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PDF | On Mar 1, , Vijay M. Kumbhar and others published Business In book: Economics of Transport and Communication M.A.-II, Edition: 1, Chapter. devotes the rest of the book to applied, actionable recommendations designed to optimize positive internal and external communication outcomes in business. Business Communication for Success by [Author removed at request of this adapted edition reproduces all original text and sections of the book, except for.

After winding up, he managed to start a conversation with one of the participants and eventually discovered what was going on. The staff had definitely not requested the event! In fact, they were involved in a long-standing and bitter dispute with the head over staffing and workload. This training was seen as another opportunity by the head to assert his authority.

He was seen by staff as dogmatic, authoritarian and insensitive. We later discovered that the head felt that the staff were lazy and incompetent.

The training session was a complete waste of time and only intensified the conflict. In this case it was not possible to negotiate an acceptable definition of the event, and our colleague retired hurt. In both these cases, we are looking at communication which depended upon a complicated history of events. As a result of that history, people had developed shared meanings over time which meant that communication was based on very different assumptions and expectations. Potential consequences in both situations were further misunderstanding and possible conflict.

If we look at the way people develop shared meanings, then we can also look at the way people express those meanings. In the past decade, organizational researchers have become very interested in the way people in organizations tell stories, tell jokes and use metaphors to describe what is going on in their organization Fineman and Gabriel, These stories and metaphors can provide very useful insights into the way people typically behave and communicate in that organization.


For an example of the power of these metaphors, and how they can influence communication, consider the case of the Disney Corporation. The powerful external image of an organization that provides quality family entertainment is certainly promoted vigorously within the company.

Smith and Eisenberg analysed the metaphors used by Disney employees and found two very strong metaphors in place: They also used the concept of family not only to describe their relationship with customers, but also to characterize the relationship between management and employees. The strength of these feelings led to difficulties at Disneyland in the s. The depth and strength of feeling led to union action and conflict.

Smith and Eisenberg argued that the way for management to rescue this situation was by reconsidering these metaphors. In other words, the management communication about cuts and economies had undermined the widely-held values which were summarized in the family metaphor.

If management had recognized and discussed these values more openly rather than focusing on the economics, they might have developed solutions which were not so threatening. What are the typical stories, jokes and metaphors used in that group? What do these stories imply about the values of that group? And how are these values expressed in communication in that group? After your first hour in the office, which of the following statements would summarize your reactions so far?

I did not realize that Thompson would be taken aback by my request about meeting the staff. I also did not intend to upset the secretary. The people at the reception desk did not know who I was and spent ages checking my papers.

Thompson gave me an impossible task — reading these manuals today — and then got upset because I showed some initiative. If I do not receive better treatment in the next few days I shall be looking out for a new opportunity. There did not seem to be any systematic preparation for my arrival and I am not sure what impression I made on the other staff.

Thompson seems pleasant but does not seem to have a clear view as to how I am intended to fit in. There seem to be issues about status and formality which I need to work out.

Business Communication for Success

But these three show how you can arrive at very different meanings by adopting a different perspective on the same series of events. These different perspectives reflect: Another implication of these three different accounts is their very different implications for future behaviour: Perception — creates expectations — leads to specific behaviour and communication A person with the first reaction will be trying harder the next day but will also be rather guarded about what they say and what they do.

A person of the second type will be looking for further evidence of poor treatment and perhaps being a bit too impatient. The third type of person will be looking for more evidence to work out what is really going on in the department. These differences also reflect broader expectations. Remember, you had heard that the organization was formal and bureaucratic.

With a different expectation, the first day could have had more or less impact on you. And this is why we always need to consider communication from these two perspectives: What implications could these have for future working relationships? We deliberately left their identities ambiguous. For example, did you assume that the manager was male and the secretary was female? Would your perceptions change if the genders were different?

Would it make any difference if they came from different social or cultural backgrounds — would this change your expectations?

We shall look at some of the complexities of communication caused by different social backgrounds in Parts two and four of this book. As a final example of the complexity of communication, you will see that we have not fully explained one part of the case study: Was this simply surprise at an unexpected question? Or did it mean something more significant? Have you unwittingly implied that you already know the politics of the organization?

You can decide between these alternatives only by more detailed investigation of the context. We must be critical of our own models and presuppositions. To illustrate some of the possibilities, consider the following suggestions on what could have been done differently, from a process perspective: The sender has the initial choice on such matters as media and situation. In this case the person responsible Thompson should plan induction to achieve the desired objectives. Essentially, the purpose of induction is to try to bring the background of the new employee, as far as the work situation is concerned, to the level of other employees in the department.

This can be done by personal discussion, arranging for a mentor, and supplying policy and procedure manuals. Departments should have clear procedures on induction of staff. For rapid assimilation of background, face-to-face contact is most desirable. However, to avoid information overload, policy and procedure manuals give useful detail. But these should be backed up by having a senior colleague as a mentor. With new employees, messages can often be misunderstood because of lack of background.

It is particularly important that instructions are clear and detailed. Being sensitive to feedback is particularly important with new employees. As we have seen, first impressions of an organization can have a long-term effect on attitudes. But remember the meaning: This case study highlighted the importance of communication within the induction process.

Managers may define communication as a linear process which may or may not incorporate feedback. This definition is not sufficient and can be misleading in many situations. You can analyse human communication from at least two different perspectives: The process perspective emphasizes the way messages are constructed and delivered, and the various factors which influence how those messages are received.

