Various means of communication fall into four categories: (1) oral, (2) written, (3) nonverbal, and (4) information technology. These means are not mutually exclusive and very often some of these methods are combined to increase the emphasis or clarity of information.
The most prevalent form of organizational communication is oral. It could be face-to-face communication which is in the form of direct talk and conversation between the speaker and the listener when they are both physically present at the same place.
It could also be telephone conversation or intercom system conversation. Where one way communication is required, then oral communication may include a public address system.
This is quite common at airports when providing information to passengers about flight departures and arrivals. All political leaders are required to develop oratory skills as they often address their followers via a public address system.
Every professional gets an opportunity to use oral communication when making presentations to groups and committees, a customer or a client or at a professional conference.
Oral communication is preferable when the message is ambiguous (can be discussed and clarified) and urgent (provides for rapid feedback). Furthermore, it conveys a personal warmth and friendliness and it develops a sense of belonging because of these personalized contacts.
It is not recommended when a formal record of communication is required, when the communication is lengthy and distant, and when the information is statistical in nature and requires careful and objective analysis.
A written communication means putting the message in writing and is generally in the form of instructions, letters, memos, formal reports, information about rules and regulations, policy manuals, information bulletins and so on.
These areas have to be covered in writing for efficient functioning of the organization. It is most effective when it is required to communicate information that requires action in the future and, also in situations where communication is that of general informational nature. It also ensures that everyone has the same information.
Written communication is recommended when evidence of events and proceedings are required to be kept for future references, when many persons must be contacted at the same time, when transmitting lengthy statistical data and when more formal authority is to be exercised.
Written communication can have its disadvantages in that it is very time consuming, especially for lengthy reports, there is no immediate feedback opportunity to clarify any ambiguities, and confidential written material may leak out before time, causing disruption in its effectiveness.
Some of the meaningful communication is conveyed through nonverbal ways. Even some of the verbal messages are strengthened or diluted by nonverbal expressions. These nonverbal expressions include facial expressions and physical movement.
In addition some of the work environment elements such as the building and office space can convey a message about the authority of the person. For example, visitors tend to feel uncomfortable in offices where there is a desk between them and the person they are speaking to. That is one reason that there are sitting sofas and chairs in man) offices so that they can all sit together and talk. Similarly, artwork in the office and its neatness conveys an aura of professionalism.
Non-verbal communication affects the impressions we make on others. A handshake is probably the most common form of body language and tells a lot about a person’s disposition.
Similarly, eyes are the most expressive component of the facial display. For example, in a bar or a club, a glance, a stare, a smile, a wink or a provocative movement are all various forms of communication. Other examples of body language are tilting of head, folding of arms or sitting position in a chair.
Our facial expressions can show anger, frustration, arrogance, shyness, fear and other characteristics that can never be adequately communicated through written word or through oral communication in it. Some of the other body language symptoms are shrugging your shoulders for indifference, wink an eye for mischief or intimacy, tap your fingers on the table for impatience and we slap our forehead for forgetfulness.
Some of the basic types of nonverbal communication are:
i. Kinetic behavior:
Body motion such as facial expressions, gestures, touching, eye movement and so on.
ii. Physical characteristics:
Body shape, posture, height, weight, hair and so on.
Voice quality, volume, speech rate, choice of words, and manner of speaking and extent of laughing.
Proximity of people during conversation, perceptions about space, seating arrangements and so on.
Type of building where the office is, room design, furniture, interior decorating, light, noise and neatness.
Being late or early for appointments, keeping others waiting and so on. Typically, the longer you have to wait to see some one, the higher is his organizational status.
Appropriate dress reflects the status symbol. Many organizations have a dress code. You cannot wear T-shirts and jeans for an interview for a managerial position. Personalities are generally communicated through dresses.
Some of the nonverbal messages and their interpretations are described below:
Frown — Displeasure
Smile — Friendliness
Raised eyebrows — Disbelief, amazement
Biting lips — Nervousness
Pointing finger — Authority, displeasure
Arms at side — Open to suggestions, relaxed
Hands on hips — Anger, defensiveness
Shaky — Nervous
Broken — Unprepared
Strong/clear — Confident
Fidgeting — Nervousness
Shrugging shoulders — Indifference Sitting on edge of chair — Listening, great interest
Shifting while sitting — Nervousness
Sideways glance — Suspicion
Steady — Active listener
No eye contact — Disinterest
Information technology is a broad category of communication techniques and includes video-conferencing, telecommuting, electronic mail, and so on.
Such devices as videotape recorders, telephone answering devices, fax machines all provide new communication flexibility and are rapidly influencing how managers communicate. Many major companies have gone into networking which ties computers together so that information can be communicated and shared from vast data bases.
Video-conferencing is a channel of communication which uses live video to communicate with various employees at various locations simultaneously. It enables organizations to hold interactive meetings with other people, separated geographically even in different countries, at the same time via camera and cable transmission of the picture and sound. This technology makes it easier to obtain information from all operations around the world fast for the purpose of decision making and control.
Telecommuting is the result of high technology at work, where people can work from their homes using a computer linking them to the place of work. Telecommuting provides flexibility of working and comfort for the worker, even though it isolates the employees working together in a team.
Also, it makes supervision more difficult. This communication technique is helpful for those who work out of a customer’s office so that they can communicate with their own office via laptop computer link-up. The method is popular with computer programmers, financial analysts, consultants and among secretarial support service.
c. Electronic mail (E – mail):
E-mail is a system whereby people use personal computer terminals to send and receive messages among each other, allowing for a very rapid transmission of information. Messages can be sent and received by anyone, anywhere in the world, who has access to a computer terminal and has a computer mail box number on the computer network.
Hughes Aircraft, a Los Angeles based company, uses E-mail to connect more than 30,000 users in 32 different locations worldwide. Similarly, Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft Corporation, keeps up with his 10,000 employees via E-mail. All employees are encouraged to use E-mail to share suggestions and information – even send ideas directly to Gates without going through a supervisor.