No matter what the job, communication is both a frequent and a critically important
process. It occupies more time than any other activity and often makes the difference
between success and failure for the organization as a whole and for its individual
Communication, as the term is used in this book, is a process in which people
who occupy differing environments exchange messages in a specific context via
one or more channels and often respond to each other's messages through verbal
and nonverbal feedback. The effectiveness of communication can be diminished
by physical, physiological, or psychological noise, which can exist within either
the sender, receiver, or channel. Communication is an unavoidable, irreversible
process. Although it is vitally important, it is not a panacea that can solve
every personal and organizational problem.
Attending to the fundamental elements of the communication process can improve
the chances of success: choosing the most credible sender, picking the optimal
receivers and attending to their needs, developing messages strategically and
structuring them clearly, minimizing communication noise, and taking advantage
of feedback to clarify confusing messages.
Formal communication networks--which can be pictured in flowcharts and organizational
charts--are management's way of establishing what it believes are necessary relationships
among people within an organization. Formal communication flows in several directions:
downward from superiors to subordinates, upward from subordinates to superiors,
and horizontally among people of equal rank. Formal communication structures
are necessary as a business grows and its tasks become more complex, but they
must be handled carefully to avoid problems.
Unlike formal relationships, informal communication networks consist of interaction
patterns that are not designed by management. Informal networks can be based
on physical proximity, shared career interests, or personal friendships. An
informal network can be quite small or a large grapevine that connects many
people. Informal networks serve many purposes: they can confirm, expand upon,
expedite, contradict, circumvent, or supplement formal messages. Because these
functions are so useful, it is important to cultivate and use informal contacts
within an organization.
In business, communicators can exchange messages via a number of channels,
some oral and others written. The channel used to deliver a message can have
a strong influence on its effectiveness. Each channel has both advantages and
drawbacks. The best choice in a given situation depends primarily on the nature
of the message and the desired relationship between the sender and receiver.