The interpretive perspective emphasizes the meaning which we perceive in situations. This meaning is often the result of complicated historical and cultural processes. We need to consider both process and interpretive perspectives when we examine particular examples of business communication.

Are there other definitions which managers use? Do we really know what managers believe about communication? If we need to investigate the historical and cultural factors in order to interpret meaning, which of these factors are the most important? Why do so many guides to business communication rely upon process models of human communication? Why do they seem to ignore historical and cultural factors? What are the strengths and weaknesses of our approach?

Is it possible to integrate process and interpretive approaches? Thousand Oaks, CA: Chapter 1 gives a detailed explanation of the three views which managers seem to adopt. Chapters 2 and 3 explore the meaning of communication in greater depth and investigate the impact of organizational culture. Hargie, O. See chapter 1 for a recent restatement of the process approach and for discussion of the value of effective communication to the organization.

Mohan, T. Theory and Practice, 4th edition. Harcourt Brace. See chapters 1 and 2 for an approach which complements a transmission model with a transactional model. Such telepathy may be the staple diet of science fiction but business communication must rely on more tangible mechanisms. We have to translate or encode our thoughts in such a way that others can receive and interpret what we think.

This encoding is the focus of this chapter. We introduced the notion of codes in the previous chapter but we need to analyse the variety of codes we use in everyday communication.

We focus on both verbal and non-verbal codes and consider how much scope there is for ambiguity and interpretation. If we can anticipate how other people will interpret what we say and do, then we can make our communication more effective. Of course, we also need to bear in mind the implications of the previous chapter: There are several ways of categorizing the different codes we use to communicate with each other.

For example, Ellis and Beattie , p. There are two main issues with this and with other systems of classification: Do we somehow interpret or process them differently? Do the different systems have different functions? For example, it is often suggested that non-verbal signals communicate our emotions better than words.

Both these issues have important practical implications. For example, what do you attend to when you are meeting someone for the first time? Do you concentrate on what they are saying or on some aspect of their non-verbal behaviour? How would you give them some clues that you liked them — what signals would you use? As we shall see in the rest of this chapter, these issues are not easily resolved. We shall use the distinction between verbal and non-verbal codes but emphasize that the most important issue is how they work together to create a particular meaning.

How would you describe their verbal and nonverbal styles? Which features of their behaviour did you notice? What did you think these differences told you about their personalities? As a means of identification. We use language to express our membership of social groups, which may be national, ethnic, social, religious, etc. As a means of intellectual development. The way that children learn and develop their language skills is very strongly related to the way they experience their surrounding environment.

In adulthood, we use language to develop new ways of thinking and new concepts. As an instrument of action. Much of what we say is directly linked to what we do. When we promise or apologize, we are not simply passing on information. Although this book concentrates on function 1, we must recognize the practical implications of the other functions. People who concentrate on function 2 may have very strong views on what language use is appropriate in a given situation — see Box 2.

Function 4 can cause difficulties if we do not recognize the action implications of what we say. This may be especially important in cross-cultural encounters, as we shall see in Chapter 3 when we discuss Business English as an international language. Codes within language Language is not just a carrier of information — it can convey various levels of meaning depending on the situation.

In even a simple conversation, there may be several different codes which we can recognize: OK, Bones, what are you going to do about it? Obviously you need to try it on the other two machines first. In this brief conversation between two people trying to get a computer program to work properly for a demonstration, we can see various codes at work: All of these depend upon the relationship between A and B — recognizing that they both understand the jargon, recognizing the joke and the verbal sparring.

B would have adopted a very different tone with a relative stranger or a new boss. Danziger shows how certain individuals are very conscious of this distinction and manipulate what they say to entrap the other person in a particular relationship.

His examples include sales representatives and interrogators! This is not the same as the distinction between verbal and non-verbal codes as we can express a relationship both verbally and non-verbally. One very important practical implication here is that we need to review both what we communicate and how we do it. We need to establish the appropriate relationship as well as convey the appropriate information. BOX 2. It recently tried to stop female ministers in the French government from using the feminine definite article to describe themselves la ministre as this departed from the traditional masculine form for the word le ministre.

These movements suggest that some varieties of language are inherently inferior. They try to define one version of the language which can be accepted as the ideal or standard. They face serious challenges on both these counts. All languages grow and develop.

For example, are words such as notwork and webisode just temporary slang or lasting expressions? Neither appeared in the last Oxford Dictionary of New Words Knowles, and both were highlighted as misspellings when this paragraph was written in Microsoft Word 97! Would you use them? Did you like the previous version? Did you? We would have liked it a lot more if it was, um, a bit better.

Gold discoveries were like No. None came for ages, then three arrived at once. ABC Industries, the financial services conglomerate which is breaking itself up, is poised to go out with more of a whimper than a bang. Fed up with the same old job?

Full training and uniform provided plus above average rates. If you think we are just another high street retailer, allow us to open your eyes. This is a company that leads the field in many different sectors of retail, from small electrical goods to toys, from jewellery to furniture. Our computer technology is amongst the most sophisticated in the business, our stock control systems are the best around and we offer convenient shopping along with convenient service that keeps the customers coming back.

The first extract is from a computer games magazine; the rest are from a mass-circulation British newspaper — the first two from the editorial in the business section, and the last two from the job advertisements for security guards and store managers respectively. Do you agree? Language variety Here we need to discuss three main concepts: Register The English language is not a single, coherent body. Different groups use different sub-sets of the language to suit their purposes.

