In this age of globalization, business houses are expanding their business across national boundaries through a well-knit communication network. The management in all corporate bodies understand the importance of communication and rank it as the most desirable qualification for recruitment of people into their organizations. Organizations that have good communication networks are successful in their business whereas organizations with poor communication network are failures. Das reinforces this with the statement, “ From among 1000 target employees in the United States, 96% reported that employees must have good communication skills to get ahead. A study concerning MBA applicants concluded that 85% of the recruiters held communication skills to be the most important skill sought.” (Das, 2009, p.99)
Professional communication, unlike general communication, is guided by professional ethics though they both are controlled by the same principles and share many common features. In general communication, we have two or more than two individuals but in professional communication one of the participants is a representative from the organization.
In a company, every branch depends upon a chain of communicative acts which may involve oral, written and computer-mediated types of communication. Oral communication includes the day to day interpersonal communication between the different hierarchies of management and the employees at different levels. Generally in big organizations the communication network is a top-down one, the flow of information is mainly from the top to the bottom. But bottom up approach to communication is also equally important because unless the people in the lower echelons are able to communicate to the higher authorities problems will not mitigate and chances are there that they would aggravate. Moreover, good communication among all the employees boosts the moral of the employees, leading to quality involvement in work so that the output is also better.
Main form of Professional Communication
Professional Communication falls under three categories:
Personal communication may take place in the form of giving orders, instructions (both spoken and written), oral exchanges between the employees, assembling and preparing reports, writing memos, e-mails etc).
Internal Operational Communication
Likewise, internal operation related communication may take place at various levels like the manufacture, quality control and sale of products, providing services to the customers and maintaining goodwill among the employees.
External Operational Communication
Under external operational communication involves work-related communication with external agencies for advertising, personal selling, writing messages, maintaining good rapport with the clientele as well as the partner institutions and retailers.
General Communication VS Professional Communication
Just like general communication in the other sectors, communication in the business sector goes through a process until it reaches the addressee. At the beginning the sender sends the message which enters the sensory world of the listener. After recognizing the message, the sensory nerves transmit the message to his/her brain, which then filters the message. While filtering the message the brain uses all his/her experience, knowledge, biases, emotions, cultural background and interprets the message accordingly. Different people have different filters because of the differences in their experience, culture, language, and knowledge base. After filtering the message the brain then determines its meaning and sends the feedback, thus completing the cycle of communication.
Communication in the business sector occurs at all stages: the planning stage as well as the implementation stage. At the planning stage, communication is essential for studying the feasibility of launching a particular product, assessing the financial and human resources available for the launching of the product, surveying the market and making publicity campaigns. Similarly at the execution stage, communication always goes on between the manager and higher authorities, the manager and the subordinate employees in the form of reports, orders, circulars to keep the workers motivated and involved, to maintain a sense of discipline and to keep the moral of the employees high.
The communication network in a business organization can be represented in the form of a pyramid where the officers at higher levels of power and authority come at the top and the employees at the lower echelons come on the base. There is a mediating group of employees who are at the middle level and act like links between the top or apex level and base level. As one goes up in the pyramid, the amount of power and control increases and down the pyramid this amount of power and control diminishes. The few people at the stop hold most power and authority and control a large number of people at the base level of the pyramid. But this control does not take place directly between the top level authorities and the employees at the base level. It is the officials at the intervening or mediating level who maintain this communication between the higher authorities and the subordinate staff at the base level.
Levels of Control in Business Organization (as cited in Das et al, nd, 58)
In general communication, as we have already discussed, the purposes for communication are mostly the purposes which language serves in our everyday life. In other words, the purposes are simple and easy to understand. But in business communication, the purposes differ in response to the needs of the organization as well as the clientele it serves. As business is the URL for all business organizations, the main purpose for all communications inside an organization remains mercantile, i.e earning profits. The other purposes which drive companies to communicate are to create a brand image in the market and remain ahead of the competitors. In order to serve these basics purposes, they may devise various means and modes to serve the sub-purposes which ultimately lead to the satisfaction the basic purposes. In order to serve the purposes, people at different levels need to understand the needs of their audience very well. At the top level, the Corporate authorities should be able to identify the right kind of companies who might be interested to invest in their company and also satisfy the norms and conditions laid down by the government. So for them, the immediate audience would be the investors and the government authorities. Similarly managers at each level should be able to know their workers well in terms of their backgrounds, working styles, oddities in order to handle them properly and adopt appropriate communication strategies to create an amicable work environment. People who manufacture products should be able to understand the needs of the customers and explore various means of communication to reach out to them and keep them happy in terms of the products.
When it comes to the question of code, business communication has to take care of the language of the group that it targets. English cannot be the language for communication all over the world. Whenever a multinational company starts an off shore business, it makes plans to reach out to the larger public in the target area through the adaptation of the language and culture of the local people. That’s the reason why we find the advertisement for McDonald and NESTLE in Hindi, and for that matter in the regional languages in India. People who want to purchase a product definitely prefer to have a thorough understanding of the product in their local language, not an alien language. In general communication, one may not be required to communicate in more than two languages at best but in business organizations literatures for products and advertisements are designed, developed ad produced in the local languages to cater to the needs of the target clientele. Use of profession specific registers or jargons may be appropriate for people working in a similar field but for communication with the customers who are not acquainted with this register/jargon, this may sound Greek. Hence care should be taken to use the appropriate code while communicating a message.
