Organizational Communications in Staples Inc Case Study

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I Can Hear You, But I Can’t HEAR You:
Effective Organizational Communication
Shawna Lovato
Western Governor’s University
Most human beings are born with the physical ability to talk and speak words. Most are also born with the physical ability to hear words spoken by others. What humans are not born with however is the skill to form those spoken words into a meaningful message for others to interpret and provide feedback on, or, the skill to communicate with one another. This paper looks at the process of communication and how it is utilized within the business world to relay information and send messages between management and subordinates. It will also look at potential barriers to effective communication and its impact on productivity. Finally it will examine communication strategies and how to utilize a communication strategy effectively.


I Can Hear You, but I Can’t HEAR You

Speaking, listening and being able to understand both verbal and nonverbal messages is the learned skill of communication and without it, humans would not exist in the capacity they do today. Communication, as defined by management professors Robert Kreitner and Angelo Kinicki is “the exchange of information between a sender and a receiver, and the inference (perception) of meaning between the individuals involved” (Kreitner, Kinicki, &, 2008). Communication, both effective and ineffective goes on around us constantly, both in personal and in business settings. The focus of this paper however will be on communication as it relates to the business world. It will look one final time at the Jeanne Lewis at Staples Inc., case study and examine barriers to communication within Staples, and the effect these barriers had on making changes within the organization. It will also look at different communication strategies that Jeanne Lewis used for communicating with subordinates and develop an effective message strategy that Lewis could utilize. Finally, this paper will examine communication modification strategies and their use when dealing with culture barriers within the workplace. For communication to be effective the sender must accurately communicate their message and the receiver must equally perceive and interpret the message accurately. Anything that gets in the way of the exact transmission and reception of the message is what is called a barrier to communication (Kreitner, Kinicki, &, 2008). There are three main types of communication barriers: personal barriers, physical barriers and semantic barriers. Then within each barrier are specific, sub-barriers to communication. Personal communication barriers exist because of an individual characteristic of either the sender or the receiver that causes the intended message transmission or reception to be flawed. The strong focus on the potential merger of Staples Inc and Office Depot in 1996 caused personal barriers to communication, especially once it was announced in 1997 that the merger attempt was being abandoned. While the merger process was underway, problems that needed to be addressed were not, (Suesse, J. M. 2000) causing a domino-effect in personal communication barriers. First, preoccupation with the merger caused organizational problems to go unanswered. By the time Harvard Business School graduate Jeanne Lewis stepped in to begin making changes, Staples Inc. had gotten severely off course in terms of growth and profit earnings. Also, Staples’ long-time, loyal employees were comfortable with the old way of doing things, and her plans to get rid of those “old ways” caused apprehension among an already weary staff. This apprehension and lack of trust caused a personal barrier to communications because employees would place their focus on being defensive and distrustful of Lewis, therefore distorting whatever message she was trying to get across to them. Another personal barrier to communication within the company came shortly after...
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