We can identify the characteristics of different subsets or registers. For example, one early study of scientific reports found common features which were very rare in everyday conversation, such as compound nouns, passives, conditionals, prepositional verbs and so on. Dialect A dialect is a language variety which is characteristic of a region or a socio-economic group. Over the years in Britain there has been considerable pressure to achieve Standard English.

This is also true in other parts of the world with other languages. We cannot look at the way language is used without investigating the opinions people have about language variety: We can illustrate the problems this may cause by looking at the impact of different accents. Accent Accent is often confused with dialect because a non-standard accent is often associated with a non-standard dialect.

Accent refers to the distinctive pronunciation which characterizes a group or a geographical area. In a country such as Britain, accents tend to be regional, e.

Scots, Welsh, Irish, Yorkshire, etc. As with most aspects of language, people can feel very strongly about accents. Most commentators argued in favour of diversity: Knight, But that same newspaper article also took the opportunity to reinforce popular stereotypes of British regional accents: Research confirms that certain accents are more highly regarded than others, and some organizations are deliberately selecting staff to deal with customers on the basis of these perceptions.

This regard for certain accents may vary from country to country and group to group see Box 2. Of course, many people deliberately cultivate an accent as a means of reinforcing group or cultural identity. The great danger in our attitude to people with an accent that differs from our own is that we stereotype them with attributes that have little or nothing to do with ways of speaking, as in the British examples above.

For example, we tend to consider people to be less well or better educated merely because they speak with a different accent. Of course, people may also discriminate against a particular accent in order to discriminate on racial or class grounds. There is another, more serious aspect of this: The problem for managers in this sort of situation is whether they could make customer relations worse by adopting standardized scripts for announcement.

As we shall discuss later in this book, a standard script for an interaction can sound false and bureaucratic and increase customer irritation.

On the other hand, there is obviously room for improvement in the information which passengers receive. One of our own favourites is the way a Scottish operator announced a breakdown: If I were speaking to you in the Hopi language, then the source of my information would be clear from what I said. In other words, the language specifies the context as well as the event or information.

Among the most interesting features of the English language are the following: Expanding and developing vocabulary We can find many English words that appear in dictionaries but which are virtually extinct as far as everyday use is concerned.

Bryson, , p. There is the regular debate in the British media over which new words should be recognized in the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. As with many aspects of language, the debate can be heated.

We put new meanings into old words. We add or subtract parts from old words, usually by abbreviating them. We create new words, usually by making some analogy. Many other words have multiple meanings and we have to work out how they are being used from the context. Variety in pronunciation The English language has more sounds than many others. There are also changes in pronunciation which seem to reflect changing fashion and the obvious variations in dialect.

These variations can be quite dramatic. Flexible syntax English does have rules of grammar but no formal ruling body to enforce them see Box 2. The important practical implication of these features is that we cannot simply rely on a dictionary to help us choose the most effective language in a given situation. We need to assess the situation and context.

For example, how can we recognize when a word or expression has become sufficiently accepted that it can be used, especially in more formal situations such as a written report or a public meeting? This depends on the audience. For example, are they familiar with expressions which arise from popular culture? Would you use any of the following phrases which appeared in a recent British daily paper: Table 2.

But how far are these affected by context? Numerical and mathematical conventions and systems can be analysed as examples of communication codes. Graphic codes, such as illustrations and diagrams, are widely used to avoid problems associated with communicating to people of different languages. Pictorial road signs often reasonably self-evident circumvent the need for multilingual signs. Similarly, safety and freight-handling information is often encoded in graphic forms, but we cannot always assume that graphic symbols will be universally understood, and this can be very important, especially with health and safety information.

We shall examine issues of graphic codes in Chapter 9. For an example of how graphic and language codes interact, see Box 2. Speech is: The different combinations of text, graphics and colour which you can put on a business card can certainly create an impression. But how do we decide what impression is created? Or are business cards decoded in a more complex way, depending on the context? Chambers shows how professional designers use both graphics and specific typefaces to create certain images.

For example, if you wanted to open a shop selling up-market decorative items for home and garden, which typeface would you select from the following?

We return to this topic in Part three. For the moment, consider how your organization projects its image through devices like business cards and letterheads — what codes does it use? And how successfully are they used? Signals which have been studied under this heading include facial expression, eye contact, gesture and body posture. Much of the time, such communication is unconscious.

Ekman, We also seem to interpret facial expressions in terms of these clear categories rather than as a continuum. This can have unusual consequences: You may recognize happiness and surprise but not fear or anger Young, There is an enormous amount of research on different non-verbal signals and we shall return to this in Part four of this book.

This research has focused on how different signals are used and what they usually mean. Body posture often signals the attitude towards the interaction, whether it be tense, relaxed, interested or bored. Gestures are often used to indicate submission.

Sometimes gestures become ritualized as in an army salute. Body posture can also become ritualized, as in bowing, kneeling, etc.

The following are important aspects of non-verbal codes. This raises another fundamental question which we return to later — how far can you become adept at reading body language? For example, in interviews can we use it to determine what the person being interviewed might rather keep hidden? For example, Judi James , p. Burgoon et al. They point out that it is based on early studies of NVC which investigated only very limited verbal cues. Despite the fact that subsequent research has painted a much more complicated picture, this finding is still regularly repeated without any attempt to suggest any reservations.

We shall return to this claim in Part four, where we advise you not to rely upon these statistics, which are actually difficult to interpret. Research has shown that non-verbal signals can be very important but they may not be so dominant in every situation. We must always consider the relationship between the words and the non-verbal cues.

