THE NATURE OF COMMUNICATION IN ORGANIZATIONS
Regardless of the type of organization, communication is the element that maintains and sustains relationships in it. What person A says to person B not only can have an impact on those two people but, since organizations are systems, it also can have a meaningful impact on the total system. Your communication with your co-workers and supervisors in the organization will be a major determinant of how satisfied you are with your work, and how satisfied others are with your work. For example, in one organization where we worked, there was a very gossipy, control-oriented person who would subtly let others know what he/she thought of his/her co-workers. Eventually, this type of communication made it impossible for others to work with this individual. When asked to work with this person, others would find excuses not to or would become "ill" when the time to do the work rolled around. This, of course, had a negative impact on the work of the total unit. The communication behavior of individual employees plays a more significant role in organizational life than some think. Organizational communication is central to organization success. MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT COMMUNICATION IN ORGANIZATIONS Only a small proportion of the people in most organizations have ever engaged in serious study of how the process of communication works. Communication is one of those things we deal with every day, so most of us assume we know quite a bit about it. Although that assumption often is correct, most of us also know some things about communication because they are just "common sense." Unfortunately, some things that are "common sense" are just plain wrong. Before we turn our attention to some of the basic facts about communication in organizations, and some advice on how to deal with those realities, we need to look at some of the most common
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misconceptions about communication in organizations so we do not fall prey to these myths as we strive to survive. Myth 1: Meanings are in words. The idea that meanings are in words is perhaps the most common misconception about communication. This misconception can lead to much misunderstanding between two people and thwart the effectiveness of communication between supervisor and subordinate. What a particular word means to us may not be what it means to someone else. The word stimulates a meaning in our minds that is different from the meaning it stimulates in the mind of our colleague. For example, the word evaluation carries different meanings for people at different levels in the organization. The lower-level employees might feel this means the end of them. The upper-level management might feel this means support for their work. The point we wish to make about words and their meanings is that no word has meaning apart from the person using it. No two people share precisely the same meanings for all words. Meanings are in people, not words. Therefore/ we must realize that what we say to others in the organization might not stimulate in their minds the meaning we want or intend to be stimulated. This requires that we adapt our ideas to the background and experiences of our colleagues so that they can adapt to our ideas. Myth 2: Communication is a verbal process. When most people, whether they are top management or have just taken an entry-level position, think about communication, they think chiefly about words—written or spoken. They rarely focus on the relevance of the nonverbal aspect of communication. Yet much of communication is nonverbal. In fact, when we talk to someone, our verbal communication is always accompanied by nonverbal messages as well. How we say something is as important as what we say, and often more important. How we act is as important as what we say, and often...