As regard the channel for the transmission of the messages is concerned, general communication and professional communication differ to a large extent. General communication is usually sporadic (irregular) but professional or business communication is non-sporadic and requires sustained attention. To put it in a different way, general communication may not occur all the time and there may be some gap. But this cannot happen in the business circle. In a business organization all kinds of communication should keep on happening as per requirement otherwise the company may come to a standstill and block the growth of communication. General communication usually has short term plans in order to meet the immediate needs of the participants but in official communication both short-term and long-term goals are equally important. In general communication, word of the mouth, letters, or at best telephonic calls are used to transmit a message but the requirements of business organizations vary. The channels of communication, in business circles therefore, keep on changing: they may be oral, written or technology-mediated.
Various partern of Communication in an Organization
In the pyramid of organization structure, as we have read earlier, main decisions are taken at the apex level for the large number of people working at the base level and the people at the mediating levels work like links between the top management and the people working at the base level. For the success of a company both upward and downward communication are equally important. Both these patterns of communication are called vertical communication.
Downward (Vertical) Communication
The pattern of communication in an organization depends upon the organizational structure. Earlier most of the organizations preferred to have a top down approach in which the decisions were taken at the higher levels and were implemented at the lower levels. Hence all organizations used to have strong leaders who could take clear and bold decisions to be implemented for all. This type of communication, initiated at the higher level and flowing down to the lower level is known as vertical or down ward communication. In such communication, usually orders and instructions are issued at the headquarters and are implemented at the lower levels. With the advancement of time, this system of functioning has undergone changes. Now people at the higher levels feel that they need to involve the people at lower levels to increase their level of involvement. Hence there is greater sharing of information, greater participation of the employees form the lower levels and hence better outcome. Now the top level officers welcome the new recruits, justify their actions before their employees for level playing with them. Downward communication and upward communication are inter-related because those who give orders or issue instructions (in the form of downward communication) want to check whether their orders and instructions have been carried out or not, which is only possible through the feedback provided, in the form of upward communication.
Upward (Vertical) Communication
Upward communication is significant because it provides feedback to the superiors in the form of suggestions, ensures emotional release, makes policy changes more acceptable and promotes an atmosphere of good will and understanding. It is usually carried out through complaint and suggestion boxes, social gatherings, direct contacts, reports, counseling and training programmes, But the problem with upward communication is that most of the employees do not dare to come forward for the fear of being targeted. Moreover, there are chances for the messages to be distorted before they reach the real officers. Employees also resist this with the apprehension that their criticism of the company policies might be perceived as their personal weaknesses and they may be victimized. In order to make this kind of communication effective, officials should try to get closer to their employees through different ways, keep such communications confidential and act upon the suggestions, complaints and grievances. This will increase trust among the employees and they will feel free to come forward and give their constructive criticism for the improvement of the company. Usually upward communication is made in the form of reports about the progress of work as a result of the orders, appeals and requests for help for sorting out problems at the lower levels.
Horizontal (Lateral) Communication
As the name suggests, Horizontal Communication occurs when the flow of communication is between people working at the same level. This being a communication network among peers, people at the same level, it promotes understanding and coordination among people in various departments. It is mainly transacted through face to face discussions, telephonic conversations, periodical meetings, memos. Small organizations do not need such type of communication as a single person often handles many responsibilities but in bigger organizations it is preferred. Some managers like to implement this mode of communication whereas others avoid it with the fear that too much of familiarity may breed contempt and ultimately lead to indiscipline among the staff. This fear sounds unfounded because too much of discipline and authoritarianism creates an ambience of bitterness and cause complete breakdown of communication. In ‘top-down’ organization structure, horizontal communication is often rare as people at the lower levels look up to the officers at the higher levels for guidance. In the Indian context, particularly in the government sector, where bureaucratic system of administration predominates, horizontal communication is hindered because all files are routed through proper channel. However, in the private sector more value is attached to collaborative work culture and ‘team work’ so that there is more scope for horizontal communication.
Many of the modern business organizations have a flexible communication network where there is scope for the ‘flow and exchange’ of information at all levels, involving a sweet synthesis of both the horizontal and vertical modes of communication. This eclectic mode of communication, adopting an appropriate communication pattern as per the need of the context is diagonal communication.
Sometimes it may so happen that more than one pattern of communication is adopted in an organization. This pattern of communication spreads like a grapevine in any direction, anywhere and spreads fast. Hence it is called grapevine communication. Primarily a channel of horizontal communication, it can flow even vertically and diagonally. The communication that takes place during appointments, promotions, retrenchments, even domestic affairs can be included under this pattern. Under grapevine communication, we have four main sub-patterns: single strand, gossip, probability and cluster. In single strand communication, the communication process is very simple and flows like a chain. In the Gossip pattern, one person is responsible for informing or telling everyone. As per the probability pattern, random information may move from anybody to anybody as per situational needs and in cluster pattern of communication, as the name suggests, information moves through groups.