Non-verbal communication cannot be avoided You cannot avoid sending non-verbal signals. Even the purposeful avoidance of contact by one or both parties sends a signal that they do not wish to communicate. Eye contact, a smile or a proffered handshake all signal varying degrees of willingness to communicate.

What are the practical implications of these claims? What evidence do they quote to support their claims? For some examples, see Hartley, , p.

However, the expression of less intense emotions and general social feelings is much more culture-bound. But in many African and Hispanic cultures, averting the eyes is a mark of respect for a person of higher status.

Axtell, ; Morris, Morrison et al. There are obvious problems with all these generalizations, including whether they apply equally across a culture and whether they are changing.

There is also the problem of deciding which rules are really important. But how can we make sense of these differences?

McDaniel argues that non-verbal behaviour reflects or represents dominant cultural themes. He uses the example of Japanese culture, where there are a number of clear themes, including social balance and harmony, strong group and collective loyalty, formality, humility and hierarchy. He then shows how Japanese non-verbal behaviour both illustrates and reinforces these cultural themes.

Thus, the typical behaviour reflects the norm of humility. This norm is broken only in order to reinforce another cultural theme, hierarchy. As McDaniel acknowledges, this form of analysis is easier in cultures which have very strong themes such as Japan. It is much more difficult in more diverse cultures. And we have the problem of measuring cultural themes, which we shall revisit in Chapter 3.

The meaning of non-verbal behaviour depends on the context Even within the same culture, we cannot expect a particular non-verbal signal to mean the same thing in different situations. For example, Mark Knapp and Judith Hall review research on the non-verbal signals associated with dominance Knapp and Hall, , pp.

Some studies have found that dominant members of a group smile more! They suggest that people who are trying to achieve dominance may use a different set of non-verbal signals from those who have already achieved high status. You can improve your interpretation of non-verbal communication It is possible to improve your skill in interpreting body language. I may feel very angry and put on a poker face but you may be able to spot my anger in my gestures, or the way my foot is furiously tapping, or some other leak which I cannot control.

However, there are situations where a particular nonverbal code can have particular significance. The importance of paralinguistics In the work situation, the paralinguistic message can be the most important. The reverse can also happen.

You may have a perfectly sound proposal to put forward to management. But if your behaviour is badly affected by nervousness, then the proposal may come over as uncertain and hesitant.

As a result, you may not be taken seriously. If you have an important verbal message to put across, you need to ensure that the paralinguistic message supports it rather than detracting from it.

Thus a waiter in nondescript, dirty clothes sends a negative message about himself and the organization. One study has even shown that overweight people have trouble getting job offers. Clothing can have a significant effect on whether a person is employed, makes a sale or is believed by those with whom he or she communicates. Many organizations provide uniforms to ensure that employees project an appropriate image, as in the travel industry.

Almost all airline employees who are in contact with customers have a uniform of some sort. This is intended to convey an image of discipline, reliability and orderliness to reassure passengers.

Other organizations do not go to the extent of having uniforms, but have written or unwritten dress codes which define what is acceptable. Certain groups signal their affiliation by clothes. Examples are the turbans of Sikhs and the yarmulkes of certain Jewish groups.

In addition, certain minority groups have their own dress codes, which may clash with prescribed codes. As dress can be a source of miscommunication and friction in organizations, management should develop a sensible policy which should be reviewed regularly, as attitudes and fashions do change with time. She also noted the success of Project Transition in Philadelphia, which trained people on welfare to work in the fast food industry.

One part of the training helped trainees to rehearse their interview behaviour. This study illustrates how people in organizations do have norms and expectations about non-verbal behaviour. People who want to gain entry to a particular organization may have to comply with these norms to get through the selection procedure. In superior—subordinate interactions, the subordinate who wants to impress will probably try to take up a posture that is slightly more rigid than that of the power-holder.

Of course, there are dangers here — an over-rigid posture can signal lack of confidence. Personal space and distance The effect of personal space and distance in communication is complex and depends on a number of factors, which include the social relationship, the situation, the status relationship and the culture.

Edward Hall identified four distance zones for middle-class Americans: In cultures which follow this pattern, business interactions tend to take place at the casual—personal or social—consultative levels.

But expectations of the type of interaction influence the distance: So, depending on the level of formality, we tend to alter the distance to where we feel comfortable. One general rule is that the person with power or status controls the interaction distance, particularly in the intimate and casual personal interactions. And would the reverse be resented? Comfortable interaction distances vary from culture to culture, and you need to understand this when working in intercultural situations.

How do the participants use space to signal what they mean and the status differences? If not, why not? One of the themes running through this chapter is that we make judgements about people who are communicating to us based on various features of their behaviour: It did this in three main stages: This raises the general issue of how language codes can be used to control behaviour, an issue that will crop up several times in this book.

Box 2. Specific guidelines were then identified for specific groups of employees e. If company management start using new terms and expressions to describe aspects of the business, what impact does this have? But she also argues that it is neither possible nor desirable for management to have absolute control through their use of language.

Two of these echo much of the advice on written communication we shall summarize in Part 3 of this book: The other two are more controversial. The workforce may see such an obvious linguistic tactic as manipulative. It also assumes that the target groups are reasonably homogeneous in their response to language.

We shall return to this issue in Chapter 7. Again, we wonder how the workforce responded to such formality. With both of these recommendations, we wonder whether the background research has managed to uncover all the meanings which are presently circulating in this organization.

In terms of our approach from Chapter 1, it seems to have investigated the process but perhaps not questioned the context and history. If management did behave in a patronizing way in the past, then a more formal or official style of language may emphasize that impression. The workforce will respond to language in relation to the overall context. Language does not work in isolation.

