Everything that a manager does involves communication. Once a decision is made, for example, it must be communicated. The best idea, suggestion, or plan cannot take form without communication. For meaning to be transferred and understood, a sender must transmit a message and a receiver must understand the message. Before communication can occur, a sender must have a purpose (message). This message is converted to symbolic form (encoding) and is passed from the sender to a receiver via some medium (channel). The receiver translates the message (decoding) and the result is the transfer of meaning from one person to another. The feedback loop completes this process. The communication process is a seven-part model: (1) the communication source, (2) the message, (3) encoding, (4) the channel, (5) decoding, (6) the receiver, and (7) feedback. The source is the sender who converts (encodes) a thought or message into symbolic form. The message is the physical product from the source coding. The channel is the medium through which the message travels. The message is directed to a receiver. But, the message must be translated (decoded) into a form that the receiver can understand. Then, the receiver provides feedback to the sender that indicates whether the intended message was received. This entire process is susceptible to noise, that is, disturbances that interfere with the transmission of the message.
Written communications are tangible, verifiable, and permanent. Typically, both the sender and the receiver have a copy of the document. And the written word can be more concise, logical, and relevant than the spoken word. Written messages, however, are time consuming to create. Feedback may be delayed, if it is forthcoming at all. Furthermore, sending a written message does not guarantee that it will be received, read, or understood. The advantages of communicating orally are quick transmission and immediate feedback. Since an oral message often passes through a number of people, however, this method is subject to distortion. We want to share what we know with others, so good news passes between us fairly fast—bad news, even faster. The unofficial communication channel in many organizations, the grapevine, has three characteristics: it is not controlled by management, it is perceived to be a more reliable information source than formal communication channels, and it is used to serve the self-interests of those people within it. In an open organization, the grapevine can be quite accurate; in an authoritative culture, it may not be accurate, even though it contains some truth. Because the grapevine cannot be stopped, many managers try to use it to their advantage. Even though it is neither spoken nor written, nonverbal communication can be powerful. The best known areas of nonverbal communication are body language and verbal intonation. Body language refers to gestures, facial expressions, and other movements of the body. Verbal intonation refers to the emphasis someone gives to words or phrases. Oral communication also has a nonverbal component that is likely to carry the greatest impact. As one researcher observed, 55 percent of an oral message is derived from facial expression and physical posture, 38 percent from verbal intonation, and only 7 percent from the actual words used. We use sophisticated electronic devices, such as cellular phones, voice-activated computers, and e-mail, to carry our interpersonal communications. Because e-mail is fast, convenient, and cheap, it has become one of the most widely used communication methods in the workplace. But it is a also public information, and should not be used to discuss confidential topics or sensitive issues.
In addition to the noise that can derail the communication process, there are other communication barriers. Filtering is the deliberate manipulation of information to make it appear more favorable to the receiver. Selective perception, another barrier, occurs when a person selectively sees or hears communications according to his or her needs, motivations, experiences, background, and personal characteristics. Information overload occurs when a person is exposed to more information than he or she can process. A person’s emotional state when either sending or receiving a message can also cause a barrier to communication. Since the meaning that words carry is dependent on a person’s age, education, and culture, even the words of the message can be a barrier to communication. Finally, communication apprehension can occur when one is required to interact face-to-face.
Managers can use the following techniques to overcome communication barriers: using feedback, simplifying language, listening actively, constraining emotions, and watching nonverbal cues. If someone’s emotions are running high, then he should not communicate before calming down. If not, that person may either misconstrue an incoming message or fail to express his or her outgoing messages clearly and accurately. Actions speak louder that words. So, effective communicators watch their nonverbal cues to ensure that they too convey the desired message. Managers should use feedback to check what has been communicated or what they think has been communicated. Feedback can minimize misunderstandings and inaccuracies. Managers should simplify language by using words that the intended audience understands. Doing so will help the message to be received and understood. Hearing and listening are different. Hearing is the perception of sound; listening is the attachment of meaning to the sounds. Listening is an active search for meaning, whereas hearing is passive. Active listening demands total concentration because while the average person speaks at about 150 words per minute, we can hear and process nearly 1,000 words per minute. When we listen actively, we listen for the full meaning of the message without making premature judgments or thinking about how we will respond.
Taking listening skills for granted, many people confuse listening with hearing. Hearing is merely picking up sound vibrations. Listening, in contrast, is making sense of what we hear. Passive listening requires a listener to absorb and remember the words being spoken. Active listening requires a listener to understand the communication from the sender’s point of view. There are four requirements for active listening. 1.Concentrate on what the speaker is saying, and tune out miscellaneous thoughts that create distractions. 2.Empathize with the speaker and try to understand what the speaker wants to communicate rather than what you want to hear. 3.Accept what the speaker is saying; listen objectively without judging. 4.Take the responsibility for completeness, that is for getting the full intended meaning from the speaker’s communication.
