Organizational Communication: Everything You Need to Know

Organizational communication consists of all the messages sent and received within the framework of a particular work environment to interdependent individuals working on common goals. The organizational communication has implicit and explicit verbalizations.

Its function is to accomplish tasks in relation to the employee roles or responsibilities in production, sales, and services for the organization. Most of the conversation centers around solving issues, checking for compliance, and making changes in the context of the work environment.

More formalized organizational communication involves maintaining policies, forming procedures, and regulations that provide the support framework for the daily operation of the enterprise. Part of organizational communication includes building the relationships necessary to accomplish the goals with internal organizations as well as external vendors and oversight entities. All the interaction creates a climate and culture at a business through shared values, attitudes, and methods. For management, it constitutes creating effective and efficient practices, so directives get to the person it should. As information becomes collected it then becomes used to coordinate activities to reach goals.

How Field of Organizational Communication Began

Rome and Greece started the process of organizational communication with the oral rhetoric traditions. As cultures developed from city states to governments, the need for communicating across a bureaucracy became necessary. Eastern scholars began to find ways to make information flow, maintain integrity, and increase the quality of the message as officials talked to each and to the people. In the 20th century, scholars began to study organizational structures, productivity, and organizational effectiveness as it related to organizational communication because of the industrial revolution. It correlated to receiving higher profit margins and maintaining efficiency.

One of the first management consultants known as Follett studied message complexity, workers participating in organizations, and channel choices. Later Bernard placed communication at the center of the organizational process. For organizations to succeed, a certain level of interaction had to occur. In 1942 Alexander Heron wrote a book called “Sharing Information with Employees.” It outlined manager-employee communication.

Putnam and Cheney classified organizational communication into three components:

  • Public address
  • Persuasion
  • Social Science

Further studies linked social science research to small group communication, mass communication, and interpersonal communication. Others saw organizational communication slightly differently such as Redding and Tompkins who insisted it was writing, persuasion and management communication. World War 2 brought about the beginnings of industrial communication on a large scale. By the 1970s enough empirical research had been gathered to create philosophies which moved it to the academic realm as a degree.

Organizational Communication Today

With the new communication technologies and the internet, communication has evolved including organizational communication. It oscillates between public presentations in a variety of forms to levels of interaction in global organizations.

Eight major traditions exist according to Putnam, Cheney, and Kim.

  1. Channels of Communication
  2. Climate of Communications
  3. Network Analysis
  4. Communications Superior and Subordinate
  5. Information Processing
  6. Rhetoric Communication
  7. Political Communication
  8. Cultural Communication

Quantitative methods have been introduced into the mix to help predict behaviors during organizational communications.

Studying Organizational Communication

Not only is the discipline used to improve communications in an entity. It also has been used to show how individuals become marginalized by oppressive groups or made disadvantaged. Just like cultural studies organizational communication research uses interpretative research techniques.

Organizational Communication Structure

Organizational communication structure looks at the pathways in a message system to see where interactions happen and who talks to whom. A formal communication system exists which uses official channels to give messages between organizational positions. Often the flow can be determined by organizational charts and policy manuals. Formal communications flow downward, upward, and horizontally.

  • Downward communication deals with plans, feedback, performance, training, and delegation of work.
  • Upward communication deals with complaints, requests, and performance of organization.
  • Horizontal communication deals with collaboration and coordination of work tasks or gathering of resources.

Informal communication is defined as episodes of interaction that do not reflect official channels of communication. Informal communication is an integral and desired part of an organization.

Organizational Culture

Organizational culture makes socially constructed realities. The culture uses such interpretations to create corporate values or philosophy to bind employees together in the  work. It approves of some behaviors and prohibits other behaviors. It can inhibit productivity or propel it to the highest level. Knowing what the organizational culture iis means knowing what paths are best suited for success.

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