Poor Communications

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Does poor communication
cause conflict?
Essay written by: jmurdoch

Is most conflict in an organisation is caused by poor communication? If we had perfect communication would conflict cease?

Consider for example, an e-mail asking for some information "yesterday" to stress how important this request is. The sender thinks e-mails are great as they travel at the speed of light and spell things out in black & white. The recipient may consider that if its in a e-mail then it can't be that urgent because servers can loose, misdirect or delay an e-mails transmission. They may also consider that as the information was wanted "yesterday" its already too late to be effectively utilised. Both parties saw the same communiqué, neither read the same message. Each will blame the other for failing to communicate properly and conflict may result. E-mail flame wars are a high tech twist on whispering campaigns. And like the system of claims & loyalties in a feudal states the smallest e-mail spat can spiral out of control with careless use of the C.C. and B.C.C functions.

Drucker (1977)says that there are four fundamentals of communication:

communication is perception of the recipient not the utterance of the instigator

communication is expectation in that recipients will heed only what they are expecting to hear

communication makes demands of the recipient that they become someone, do or believe something

communication and information are different and largely opposite - yet interdependent

Employees need to know a number of things such as what is expected of them, how they are performing and how can they advance. If these are not communicated, on a regular basis, then role or expectation conflict will develop and motivation decline as the employee is berated for failing to meet the goals their superiors [are convinced they] assigned them.

But if this is all the communication they receive they may begin to feel like machines. According to Pearson & Thomas there are three levels of communication that employees need, these being: Must know discussed above. Should know which includes significannot staff changes and company/market developments. Then could know which although having no operational impact makes life more interesting. Office gossip is only a could know but probably the communication that really binds a company together. Barring security, legal and share price sensitive data everyone should be able to find out anything. Those who can't access what they need or interests them will resent it.

The corporate magazine is often viewed from the shop floor as a self agrandment vehicle containing company propaganda and staff often resent the money that goes into its publication. Higher management consider it a morale boosting tool. Contentious issues are never covered or answered with the ambiguity of a politician. Real information about a company will appear in the financial press and be reflected in the companies share price. Towsend likens reading the house magazine to "going down in warm maple syrup" and recommends using the money saved to go into employee share plans.

Having seen the conflict and drain in resources that poor communication entails what can a company do about it. Typically communications problems result in one of three things being tried either policies, re-organisation or team building exercises. All of which attempt to create new paths for communication to follow

Dawson-Sheperd and White (1994) cite a report produced by the Institute of Directors which suggested that of those companies with employee communications policies, 65.1% credited them with improving productivity, 68.1% with fewer industrial disputes and 80.3% with improvements in loyalty.

When reorganising companies have to decide between two types of departmental organisation. One of grouping the same function together. The other of mixing the functions according to what information they need to function....
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