Of course, we may be making assumptions about this organization which are not warranted. Nor does he give any detail on the level of formality which is recommended. There is not an absolute distinction between formal and informal language — it is a continuum which has degrees of change. We have given this article particular attention because it highlights important issues from this chapter, and relates back to the approaches we used in Chapter 1.

It raises important issues: It also shows that communication codes are not just an abstract concept; they have everyday practical relevance for all of us.

What codes does it use? What is its impact on different groups in the organization? Social rules and expectations are associated with these codes, and they influence how the codes are interpreted e.

Our communication will reflect our attitudes and feelings and we need to make sure that we do not send out ambiguous or misleading signals. Although there have been exaggerated claims about the importance and meaning of non-verbal communication, we must make sure that our non-verbal signals create the appropriate relationship. All human codes are fuzzy and potentially ambiguous.

As a result, we always need to consider their meaning in context. Using the concept of codes, organizations can research and review their communication practices and change them if they wish.

An example of this work shows that communication codes are not just an abstract concept; they have everyday practical relevance for all of us.

What impact does this have on relationships at work? How far should regional differences in the use of language be incorporated into our business communication? How important are differences between speaking and writing? How far and in what ways are you affected by personal attributes of others when they communicate with you?

How important is non-verbal communication in everyday business relationships? How can you tell when someone is not telling the truth? What would a survey in your organization reveal about the communication codes in use and their impact? The English Language. Cameron, D. Hartley, P. See chapters 8 and 9 especially for further analysis of the relationship between language and non-verbal communication. Knapp, M. Fort Worth, TX: A comprehensive overview of research into non-verbal communication.

Montgomery, M. An excellent introduction to linguistic analysis. This is complex for a number of reasons. First, we know how difficult it is to communicate across social boundaries because of factors which we discuss in this chapter, such as social stereotypes.

Second, the concept of culture is itself complex. It is a socially sensitive subject as people, usually subconsciously, tend to approach it from the viewpoint of their own culture. We start by looking at the general problems of communicating across social boundaries and then define and discuss some of the key concepts associated with cultural analysis. In other words, we do not necessarily act towards another individual in terms of their unique personality characteristics; we consider perhaps subconsciously our own group memberships and theirs and then we decide to act towards them in a particular way.

From this point of view, many face-to-face meetings between individuals are really experienced as examples of what psychologists have called intergroup communication communication between groups rather than just communication between individuals.

How far this happens depends on how relevant the social identities are to the people in the situation. For example, if you are meeting a manager and you happen to be an elected staff representative, then you will be very conscious of those group memberships, even if the meeting is not about specific staff business. There are a number of important practical issues which follow from this perspective: Typical processes include the following for more detail, see Hartley, , ch.

Group members tend to develop biased perceptions within each group.

For example, they will exaggerate the value of their own efforts in comparison to those of the other group. For example, there will be more emphasis on conformity to group norms, and a more authoritarian leadership style is likely to emerge. Discriminatory and antagonistic behaviour will lead to escalation of conflict.

The groups will actually discriminate against one another at every available opportunity. The developing climate of hostility has obvious implications for communication. Unfortunately, these processes can occur even when there is little direct advantage to either side from competing.

How far have these groups become involved in an escalation of conflict as described above? How has this affected the communication between the members of the two groups? Stereotyping A stereotype is a generalization about a group of people based upon their group membership: However, more recent studies have shown how the specific context influences whether or how far people make stereotyped judgements Oakes et al. For example, Oakes et al. This remained much the same between and , including characteristics such as being happy-go-lucky, pleasure-loving, sportsmanlike and talkative.

There was major change in The link to communication Jandt suggests four ways in which stereotypes can damage communication: This can be important when stereotypes are continually reinforced by the media. If we accept a stereotype, then we may believe that every individual in that group conforms to the stereotype. Stereotypes can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you are labelling someone according to the stereotype, then you will behave towards that person according to that label.

They may well respond in ways which react to the labelling, rather than their genuine character see chapter 7 of Hartley, When stereotypes are applied to cultures, they usually take the form of an overgeneralization about some characteristic of that group. While it is true that certain behaviours have a greater value, and thus frequency, in some cultures than others, it is wrong to overgeneralize.

This is particularly so when one cultural group does not value the characteristic attributed to another. See Box 3. Stereotypes can be positive but still have some negative impact. Evidence reported in other media also supported this stereotype, such as the fact that Asian American students usually scored higher than white students on maths exams.

However, this positive stereotype had some BOX 3. The main issues were summarized under three categories: All these difficulties represent different cultural perspectives and approaches to communication. This type of research raises many questions for multinational organizations, including the following: Do they understand the experience of the cultural minority person?

Do they know enough about intercultural training? Asian American students complained that teachers were too ready to advise them to pursue careers in maths and sciences. Teachers stereotyped them in this scientific and convergent thinking mould and did not explore or suggest possible careers in the creative arts or in management.

How do these stereotypes affect relations between members of different groups? Also, in certain contexts it can be an emotionally charged word, particularly when certain cultures are considered superior to others.

Consider the following examples: Culture is defined as a historically transmittted system of symbols, meaning and norms. Gudykunst, , p. Clyne, , p. There is also the idea of sub-groups within the larger community. These cultures-withina-culture are often referred to as subcultures.

Subcultures may have very different sources of identity. For example, in South Africa the two most important cultural determinants are language and ethnic identity. In other instances, religion, political affiliation and geographical location also play a part.

