships, productivity, or clarity of messages, but he felt that less experienced agents would probably not have the same success rates in a similar situation.

Other articles that I have read indicate that in addition to face-to-face communication, one must use multiple mediums to guarantee understanding and retention. We did not explicitly discuss this in class discussions, but I think that it was implied through the change models and the St. Mary's exercise. As mentioned before, during the St. Mary's exercise, we looked for guidance and...
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