The stories which circulate through most organizations typically contain the following: a narrative of events about the organization’s founders, rule breaking, rags-to-riches successes, reductions in the work force, relocation of employees, reactions to past mistakes, and organizational coping. These stories anchor the present to the past and explain and legitimize current practices. Repetitive sequences of activities (rituals) express the key values of the organization, reinforce the goals that are most important, and identify the people who are either important or expendable. The following are examples of material symbols: an organization’s facilities, types of executive vehicles, the size of offices, the elegance of furnishings, executive perks, employee lounges, on-site dining facilities, and reserved parking spaces. Organizational units use language as a way to identify members of a culture or a subculture. Organizations, over time, develop jargon, unique terms to describe equipment, offices, key personnel, suppliers, customers, or products related to their business. By learning this language, members attest to their acceptance of the culture and, in so doing, help to preserve it.
Positive feedback is more readily and accurately perceived than negative feedback. Furthermore, positive feedback is almost always accepted, whereas negative feedback is almost always resisted. To minimize resistance, managers can deliver negative feedback in situations in which it is most likely to be accepted: for example, when it is objective or comes from a credible source. There are abundant data that indicate that managers do a poor job of providing employees with performance feedback. The following six suggestions can promote more effective feedback. 1.Focus on specific behaviors. Feedback should be specific rather than general. 2.Keep feedback impersonal. Feedback should be descriptive rather than judgmental or evaluative. Focus on the job-related behavior, not the person. 3.Keep feedback goal-oriented. Avoid “dumping” on someone. Keep feedback positive. If you have something negative to say, make sure it is directed toward the receiver’s goals. 4.Make feedback well-timed. Follow behavior with appropriate feedback as soon as possible. But, avoid making feedback prompt for the sake of “promptness” if you have insufficient information or if you are upset. In such cases, “well timed” could mean “somewhat delayed.” 5.Ensure understanding. Keep feedback clear and concise. Remember that successful communication requires that meaning must be not only transferred but also understood. 6.Direct negative feedback toward behavior the recipient can control. Keep feedback relevant and directed to behavior that the receiver can do something about.
Giving another person the authority to carry out specific activities is called delegation. Effective delegation pushes authority down vertically through the ranks of an organization. It should not be confused with participative decision making, in which there is a sharing of authority. Delegation empowers employees to make their own decisions. Managers who delegate properly do not abdicate their responsibilities; instead, they increase their effectiveness. However, if a manager dumps tasks on an employee without clarifying the job to be done, the employee’s discretionary range, the performance expected, and the time frame, then that person would be abdicating responsibility and inviting disaster. When delegating, managers should remember two important points: (1) employees will make mistakes, and (2) adequate controls will ensure that the costs of these mistakes do not exceed the value of the learning. Furthermore, when delegating, managers should consider the following contingency factors: The size of the organization. The larger the organization, the greater the number of decisions that must be made. Therefore, managers resort to delegation. The importance of the duty or decision. The more important a duty or decision is in terms of cost or impact on the firm, the less likely it is to be delegated. The complexity of the task. Complex tasks require greater expertise, and decisions about them should be delegated to the people who have the necessary technical knowledge. The culture of the organization. Managers who have confidence in their employees and trust them are more likely to support delegation. Managers who do not have such attitudes and feelings will delegate only when it is absolutely necessary. The quality of the employees. Delegation requires employees with the skills, abilities, and motivation to accept authority and act on it.
The following actions promote effective delegation. 1.Clarify the assignment. Determine what is to be delegated and to whom. Provide clear information on what is being delegated, the results expected, and time or performance expectations. 2.Specify the subordinate’s range of discretion. Delegation comes with constraints. Subordinates do not have unlimited authority. 3.Allow the subordinate to participate. By allowing employees to help determine what will be delegated, the authority required to do the job, and standards of judgment, managers can promote satisfaction, motivation, and accountability. 4.Inform others that delegation has occurred. Failure to inform others makes conflict likely and decreases the chances that subordinates will be successful. 5.Establish feedback controls. Monitoring a subordinate’s progress will increase the likelihood that important problems or expensive mistakes can be identified early and avoided.
