Culture and Background
The United States is one of the world’s greatest democracies, with a government established “of the people, by the people, for the people.” The U.S. is a low-context culture, which places a high value on equality, fairness, independence, taking initiative, working hard, and being direct, open and honest (Kohls, 1988). An employee of the United States Federal Government is a “civil servant” and it is his or her job to uphold the U.S. laws. Effective communication is integral to achieving this goal. To begin with, one must understand the overall structure of the organization. I will use the Department of Homeland Security here as an example. The Department is headed by the Secretary, which is a cabinet-level position within the executive branch. The Secretary reports directly to the President of the United States. Within the Department, there are many different offices and agencies, which are all lead by appointed officials. See the below DHS organizational chart for reference.
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Within an office or agency, an employee will work for a particular sub-component, such as a “Directorate.” Some of the sub-components are divided into geographical jurisdictions and they have varying managerial structures within the organization. Guiding Principles
As Varner & Beamer (2011) point out, “power distance in the United States is comparatively small. That means, true to a democratic society, Americans are less accepting of inequalities in power than are people from cultures with high power distance” (p. 258). Despite the very intricate hierarchical management structure within U.S. Government agencies, the culture is very informal. Employees address each other by their first names, including their supervisors and managers. Employees at different levels interact openly and freely. Each agency within the Government has its own labor union. If an employee feels that their rights have been violated or that management has imposed policies that are unfair, the employee can file a grievance with the union. “Assertiveness is seen as a positive value, and the emphasis on assertiveness highlights individual rights over obligations to groups and society” (Varner & Beamer, 2011, p. 268). However, management prefers not to have to arbitrate a grievance, and encourages an employee to voice their opinions and complaints in a more informal manner first. Communication Plan
Employees will interact with members of their organization every day. Some employees participate in the telework program, which allows them to work from home. They use a government-issued laptop and telephone to communicate with the office. However, the majority of employees work in the local office. Many agencies may have a morning meeting to address STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION PLAN 4
any particular concerns or issues and then employees promptly begin performing their daily work duties. If an employee needs assistance, he or she will ask a coworker or superior. If it is routine and non-urgent, one will send an e-mail. If it is a more pressing issue, it is normal to call with a quick question or to knock on someone’s door and discuss the issue with them in person. Regardless of the situation, it is imperative to seek assistance in order to make the correct determination based on current law and policy. As a “doing” culture, Americans “tend to be more uncertainty-averse” and “strive to protect themselves from the unknown” (Varner & Beamer, 2011, p. 115). It is for this reason that the U.S. Government has strict rules regarding following proper procedures and protocols. One of these is adhering to the chain of command. If an employee wishes to communicate with a higher member of management, they are welcome to do so. However, they should send their correspondence through the proper channels, keeping their chain of command...