Chapter 1


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  • Learning Objectives After studying this chapter, you will be able to: 1 . Explain effective communication. 2. Discuss five developments in the workplace that are intensifying the need to communicate effectively. 3. List and briefly define the six phases of the communication process. 4. Identify four ways to improve business communication. 5. Differentiate between an ethical dilemma and an ethical lapse. 6. Define and briefly discuss four types of cultural differences that can affect communication.
  • Communication is the process of sending and receiving messages. However, communication is effective only when the message is understood and when it stimulates action or encourages the receiver to think in new ways. You can anticipate problems, make decisions, coordinate work flow, supervise others, develop relationships, and promote products and services. You can shape the impressions you and your company make on colleagues, employees, supervisors, investors, and customers in addition to perceiving and responding to the needs of these stakeholders (the various groups you interact with). Without effective communication, people misunderstand each other and misinterpret information. Ideas misfire or fail to gain attention, and people and companies flounder. Effective workplace communication can promote the following: Quicker problem solving Stronger decision making Increased productivity Steadier work flows Stronger business relationships Compelling promotional materials Enhanced professional image Improved stakeholder response
  • Effective communication will help you meet challenges such as advances in technology, the need to manage vast amounts of information, the growth of globalization and workforce diversity, and the increasing use of teams in the workplace. Communicating amid advancing technology. From instant messaging (IM) and blogs to wireless networks and video-enabled mobile phones, technology has revolutionized the way businesspeople communicate. Communicating in the age of information. In today’s workplace, you must know how to find, evaluate, process, and share information effectively and efficiently. Plus, you must be able to use what information you receive to make strong, speedy decisions. Communicating globally and within a culturally diverse workforce. Chances are good that your business career will require you to communicate across national or cultural borders. Moreover, the workforce in both the Unites States and other countries is becoming more diverse as countries look worldwide for talent and employees look worldwide for opportunities. Communicating in team-based organizations. Many successful companies today no longer limit decisions to a few managers at the top of a formal hierarchy. These organizations use teams and flexible industry partnerships to collaborate and make fast decisions.
  • Communication is a dynamic, transactional (two-way) process that can be broken into six phases . The communication process is repeated until both parties have finished expressing themselves. The sender has an idea. You conceive an idea and want to share it. The sender encodes the idea. When you put your idea into a message that your receiver will understand, you are encoding it: that is, deciding on the form, length, organization, tone, and style—all of which depend on your idea, your audience, and your personal style or mood. The sender transmits the message. To physically transmit your message to your receiver, you select a communication channel (verbal or nonverbal, spoken or written) and a medium (telephone, letter, memo, e-mail, report, face-to-face). The receiver gets the message. For communication to occur, your receiver must first get the message. The receiver decodes the message. Your receiver must decode (absorb and understand) your message. The receiver sends feedback. After decoding your message, the receiver responds and signals that response to you.
  • In the coming chapters, you’ll find real-life examples of both good and bad communication, with explanations of what’s good or bad about them. After a while you’ll begin to see a pattern. You’ll notice that five themes keep surfacing: (1) committing to ethical communication, (2) adopting an audience-centered approach, (3) improving your intercultural sensitivity, (4) improving your workplace sensitivity, and (5) using communication technology effectively. Close attention to these themes will help you improve your business communication.
  • Ethics are the principles of conduct that govern a person or a group. Ethical communication includes all relevant information, is true in every sense, and is not deceptive in any way. By contrast, unethical communication can include falsehoods and misleading information (or withhold important information). ). Some examples of unethical communication include the following: Plagiarism. Stealing someone else's words or other creative product and claiming it as your own. Selective misquoting. Deliberately omitting damaging or unflattering comments to paint a better (but untruthful) picture of you or your company. Misrepresenting numbers. Increasing or decreasing numbers, exaggerating, altering statistics, or omitting numerical data. Distorting visuals. Making a product look bigger or changing the scale of graphs and charts to exaggerate or conceal differences.