Being successful as a manager depends on knowing how to manage conflict. A study of middle-level and top-level executives conducted by the American Management Association revealed that the average manager spends 20 percent of his or her time dealing with conflict. And, in a recent survey of practicing managers, conflict management skills were rated higher than decision making, leadership, or communication skills. The term conflict refers to perceived incompatible differences resulting in some form of interference or opposition. Reality is not relevant. If people perceive that differences exist, then conflict exists. This definition runs the gamut, from subtle, indirect, highly-controlled forms of conflict to overt acts, such as strikes, riots, and wars. Over the years, three views of conflict have evolved. The traditional view of conflict asserts that all conflict is bad and should be avoided. The human relations view of conflict argues that because conflict is natural and inevitable, it has the potential to be a positive force. The interactionist view of conflict proposes that some conflict is necessary for an organization to function.
Functional conflicts support the goals of an organization. Dysfunctional conflicts impede the goals of an organization. Because conflict that may vivify one department may destroy another, whether conflict is functional or dysfunctional depends on the situation. Therefore, managers should stimulate conflict to reap its functional benefits, yet reduce conflict when it becomes disruptive. Whether conflict is functional or dysfunctional is a matter of judgment. The figure above illustrates the challenge facing managers. They want to create an environment in which conflict is healthy, not pathological. Neither too much nor too little is desirable. Managers should stimulate conflict to gain the full benefits of its functional properties. They should reduce its level if it becomes disruptive. There is no sophisticated instrument which can assess whether a given level of conflict is functional or dysfunctional. Therefore, managers must use their own judgment to determine whether the level of conflict within their organizations is optimal, too high, or too low.
While managers may change according to the situation, their basic styles indicate how they will most likely behave and the conflict resolution style they use most often. The research of Kenneth W. Thomas provides some insight into handling conflict. In conflict-laden situations, one must first determine the intention of the other party in order to respond appropriately. Thomas concluded that a person’s response will depend on the following two factors: cooperativeness (the degree to which one tries to resolve conflict by satisfying the other person’s concerns) and assertiveness (the degree to which one tries to resolve conflict by satisfying his or her own concerns). Managers can draw on five options for resolving conflict. Not every conflict requires assertive action. Sometimes avoidance (avoiding or suppressing the conflict) is the best solution. Managers use accommodation to maintain harmonious relationships by placing the needs and concerns of others above their own. In forcing, managers attempt to satisfy their own needs at the expense of others. A compromise requires each party to give up something of value. Collaboration is the ultimate win-win situation, and all parties try to satisfy their interests. Not every conflict is worth the time and effort it would take to resolve it. Also, some conflicts are just not manageable. So, managers should not succumb to the naïve notion that they can resolve all conflicts. If you do decide to get involved, knowing the “players” promotes successful conflict management.
Conflict stems from three sources: communication differences, structural differences, and personal differences. Communication differences arise from semantic difficulties, misunderstandings, and noise in the communication channels. Because organizations are horizontally differentiated through specialization and departmentalization and vertically differentiated by management levels, structural differentiation can cause conflict. The third source of conflict is personal differences: individual idiosyncrasies and value systems.
Managers can use the following set of questions to identify those situations that require conflict stimulation. Are you surrounded by “yes people”? Are employees afraid to admit ignorance and uncertainties to you? Do decision makers seek compromise over the organization’s values, welfare, and long-term objectives? Do managers maintain a facade of cooperation within their departments, no matter what the cost? Are decision makers excessively concerned with the feelings of others? Do managers believe that popularity should be rewarded instead of competence and performance? Do managers yearn for consensus in decision making? Are employees highly resistant to change? Are new ideas in short supply? Is employee turnover unusually low? Answering the above questions will allow a manager to identify situations in which conflict may be constructively applied. Actually stimulating conflict, however, may be difficult because we know more about resolving conflict than about starting it. The following are some ideas that managers may want to try.
The initial step in stimulating functional conflict is for managers to reward those who challenge the status quo, propose innovations, offer divergent opinions, and think creatively. Communication can stimulate conflict. Senior government officials often “plant” possible decisions with the media by using the infamous “reliable source.” Ambiguous or threatening messages can also encourage conflict. Communication can be used to stimulate conflict by drawing attention to differences of opinion that individuals did not recognize previously. A widely used method for stimulating conflict is to bring in outsiders with different backgrounds, values, attitudes, or managerial skills. Using the following structural devices can also disrupt the status quo and promote conflict: centralizing decisions, realigning work groups, introducing teams into an individualistic culture, increasing formalization, and increasing interdependencies between units. A person who purposely argues against the majority is a devil’s advocate. Such a person acts as a check check against groupthink and questions practices that are justified by “that’s the way we’ve always done it around here.”
