Communication is sharing information between two or more individuals, the act of conveying information. Because communication has so many components, failing to effectively communicate in the workplace is commonplace.
Components in Communication
There are five components to any communication and a sixth that is the overall environment of the workplace in which the communication takes place. The components of communication are:
- The individual sending the message. The sender must present the message clearly and with enough detail so that the receiver shares meaning with the sender.
- The context for the message. The context is how the message is delivered by the sender of the message. Context involves nonverbal communication such as gestures, body language, facial expressions, and elements such as tone of voice. Most of the context for a message is only available when the receiver can see and hear the message sender. Email and IM emoticons, for example, are a poor substitution as they are formulated by the sender without input from the receiver.
Another piece of the context is the emotions that are involved in the communication circle. Is the sender angry? Is the receiver indifferent to the content of the communication or disdainful of the sender? Normal human emotions affect whether a message is successfully shared.
- The person receiving the message. The receiver must listen carefully and intently, ask questions for clarity, and paraphrase to ascertain that the receiver shares meaning with the sender. If the receiver trusts the sender, the chances for effective communication increase.
- The delivery method chosen. The delivery method should be selected based on the medium most effective to convey the meaning of the message. Since communication methods are so diverse since the dawn of computers and mobile devices, decisions about the delivery method have become more complex. The delivery method must suit the communication needs of both the sender and the receiver.
Communication methods include: verbal communication, instant messages (IM), email, letters, signs, posters, videos, screen shots, telephones, notes, forms, written documents, and more. These methods will continue to expand and employee expectations for instant communication about everything having to do with their work will continue to grow.
In-person communication has increased in importance especially for organizational information that might call for change, provide employee recognition, or allow for on-the-spot questions. In-person communication is also favored because employees have access to the component, context.
- The content of the message. The content of the message should be clear and presented and described in enough detail to obtain understanding from the receiver. If the message content resonates and connects, on some level, with the already-held beliefs of the receiver, it is most effective.
The Environment and Communication
The above components of communication promote shared meaning when they operate together to effectively deliver a message. The work environment in which those components take place, also affects the communication and whether the communication is received.
In a work environment that stresses open communication, employee involvement, and shared goals, communication more frequent and more effective. But, the expectation for significant communication sets the bar higher in these best workplaces. So, even in high morale, employee focused work environments, employees complain that they don’t know what is going on.
Because of all of the components and the overall environment of an individual workplace, communication remains challenging. The age old questions about who needs to know what and when do they need to know it, is never fully answered to just about anyone’s satisfaction.
Employee complaints about too much information, not enough information, and even, information overload, will continue to resonate in workplaces. You will never cure the problem of communication but, with commitment and thoughtfulness, you can increase the effectiveness of both your interpersonal communication and your workplace communication.