  • Every company has responsibilities to its stakeholders, and those various groups often have competing interests. In some situations, what's right for one group may be wrong for another. Moreover, as you attempt to satisfy the needs of a particular group, you may be presented with an option that seems right on the surface but somehow feels wrong. When people must choose between conflicting loyalties and weigh difficult tradeoffs, they are facing a dilemma. An ethical dilemma involves choosing among alternatives that aren't clear-cut (perhaps two conflicting alternatives are both ethical and valid, or perhaps the alternatives lie somewhere in the gray area between clearly right and clearly wrong). Unlike a dilemma, an ethical lapse is a clearly unethical or illegal choice.
  • To ensure ethical business communications, three elements need to be in place: ethical individuals, ethical company leadership, and the appropriate policies and structures to support employees' efforts to make ethical choices. Moreover, these three elements need to work together in harmony. If employees see company executives making unethical decisions and flouting company guidelines, they might conclude that the guidelines are meaningless and emulate their bosses’ unethical behavior. Some companies lay out an explicit ethical policy by using a written code of ethics to help employees determine what is acceptable. In addition, many managers use ethics audits to monitor ethical progress and to point up any weaknesses that need to be addressed. Whether or not formal guidelines are in place, every employee has the responsibility to communicate in an ethical manner.
  • Adopting an audience-centered approach means focusing on and caring about the members of your audience—making every effort to get your message across in a way that is meaningful and respectful to them. An important element of audience-centered communication is etiquette , the expected norms of behavior in a particular situation. The way you conduct yourself can have a profound influence on your company’s success and your career.
  • For the purposes of communication, culture can be defined as a shared system of symbols, beliefs, attitudes, values, expectations, and norms for behavior. In other words, your cultural background influences the way you prioritize what is important in life, helps define your attitude toward what is appropriate in any given situation, and establishes rules of behavior. Members of a culture have similar assumptions about how people should think, behave, and communicate, and they all tend to act on those assumptions in much the same way.
  • Problems arise when we assume, wrongly, that other people’s attitudes and lives are like ours. You can improve intercultural sensitivity by recognizing and accommodating cultural differences in such areas as context, ethics, social customs, and nonverbal communication.
  • Problems arise when we assume, wrongly, that other people’s attitudes and lives are like ours. You can improve intercultural sensitivity by recognizing and accommodating cultural differences in such areas as context, ethics, social customs, and nonverbal communication.
  • People assign meaning to a message according to cultural context: physical cues, environmental stimuli, and implicit understanding that convey meaning between two members of the same culture. However, cultures around the world vary widely in the role that context plays in communication. In a high-context culture , people rely less on verbal communication and more on the context of nonverbal actions and environmental setting to convey meaning. In a low-context culture , people rely more on verbal communication and less on contextual cues. In lower-context cultures, businesspeople try to reach decisions as quickly and efficiently as possible. They are concerned with reaching an agreement on the main points, leaving the details to be worked out later by others. However, this approach would backfire in higher-context cultures because there executives assume that anyone who ignores the details is untrustworthy. Cultures differ in their tolerance for disagreement when solving problems. Low-context businesspeople typically enjoy confrontation and debate, but high-context businesspersons shun such tactics. Members of low-context cultures see their negotiating goals in economic terms. To high-context negotiators, immediate economic gains are secondary to establishing and maintaining long-term relationships.
  • Cultural context also influences legal and ethical behavior. For example, because low-context cultures value the written word, written agreements are binding. High-context cultures put less emphasis on the written word and consider personal pledges more important than contracts. They also tend to view law with flexibility; low-context cultures value the letter of the law. As you conduct business around the world, you’ll find that legal systems differ from culture to culture. These differences can be particularly important if your firm must communicate about a legal dispute in another country. When communicating across cultures, keep your messages ethical by applying four basic principles: Actively seek mutual ground. Send and receive messages without judgment. Send messages that are honest. Show respect for cultural differences.
  • In any culture, the rules of social etiquette may be formal or informal. Formal social rules are specifically taught “rights” and “wrongs” of how to behave in common social situations (such as table manners at meals). When formal rules are violated, people can explain why they feel upset. However, informal social rules are usually learned by watching how people behave and then imitating that behavior, so these rules are more difficult to identify (such as how males and females are supposed to behave, or when it’s appropriate to use a person’s first name). When informal rules are violated, people often feel uncomfortable without knowing exactly why. Differences in social values are apparent in the way various cultures define manners, think about time, recognize status, and value wealth.