Whatever the textbook definition, the everyday reality is that organizations are becoming more multicultural in two senses: In addition, many companies operate internationally. They face the challenge of adapting to local cultures while still maintaining their international image. Another intercultural complication is that even where we have common institutions or ideas, the perception of these by different communities may be different. A further complication is that the situation is not static.

Factors such as urbanization are bringing about significant changes as people adapt to new ways of living. It is the cultural assumptions in our communication that raise difficulties when we communicate across cultures. How many different cultures are represented? How are these different cultural groups treated by the organization? Cultural relativism relativity The concept of cultural relativity derives mainly from the field of anthropology.

In its extreme form it holds that cultures can be evaluated only in terms of their own values and institutions. This suggests that the concepts used by people can be interpreted only in the context of their own way of life.

But can we understand a culture only if we work from within that culture and accept its values, even if we see them as illogical and contradictory? This extreme view suggests that all cultural values are equally tenable.

The weakness of this view is that we would then have to accept Nazism and apartheid as valid cultures and judge them by their own standards! A less extreme view is that if we are to understand another culture we need to compare it, but not judge it, with reference to some other culture, usually our own. It is important that we should not take our own culture as the standard by which other cultures are judged. We need to encourage tolerance, and be sceptical of any claims for universal objective standards.

Thus we can discuss whether the religious beliefs of culture A are more or less consistent than those of culture B. From a practical viewpoint, this less extreme form of cultural relativism has more to offer when considering intercultural communication.

It is almost always used in a negative sense to describe attitudes that refuse to recognize the validity of values that differ from their own. It is difficult to avoid some measure of ethnocentrism as many cultural values are considered to be universal values or truths.

Norms A norm is a rule, standard or pattern for action. Unfortunately, the term can be used in two different ways, with very different interpretations: One of the main problems in cross-cultural communication is that people take norms in the sense of 1 above as norms in the sense of 2. For example, the Ten Commandments are essentially norms of the Judaeo-Christian communities but are often spoken of as if they were universal norms in sense 2.

Cultural relativists argue that there are no universal norms but only cultural or community norms. When we talk about ideals or standards, we can also think about these at different levels.

For example, we can consider the traditional customs of a particular community and how they come to be regarded as essential to its survival and welfare , or the moral attitudes of a community or social group, or the manners and customs of a community or social group.

Examples of the first level are the Christian ideals of family and marriage, which have been incorporated into the laws of most Christian countries. An example of the second level would be the moral attitude of the Catholic Church towards abortion. One practical difficulty here is deciding what force these different norms have.

Are we talking about norms which people should obey, or rules which people must obey? And what happens if you disobey them? For example, in UK society, respect for the aged could be considered a norm; but contravention is not punishable by law and is merely considered bad manners. Attitudes and beliefs Your attitudes predispose you to respond in some preferential manner.

Beliefs within attitudes are usually considered to have three components: It also incorporates respect for hierarchical status and a complex set of rules of etiquette which govern how relationships are expressed. Goldman shows how these fundamental values underpin behaviours which are very different from typical Western styles.

For example, the American negotiator who bases his style on confrontation, assertiveness and direct communication is likely to find his Japanese counterpart using the completely opposite pattern of behaviour. The potential for misunderstanding and conflict is obvious. Dimensions of culture One of the most widely quoted studies of cultural differences suggests that culture varies along four main dimensions Hofstede, In his revision of this book, Hofstede BOX 3.

She concludes that cross-cultural understanding needs more than just understanding the words: Individualism—collectivism An individualist culture values individual effort and ability. A collectivist culture values the group over the individual. There is likely to be a strong emphasis on maintaining and achieving good group relationships. If there is a conflict between your individual feelings and the group needs, then you will be expected to meet the group requirements.

The emphasis in an individualist culture is on the individual to achieve and do their best. If you come from a collectivist culture then you may find it difficult to come to terms with the level of individual competitiveness and aggressiveness of more individualistic cultures.

The United States is usually quoted as the typical example of a highly individualist culture and contrasted with more collectivist cultures such as Japan. High- and low-context communication Some authors suggest that the individualism—collectivism dimension is the most important value dimension by which to compare cultures.

It can certainly have very powerful implications for communication. In other words, in a lowcontext message, you spell things out very clearly and directly — you say very directly and explicitly what you mean.

Lewis, In contrast, a high-context communication is one where most of the message is embedded in the situation and it is not made explicit in what is said. They will signal that they are unwilling to accept the offer or proposition in various subtle ways. Power distance The second dimension, power distance, is about how people use and respond to power differences.

For example, if you are a manager, do you expect your staff simply to obey every instruction that you issue? How would you react if one of your staff challenged or disagreed with one of these instructions?

Would you listen to what they have to say by treating them as an equal partner in a dialogue? They will not be argued with, especially in a public situation. Where there is low power distance, powerful people will be expected to defend their ideas. Ideas will be accepted if they are convincing, regardless of who produces them.

Uncertainty avoidance Hofstede , p. Masculinity—femininity Men and women are expected to behave very differently in different cultures. However, this dimension is not just about sex roles. Cultures high on the masculinity index will typically value aggressive, ambitious and competitive behaviour. A low-masculinity culture will have friendly and compassionate behaviour where conflict is resolved by compromise and negotiation.

Classifying cultures by dimensions Some examples of cultural differences using these dimensions are the following: Japanese culture has high power distance and high uncertainty avoidance German-speaking, Caribbean and Latin American cultures show high masculinity, with English-speaking cultures in the middle, and northern European cultures low on this dimension.

