The term communication is freely used by everyone in modern society, including members of the general public, organizational behavior scholars, and management practitioners. In addition, the term is employed to explain a multitude of sins both in the society as a whole and in work organizations. Despite this widespread usage, very few members of the general public—and not a great many more management people—can precisely define the term. Part of the problem is that communication experts have not agreed on a definition themselves. Most definitions of communication used in organizational behavior literature stress the use of symbols to transfer the meaning of information. For example, one analysis stresses that communication is the understanding not of the visible but of the invisible and hidden.
These hidden and symbolic elements embedded in the culture give meaning to the visible communication process.5 Of equal, if not more, importance, however, is the fact that communication is a personal process that involves the exchange of behaviors and information.
Today, of course, this personal process is not just face-to-face, but is increasingly carried out electronically through Facebook, MySpace, blogs, wikis, texting, mobile phones, and e-mail.6 Although associated with emerging Web 2.0 technologies, the still personal aspects have been noted in no uncertain terms by most organizational behavior scholars.
The opposite end of the continuum from the tangible, often sophisticated electronic media and information technology is nonverbal communication. Although verbal communication has long been recognized as being important, nonverbal communication is particularly relevant to the study of organizational behavior. Sometimes called the “silent language,” nonverbal communication can be defined as “nonword human responses (such as gestures, facial expressions) and the perceived characteristics of the environment through which the