  • Nonverbal communication is a vital part of the communication process. Everything from facial expressions to style of dress can influence the way receivers decode messages, and the interpretation of nonverbal signals can vary widely from culture to culture. Don’t assume that the gestures you grew up with will translate to another culture; doing so could lead to embarrassing mistakes.
  • The very nature of culture being automatic, coherent, and complete can lead the members of one culture to form negative attitudes about—and rigid, oversimplified views of—other cultures. Ethnocentrism is the tendency to judge all other groups according to your own group’s standards, behaviors, and customs. When making such comparisons, people too often decide that their group is superior. An even more extreme reaction is xenophobia , a fear of strangers and foreigners. Clearly, businesspeople who take these views will not interpret messages from other cultures correctly, nor are they likely to send successful messages, either. Distorted views of other cultures or groups also result from stereotyping , assigning a wide range of generalized attributes to an individual on the basis of membership in a particular culture or social group, without considering the individual's unique characteristics. Whereas ethnocentrism and xenophobia represent negative views of everyone in a particular group, stereotyping is more a matter of oversimplifying and failing to acknowledge individuality.
  • To show respect for other people and to communicate effectively in business, adopt a more positive viewpoint: cultural pluralism is the practice of accepting multiple cultures on their own terms. Acknowledge and accept distinctions. Don’t ignore differences between another person’s culture and your own. Avoid assumptions. Don’t assume that others will act the same way you do, that they will operate from the same assumptions, or that they will use language and symbols the same way you do. Avoid judgments. When people act differently, don’t conclude that they are in error, that their way is invalid, or that their customs are inferior to your own.
  • When sending written communication to businesspeople from another culture, familiarize yourself with their written communication preferences and adapt your approach, style, and tone to meet your audiences’ expectations. To help you prepare effective written communications, follow these recommendations : Use plain English: short, precise words that say exactly what you mean. Be clear by using specific terms and concrete examples. Address international correspondence properly. Cite numbers carefully. Use figures (27) instead of spelling them out twenty-seven).
  • Avoid slang, idioms, jargon, and buzzwords. Be brief. Construct sentences that are shorter and simpler than those you might use when writing to someone fluent in your own language. Use short paragraphs. Each paragraph should stick to one topic and be no more than eight to ten lines long. Use transitional elements. Help readers follow your train of thought by using transitional words and phrases.
  • When speaking in English to people who speak English as a second language, you may find these guidelines helpful: Try to eliminate noise. Pronounce words clearly, stop at distinct punctuation points, and make one point at a time. Look for feedback. Be alert to signs of confusion in your listener. Speak slowly and rephrase your sentence when necessary. If someone doesn’t seem to understand you, choose simpler words; don’t just repeat the sentence in a louder voice. Clarify your true intent with repetition and examples. Try to be aware of unintentional meanings that may be read into your message.
  • When speaking in English to people who speak English as a second language, you may find these guidelines helpful: Don’t talk down to the other person. Try not to over-enunciate, and don’t “blame” the listener for not understanding. Use objective, accurate language. Avoid adjectives such as fantastic and fabulous, which people from other cultures might consider unreal and overly dramatic. Learn foreign phrases. Learn common greetings and a few simple phrases in the other person’s native language. Listen carefully and patiently. Let others finish what they have to say. If you interrupt, you may miss something important or show disrespect.
  • When speaking in English to people who speak English as a second language, you may find these guidelines helpful: Adapt your conversation style to the other person’s. For instance, if the other person appears to be direct and straightforward, follow suit. Check frequently for comprehension. Make one point at a time and pause to check of comprehension before moving on. Clarify what will happen next. At the end of the conversation, be sure that you and the other person agree on what has been said and decided. Observe body language. Be alert to roving eyes, glazed looks, and other facial expressions that signal the listener is lost or confused.
  • Once you can recognize cultural elements and overcome ethnocentrism, you’re ready to focus on your intercultural communication skills. To communicate more effectively with people from other cultures, study other cultures, overcome language barriers, and develop intercultural communication skills, both written and oral. Use the following to communicate more effectively: Assume differences until similarity is proved. Don’t assume that others are more similar to you than they actually are. Take responsibility for communication. Don’t assume it’s the other person’s job to communicate with you. Withhold judgment. Learn to listen to the whole story and accept differences in others without judging them. Show respect. Learn how respect is communicated in various cultures (through gestures, eye contact, and so on). Empathize. Before sending a message, put yourself in the receiver’s shoes. Imagine the receiver’s feelings and point of view.