Negotiation is a process in which two or more parties who have different preferences must make a joint decision and come to an agreement. To achieve this goal, both parties typically use a bargaining strategy. The two negotiation methods are distributive bargaining and integrative bargaining. When negotiating the price of a used car, the buyer and seller are engaged in distributive bargaining. This type of bargaining is a zero-sum game: any gain that one party makes comes at the expense of the other party. So, the essence of distributive bargaining is negotiating over who gets what share of a fixed pie. Therefore, this style of bargaining can build animosities and deepen divisions between people who have to work together on an ongoing basis. Integrative bargaining assumes that more than one “win-win” settlement exists; so, it builds long-term relationships because each negotiator can leave the table feeling victorious. For integrative bargaining to succeed, negotiators must be open, candid, sensitive, trusting, and flexible.
In distributive bargaining, each party has a target point that defines what he or she hopes to achieve. Each also has a resistance point that marks the lowest outcome that’s acceptable. The area between their resistance points is the settlement range. As long as there is some overlap in their aspiration ranges, there exists a settlement area in which each one’s aspirations can be met. Distributive bargaining tactics should focus on trying to get your opponent to agree to your specific target point or to get as close to it as possible. Examples of such tactics are persuading your opponent of the impossibility of getting to his target point and the advisability of accepting a settlement near yours; arguing that your target is fair, while your opponent’s is not; and attempting to get your opponent to feel emotionally generous toward you and, thus, accept an outcome close to your target point.
The essence of effective negotiation is summarized in the following six recommendations. 1.Research your opponent. By understanding their opponents, managers can understand behavior, predict responses, and frame viable solutions. 2.Begin with a positive overture. Concessions tend to be reciprocated and can lead to agreements, so start the negotiations with a minor concession. 3.Address problems, not personalities. Concentrate on issues, not your opponent. 4.Pay little attention to initial offers. Treat initial offers as points of departure. 5.Emphasize win-win solutions. Look for an integrative solution. Frame options in terms of your opponent’s interests. Look for solutions that will allow both parties to declare a victory. 6.Be open to accepting third-party assistance. Mediators can help both parties agree but do not impose a settlement. Arbitrators hear both sides of a dispute, then impose a solution. Conciliators act as conduits, passing information between parties, interpreting messages, and clarifying misunderstandings.
The ability to deliver effective presentations is an important skill for career success. So, what can you do to enhance your presentation skills? Here are some suggestions. Prepare for the presentation. Identify the key issues you want to express and the audience that will hear your message. Make your opening comments. In the first few minutes, welcome the audience. Then describe what you know about the issues facing them. Next, cite your credentials, identify your presentation’s agenda, and tell them what you want them to do at the end of your presentation. Make your points. This is the heart of your presentation. Describe why your ideas are important and how they benefit your listeners. Any supporting data should be presented at this time. End the presentation. In the conclusion, state nothing new; rather, restate what you know about the issues and what you recommend. Answer questions. Whether they come at the end of the presentation or during it, there are a few simple rules to follow when answering questions. First, be sure to clarify the question. When you understand the question, answer it. Then go back to the questioner and make sure your response answered the question. If not, you will probably get another question. Handle it in the same way.
• Learn why communication is important to
• Describe the communication process
• Learn to overcome communication barriers
• Identify active listening techniques
• Learn how to give effective feedback
• Describe contingency factors that affect
• Learn how to delegate
• Learn how to analyze and resolve conflict
• Explain why managers stimulate conflict
• Compare distributive and integrative
in the Global
Focus on What
• Size of the organization
• Importance of the duty or decision
• Complexity of the task
• Culture of the organization
• Qualities of employees
• Clarify the assignment
• Specify the range of discretion
• Encourage participation
• Inform others
• Establish feedback channels
Conflict and Unit Performance
ec na m o r e Pti n U
Level of Conflict
Conflict Level Conflict Type Internal Characteristics Outcomes
Low or none
Dysfunctional Apathetic, stagnant
Dysfunctional Disruptive, chaotic
When to Stimulate Conflict
Are you surrounded by “yes” people?
Are employees afraid to admit ignorance?
Do decision makers sacrifice values for compromise?
Do managers maintain an “impression” of cooperation?
Are managers overly concerned about the feelings of others?
Is popularity more important than performance?
Do managers crave decision-making consensus?
Are managers resistant to change?
Is there a lack of new ideas?
Is turnover unusually low?
• Legitimize conflict
• Use communication
• Bring in outsiders
• Use structural variables
• Appoint a “devil’s advocate”
The Two Types of
The Two Types of
• Available Resources
• Fixed Amount
• Variable Amount
• Primary Motivations
• I Win, You Lose
• I Win, You Win
• Primary Interests
• Focus of Relationships
Developing Negotiation Skills
• Research your opponent
• Begin in a positive way
• Address problems, not people
• Ignore initial offers
• Seek win-win solutions
• Consider third-party assistance
Making Effective Presentations
• Prepare for the presentation
• Make opening comments
• Make your points
• End the presentation
• Answer questions