Communication (from Latin communicare translates to share or being in relation to one another) is challenging to define in a consistently consistent way. It is typically used to mean a wide range of behaviours or to restrict what is regarded as communication. The systematic conversion of information in to another form for communication is called communication. Peters argues that communication is a universal phenomenon (and all people communicate) and is a specific subject of academic studies. Read on to know more about various definitions of communication, types of communication, features of communication, theories of communication with a perspective from the discipline of public administration.
Organisations are structured to work towards objectives. To reach these objectives the organisation demands that leadership be exercised, people motivated, decisions made, efforts coordinated and operations controlled. Each of these functions involves inter-action between persons and thus involves communication.
Communication is one of the main principles of organisation. It has been considered an effective tool for achieving the goals of the organisation. All organisations small or big, simple or complex, general or technical, require a communication network. Communication plays a vital role, as the functioning of all other important principles of the organisation depends upon its availability and effectiveness.
The word Communication has been derived from the Latin word communis which can be translated as ‘common’. However, communication incorporates besides commonality the concepts of transfer, meaning and information. Thus, communication can be defined as the process through which two or more persons can exchange ideas and understanding among themselves.
Definitions For Communication
The following are some of the definitions of communication :
- Lawrence. A.Appley: “Communication is that process whereby one person makes his ideas and feelings known to another”.
- J.D.Millet: “Communication is the shared understanding of a shared purpose”.
- Ordway Tead: “Communication is the process whereby one person makes ideas and feelings known to another. The underlying aim of communication is a meeting of minds on common issues”.
- Herbert Simon: “Communication is a process through which decisions are transmitted from one member of an organisation to another”. Peter Drucker; “Communication is the ability of the various functional groups within an enterprise to understand each other and each other’s functions and concerns”.
- Mohit Bhattacharya: “Communication is the use of words, letters, symbols and some other means to have common information about any object of attention”.
- L.A.Allen: “Communication is the sum of all the things one person does when he wants to create understanding in the mind of another”.
Features of Communication
An analysis of the above definitions reveals the following features of communication.
- Communication requires at least two people
- Communication is a process
- Communication involves both information and understanding
- Communication occurs at many levels
Process of Communication
Communication has been defined as a process. The process is a concept of changing rather than static existence. The communication process involves the following elements as shown in the figure given below:
Sender–Ideas—Encoding—Channel—Receiver—Decoding———All of it into Feedback
1) Sender :
The person who intends to make contact to pass information, ideas, to other persons is known as the sender.
This is the subject matter of communication. This might be opinions, attitudes, feelings, views, suggestions, orders etc.
Since the subject matter of communication is abstract and intangible, its transmission requires the use of certain symbols such as words, actions, pictures etc., conversion of the subject matter into these symbols is the process of encoding.
These symbols are transmitted through certain channels e.g., radio, telephone, air etc. depending upon the situation of the two parties, viz., sender and receiver.
5) Receiver :
The receiver is the person to whom the message is meant for.
6) Decoding :
The receiver converts the symbols received from the sender to give him the meaning of the message.
7) Feedback :
Feedback is necessary to ensure that the receiver has received the message and understands it in the same sense as the sender wants. Further, it also acts as an energising factor, thereby changing the course of action in the communication.
Types Of Communication
Communication can be classified on the following basis :
- Classification based on means employed the gross
- Classification based on relationships
- Classification according to the direction of the communication.
Classification based on means employed:
Based on the means, employed communication can be classified into two categories namely: Oral communication and Written communication.
1. Oral Communication
Oral communication refers to messages sent or received verbally. It is a face to face exchange of ideas through spoken words. Oral communication usually takes place when supervisors give instructions to subordinates or a discussion is held in committee meetings and conferences etc.
Oral communication is found useful where a detailed explanation of the message is required and doubts need to be clarified. It is also preferred when a brief message needs to be transmitted quickly. Supervisors find it necessary to issue oral instructions at the operational level since workers may not able to interpret written instructions correctly.
The main advantages of oral communication are that it facilitates quick transmission, permits detailed explanation and clarification of doubts and that it is particularly useful at the operational level. The major limitation of oral communication is that there is no record of the communication made and hence it cannot be verified afterwards.
2. Written Communication
Written communication refers to messages conveyed in written form. It consists of messages in the form of letters, notes, circulars, notices, memoranda etc.
Written communication is the other side of the language coin’. The message is clear and can be easily understood. Most subordinates understand what they read better than what they hear.
The chief advantages of written communication are that it serves as a record of communication made, it can be expressed in precise terms after due thought, the content of communication can be suited to specific requirements and finally, it is taken more seriously and is binding on parties involved.
The major limitations of written communication are that it is time-consuming, clarifications cannot be given immediately, the response of the receiver may not be instantly available. | Lastly, it may tend to be impersonal.