One important issue is the reliability of these classifications. They offer a snapshot of a culture at a particular time; the picture may change. For example, Jandt quotes recent research which suggests cultural change. A sample of Japanese students in , using the original Hofstede questionnaires, scored much higher on individualism and lower on power distance than the original sample. This could be explained by a general change in Japanese culture or by the suggestion that Japanese college students are much more likely to value individualism and equality than Japanese society as a whole.

Work by Trompenaars also suggests that differences can be more complex. His research found that on some issues the Unites States and Germany differed strongly from Japan, while on others Germany and Japan differed from the United States. What is your response? And what impact do different answers to this question have on behaviour? Managers certainly differ in their response.

The percentage supporting the company as a system ranged from 25 per cent in Malaya and 36 per cent in Japan to 74 per cent in what was then Czechoslovakia and 75 per cent in Hong Kong Trompenaars, You should also try to check the most recent research; many of the topics we cover in this book are both controversial and subject to social change.

For example, how do you respond to the research which suggests that women communicate differently from men? Hartley, ; consider the implications for the opportunities or lack of opportunities which women in organizations can access for promotion or leadership? Bell and Smith, , ch.

It is to be hoped that new research will develop our responses to all three of these issues. As we shall see in Chapter 1, communication can be defined in rather different ways. Ideally, at the end of the process, all parties involved share the same ideas and information. What are the important factors which will either assist or detract from achieving this goal?

We emphasize some important factors which are often neglected in practice, including for example the following. We need to study how people choose and develop the strategies and tactics of sharing ideas and information. Implicit in this is the idea of a communicative purpose or objective, such as informing or persuading. Many problems in communication arise from unclear or inappropriate purposes or strategies. We also need to consider how these purposes are expressed. But is a mission statement the best way of expressing objectives in a way that the employees will accept and understand?

Some organizations explicitly reject mission statements. One British vice-chancellor has suggested that although universities should be run in a business-like way. Mission statements, for instance, are an abject waste of time. We were just as effective before we had one. Times Higher, 24 July Does your organization have one? What is it and what does it really mean? Does it make a difference? Who is it aimed at?

Social and cultural background A range of important cultural and social differences affect the way we interpret what is meant. Some degree of common background is essential for exchanging messages.

Sometimes, practical problems crop up because the communicators fail to establish early on what that common background might be. Our language is the most important code we use, but gestures, illustrations and mathematics are all codes that have important roles in communication.

Situation and relationships Situation is the context in which a message is sent and received. It has both physical and relational aspects. For example, communication in a lecture room is influenced both by the layout of the room and by the relationship between the lecturer and the students.

We always interpret communication in terms of the type of relationship we have with the other person. In many business situations, the status relationship is particularly important. In the first case, we hear an instruction or command presented in polite language. It would depend on the specific relationship and working arrangements. Thus the meaning of a message depends on the relationship between the people involved.

Reviewing these and other factors, this book aims to highlight the different reactions and potential ambiguities which can affect our communication. You need to understand what communication means and what it involves. This is what Part one is all about. As well as looking at how we can define communication and the practical implications of how we define it , we investigate in more detail the factors which comprise communication.

Finally, we investigate the problems of communicating across cultural boundaries. Communication always takes place in a specific social context. Part two explores what this means in organizations by looking at their various structures and cultures and by exploring the impact and development of information technology IT , now usually known as information and communication technology ICT.

This new label both reflects the convergence of computing and communications technologies and reflects the way that many organizations now see the use and development of computing. The dominant form of communication in many organizations is by written means, and that is the focus of Part three. We also look at how documents can best be organized, and look at the range of documents which are used in most organizations. Communicating face to face is as important as, if not more important than, written communication, and that is the focus of Part four.

After defining the major interpersonal skills, we look at how these can be used in a range of contexts, including formal presentations. We then look at group dynamics and team development and how these principles can be applied to improve formal and informal meetings.

Part five has two functions: to raise issues of organizational change as they apply to all forms and types of communication, and to wind up the book by offering overall principles which we feel are the most critical aspects of communication for twenty-first-century organizations. Morgan, , p. But we suggest that everyone in the organization needs to develop the skills of understanding and interpreting the messages and meanings they encounter. In other words, if you adopt an oversimplified model to analyse communication, you will ignore critical parts of the process.

Analysing the different codes we can use to communicate. In later parts of the book, we look at a wide range of communication events, ranging from writing reports to delivering presentations and on to working in groups, teams and committees. In all these different contexts, we have to manipulate a range of verbal and non-verbal codes. Failing to recognize the implications of speaking or writing in particular ways is one of the most common problems in communication.

Understanding how codes work and what they mean can help to avoid these problems. It can be very difficult to communicate with someone from a very different culture if we do not recognize or respect their assumptions and perspectives. Understanding the most important differences between cultural perspectives is the critical first step in improving communication, and this principle can be applied whenever we communicate with someone from a different social background.

We highlight the need to clarify assumptions and avoid misleading stereotypes — further important principles which can be applied to every communication event. This part of the book emphasizes the necessary link between theory and practice.

The message which we shall repeat regularly throughout the book is that broad generalizations about communication may not apply in some specific situations. Understanding what is going on is important so you can adjust your behaviour to meet the specific circumstances.

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So it is important to work out what communication involves. We argue that you need to examine communication from two contrasting perspectives: analysing the process and interpreting the meanings. You need to use both these perspectives to decide what is happening.