  • Tolerate ambiguity. Learn to control your frustration when placed in an unfamiliar or confusing situation. Look beyond the superficial. Don’t be distracted by things such as dress, appearance, or environmental discomforts. Be patient and persistent. If you want to communicate with someone from another culture, don’t give up easily. Recognize your own cultural biases. Learn to identify when your assumptions are different from the other person’s. Be flexible. Be prepared to change your habits and attitudes when communicating with someone from another culture.
  • Emphasize common ground. Look for similarities to work from. Send clear messages. Make both your verbal and nonverbal signals clear and consistent. Deal with the individual. Communicate with each person as an individual, not as a stereotypical representative of another group. Learn when to be direct. Investigate each culture so that you'll know when to send your message in a straightforward manner and when to be indirect. Treat your interpretation as a working hypothesis. Once you think you understand a foreign culture, carefully assess the feedback provided by recipients of your communication to see if it confirms your hypothesis.
  • Today’s businesses rely heavily on technology to improve the communication process, and you’ll be expected to use a variety of these tools on the job. Voice technologies. The human voice will always be central to business communication, but today it’s being supplemented by a variety of new technologies. Voice synthesis regenerates a human speaking voice from computer files that represent words or parts of words. Voice recognition converts human speech to computer-compatible data. Virtual agents. Virtual agents , also known as bots (derived from robot ), are a class of automated tools that perform a variety of communication tasks, such as answering customer service questions and responding to requests for electronic documents. Mobile communication. In some cases, mobile workers don’t even have traditional offices, using temporary cubicles at work, home offices, cars, airports, and even new Internet-equipped airplanes for office space. Geographic data from the Global Positioning System (GPS) are also creating new forms of mobile communication, such as location-based advertising (getting an ad on your cell phone from a store you’re walking past, for instance) and remote monitoring of medical patients and trucking fleets. Networking advances. Peer-to-peer (P2P) computing lets multiple PCs communicate directly so that they can share files or work on large problems simultaneously. Wireless networking, particularly the commonly used Wi-Fi technology, extends the reach of the Internet with wireless access points that connect to PCs and handheld devices via radio signals. Short messaging service (SMS) is a text communication feature that has been common on mobile phones in other parts of the world for years and is becoming more popular in North America.
  • Even as technologies continue to advance, anyone who has used a computer knows that the benefits of technology are not automatic. To communicate effectively, you need to keep technology in perspective, use technological tools productively, and disengage from the computer frequently to communicate in person. Keep technology in perspective. Technology is an aid to interpersonal communication, not a replacement for it. The sheer number of possibilities in many technological tools can also get in the way of successful communication. By focusing on your message and your audience, you can avoid falling into the trap of letting technology get in the way of successful communication. Use technological tools productively. You don’t have to become an expert to use most communication technologies effectively, but you will need to be familiar with the basic features and functions of the tools your employer expects you to use. Whatever the tool, if you learn the basics, your work will be less frustrating and far more productive. Reconnect with people frequently. In spite of technology’s efficiency and speed, it may not be the best choice for every communication situation. Even in the best circumstances, technology can’t match the rich experience of person-to-person contact. Moreover, even the best communication technologies can’t show people who you really are. Remember to step out from behind the technology frequently to learn more about the people you work with—and to let them learn more about you.
  • Professionals understand that achieving success in today’s workplace requires the ability to communicate effectively with a wide variety of audiences. This chapter highlights the importance of making business communication effective by ensuring that it stimulates action and encourages audiences to think in new ways. The chapter explains how effective communication helps you adapt to today’s changing workplace. Amid today’s advancing technology, selecting the proper communication tool enables you not only to reach your audiences but also to help them better understand your messages. In today’s age of information, getting your audience’s attention prevents people from overlooking vital information that you pass along. With today’s global marketplace and diverse workforce, understanding other backgrounds, personalities, and perceptions enables you to communicate clearly with people from other cultures. This chapter also describes the six steps in the communication process. It explains five ways to improve your business communication: by committing to ethical communication, adopting an audience-centered approach, improving your intercultural sensitivity, improving your workplace sensitivity, and using technology effectively.