To demonstrate our approach, we analyse an example of a situation which virtually everyone has experienced: the first few hours of a new job. This analysis shows that even simple everyday interactions are worth analysing in some depth to unravel the complexities of communication. As human beings, we act on the basis of our perceptions and beliefs. So if we have a particular view of human communication, then we will act on that view. If we have a faulty view, then our behaviour may cause problems.

An example of how managers act upon their perceptions and cause problems will make this point clearer. Consider Fred Davis, recently promoted telecommunications manager, who is responsible for implementing new telephone, voicemail and email systems in a large organization which has recently gone through a merger. This case is described by Finn , and is based on experiences with organizations implementing new technology.

Fred is not having a good time: he has received several messages from senior management who are unhappy with the new voicemail system; he knows there were complaints about the system in its first week; he knows that fewer than half the employees turned up for training sessions; and he knows that some units within the organization have downloadd answering machines and cancelled their voicemail service.

Fred is also worried because he knows that the organization will have to switch to a new email system in the very near future or the computer network will not be able to cope with the traffic. What makes it even more frustrating for Fred is that he cannot see where he has gone wrong. From the technical point of view, the changeover went very smoothly and the system can achieve everything which the organization wants — but only if people use it properly. The main problem is his failure to manage.

This is based upon his perception of his role and his belief about how he should act and communicate as a manager.

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He makes decisions based on his expert knowledge and then concentrates on making those decisions happen. During the planning and installation he arranged everything in precise detail. What he did not do was communicate in any meaningful way with the prospective users of the new system. He did not make sure that the users knew exactly what was happening, why it was happening, and how they could benefit from the new system. He had not built a consensus within the organization which supported his plans.

Of course, such communication would have slowed him down and he would not have been able to implement the system in such a short time. But a system which is not used cannot be effective. Unless Fred reconsiders his role very quickly, his career in this organization will come to an end. He needs to think what managing really means and what he can achieve by working with and through other influential members of the organization.

In the same way that we all have views about how to manage, which may be more or less effective, we also have views on how to communicate. In other words, we have an implicit view or theory of communication. Arrow managers believe that communication operates one way, as in firing an arrow.

If your aim is good, then you will hit the target. If you have a clear message, then you will communicate. On the positive side, arrow managers may well spend some time working out their ideas and making sure that their messages and instructions are as specific as possible. However, as we shall see throughout this book, it can be very dangerous to see listeners as simply passive processors of information. It is also very difficult to construct messages which are absolutely unambiguous.

Arrow managers can also be insensitive to possible ambiguities in what they say and how they say it. For a couple of examples of misdirected messages, see Box 1. BOX 1. It went on for some time until one person pointed out that both sides wished to discuss the document. What the branch actually wanted was a rubber impeller for the pump. The branch had to remove the impeller for the customer and then return the pump to the factory.

This meant considerable expense — all because someone wanted to reduce a message to the fewest number of words. In contrast, circuit managers concentrate on communication as a two-way process, emphasizing the importance of feedback. They usually emphasize the importance of good listening and trust in relationships. Clampitt argues that this approach also has some weaknesses. In particular, he feels that circuit managers can overemphasize agreement and fail to recognize real differences in views within the workplace.


Circuit managers may assume that disagreement is simply a matter of poor communication and that more communication will almost automatically lead to agreement. You can dance to entertain others, to impress your partner, to express yourself, and so on.

In the same way, you can communicate for different reasons: to inform, to persuade, to impress, etc. Both involve the co-ordination of meanings. The importance of co-ordination is an obvious feature of dance. You have to know what your partner thinks is the best way of doing the dance — you have to know what they are going to do next! When we communicate we also have to recognize how other people see the situation, recognize what they are doing and respond accordingly.

We shall see how important this is in communication when we look at interpersonal skills. Both are governed by rules. There are sets of rules which apply to different types of dance: what sort of steps to use, how these steps are organized in sequence, what dress is appropriate.

Again in this book we shall see how different rules apply to different communication situations — ranging from the rules and conventions of grammar through to social rules and expectations. Also, these rules can change over time and be negotiated by the participants. This analysis has very important practical implications — these different views of communication influence how we behave.

Confronted by a similar situation, these three different types of manager will respond very differently. And this is why it is important to think very clearly about how we define communication and what that definition involves. How we think about communication will influence what we do. How would you describe their usual style of communication? How well did this style work for them? So you need to check how you think about situations and be prepared to revise your thinking before you decide how to act in them.

The importance of our perceptions and beliefs is a theme which will be repeated many times in this book. Another business example of the importance of flexible thinking is the confusion that sometimes surrounds new ideas for products — see Box 1. The following examples illustrate how organizations need to think flexibly and what can happen when they do not. One large company lost a market opportunity worth millions when it decided not to download the right to the xerographic process the technology used in photocopiers.

It thought that a copying machine could only be used to replace carbon paper. It did not consider that copiers would be used by the receivers of the documents, who could then make multiple copies for distribution. The television companies were very alarmed when VCRs first came on the market — they were simply worried about viewers taping television programmes.

They did not anticipate that the main use of a home VCR would be renting movies. The Post-It note originated because scientists at 3M had developed a glue which was not very sticky.

He developed some trial products and persuaded colleagues to try them.It is also very difficult to construct messages which are absolutely unambiguous. But if your behaviour is badly affected by nervousness, then the proposal may come over as uncertain and hesitant.

We use language to express our membership of social groups, which may be national, ethnic, social, religious, etc. I also wish to pay tribute to the late Len Lanham, who started me off on my academic career.

Morgan, , p.