  • Chapter 1

    1. 1. Understanding Business Communication in Today’s Workplace
    2. 2. Decision Making Stakeholder Response Promotional Materials Work Flow Productivity Professional Image Problem Solving Business Relationships Effective Communication
    3. 3. Today’s Dynamic Workplace Advances in Technology The Age of Information Globalization and Diversity Team-Based Organizations
    4. 4. The Communication Process Step 2 Sender Encodes Idea Step 3 Sender Transmits Message Step 4 Receiver Gets Message Step 5 Receiver Decodes Message Step 1 Sender Has An Idea Step 6 Receiver Sends Feedback Feedback also needs to be encoded, transmitted, and decoded Channel
    5. 5. Building Business Communication Skills Intercultural Sensitivity Workplace Sensitivity Communication Technology Ethical Considerations Audience-Centered Approach
    6. 6. Committing to Ethical Communication Unethical Practices Plagiarism Selective Misquoting Misinterpreting Numbers Distorting Visuals
    7. 7. Recognizing Ethical Choices Ethical Dilemma Stakeholders Conflicting Loyalties Difficult Tradeoffs Ethical Lapse Business Pressures Illegal Choices Unethical Choices
    8. 8. Making Ethical Choices Policies and Structures Individual Employees Corporate Management Code of Ethics
    9. 9. Audience-Centered Approach Focus on Audience Be Respectful Observe Etiquette
    10. 10. Improving Intercultural Sensitivity Symbols Attitudes Beliefs Expectations Values Norms Culture Is A Shared System Behaviors Communication Thought Patterns
    11. 11. Cultural Differences Contextual Issues Legal and Ethical Issues
    12. 12. Cultural Differences Social Customs Nonverbal Communication
    13. 13. Cultural Context Decision Making Practices Problem Solving Techniques Negotiating Styles High Context Low Context High Context Low Context
    14. 14. Legal and Ethical Behavior Seek Mutual Ground Withhold Judgment Respect Differences Send Honest Messages
    15. 15. Social Values and Customs Work and Success Roles and Status Use of Manners Concept of Time
    16. 16. Nonverbal Communication Style of Dress Gestures Facial Expressions
    17. 17. Negative Cultural Attitudes Ethnocentrism Xenophobia Stereotyping
    18. 18. Overcoming Ethnocentrism Cultural Pluralism Acknowledge Distinctions Avoid Judgments Avoid Assumptions
    19. 19. Written Intercultural Skills Use Plain English Strive for Clarity Use Proper Addresses Cite Numbers Carefully
    20. 20. Written Intercultural Skills Strive for Brevity Use Transitions Avoid Slang and Idioms Keep Paragraphs Short
    21. 21. Oral Intercultural Skills Minimize “Noise” Obtain Feedback Speak Slowly Clarify Intent
    22. 22. Oral Intercultural Skills Don’t Patronize Use Accurate Language Learn Foreign Phrases Listen Carefully
    23. 23. Oral Intercultural Skills Adapt Your Style Confirm Understanding Clarify the Next Step Watch Body Language
    24. 24. Improving Workplace Sensitivity Assume Differences Take Responsibility Withhold Judgment Show Respect Practice Empathy
    25. 25. Improving Workplace Sensitivity Tolerate Ambiguity Look Past the Surface Be Patient and Persistent Admit Cultural Biases Stay Flexible
    26. 26. Improving Workplace Sensitivity Seek Common Ground Send Clear Messages Deal with the Individual Learn When to Be Direct Observe and Learn
    27. 27. Communication Technology Voice Technologies Virtual Agents Mobile Communication Networking Advances
    28. 28. Using Technological Tools Internet E-mail Mobile Computing Voice Mail Maintain Perspective Boost Productivity Reconnect with People
    29. 29. Reviewing Key Points <ul><li>Effective communication </li></ul><ul><li>Today’s dynamic workplace </li></ul><ul><li>The communication process </li></ul><ul><li>Business communication skills </li></ul>
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