Types Of Formal Communication
- Under the chain network, the information and messages flow only up or down in a hierarchical chain of command. The chain network rigidly follows the formal chain of command in the organisation.
- Under the star network, the information and messages flow among the group members through a leader, that is, the central point. In gaur other words, the group members do not communicate with each other directly but rely on the leader to act as the central conduit. It is the most centralised type of formal communication network. it is also known as the wheel network.
- Under the circle network, the group members interact with the adjoining members only. In other words, the information and message are transmitted laterally among the group members.
- Under the All-channel network, all the members of a group actively communicate with each other. It is the decentralised type of formal communication network. It is also known as the ‘completely connected network.
- Under the inverted V network, a sub-ordinate communicates with me his immediate superior as well as second superior ( that is; his superior’s superior ). However, the matters on which information La and message can be sent in the second case are specified,
- Under the Y network, two sub-ordinates through the hierarchical chain communicate with a superior. In turn, the superior communicates with two superiors who are above him. This network is less centralized than the star network.
Communication that takes place independently of the official line of communication is known as informal communication. It consists of an exchange of ideas and information resulting from social interaction among the members of an organisation. Actually, the necessity of informal communication arises among people to satisfy their social needs, which is not possible through formal communication channels. It may involve work-related matters or consist of other matters of mutual interest to the parties.
The flow of informal communication cuts across the official lines of communication. Social interactions may take place between persons holding different positions in different departments. Social groups are thus formed and become the basis of an informal organisation co-existing with the formal organisation.
The network of informal communication is known as the “grape-vine. This is because the origin and direction of the flow of informally conveyed messages cannot be easily traced as in the case of a vineyard.
From the point of view of members of an organisation, informal communication offers several advantages. It is conducive to the development of friendly relations among employees, it provides a means of useful communication between persons who may not be linked through the chain of command and it helps individuals to communicate on matters which cannot be done through the official channels.
From the management point of view, also there are several important advantages of informal communication. The grapevine serves to fill in the gaps, if any, in the flow of information through the official chain of authority, travels faster than formal communication, facilitates the flow of public opinion and provides emotional relief to the subordinates thereby reducing the tension in labour management relations.
However, the grave-vine or the informal channel of information communication has certain serious limitations. Messages tend to get distorted as different persons pass on the same information with different outlooks and interpretations. The channel being unsystematic cannot be relied upon for regularity and timeliness. The channel can also be misused for Taking confidential information. Lastly, the grapevine may be used to spread rumours which are detrimental to the health of the organisation.
Types Of Grapevine Networks
- Under the single strand network, the information passes from one to one, that is, one member communicates to another member who in turn communicates to another member, and so on.
- Under the gossip network, the member communicates nonselectively, that is, a member having information passes it on to everyone he meets.
- Under the probability network, information pass according to the law of probability, that is, one member t u of bris communicates randomly with others who in turn communicate to some others.nl
- Under the cluster network, the information passes selectively, that is, one member communicates with only those members who he trusts and they, in turn, pass it on to some other selected members.
Classification based on the direction of messages: Based on the above classification we can identify the four different types of communication i) Downward, ii) Upward, iii) Lateral and iv) Diagonal.
It refers to the flow of communication from the top en management downwards to the operating level. Thus, communications from superiors to subordinates at different levels of the organisation are known as downward communication. Downward communication from the top management relates to organisational plans and policies. At the middle and lower levels, such communication includes orders and instructions, rules and procedures, etc. These communications may be oral or written.
Upward communication flows from a subordinate to his superiors in the hierarchy. It may consist of information relating to i) subordinates work performance, ii) problems relating to work, iii) opinions, grievances/suggestions, etc. It may also relate to clarifications needed concerning instructions, procedures and methods of work or statements of personal and family problems. Upward communication not only keeps management informed about the progress of work and the performance of subordinates but also helps managers to take necessary steps to overcome problems relating to work, to settle grievances, clarify instructions, rules, etc., and to advise employees regarding their personal problems.
The flow of communication between persons holding positions at the same level of the organisation is known as horizontal or lateral communication. This channel promotes the horizontal flow of messages, enabling departments to work with other departments without having to rigidly follow the downward and upward channel of communication. It promotes coordination and teamwork.
Diagonal communication takes place between people who are neither in the same department nor at the same level of the hierarchy. It cuts across the organisational structure and facilitates the speedy transmission of messages.
Theories Of Communication
The theories of communication can be classified into four broad categories :
- Information theory
- Organisational communication theory
- Interpersonal communication theory
- Non-verbal communication theory
The information theory is a purely scientific approach to the study of communication. It is concerned primarily with the transmission aspects of the communication process. The goal of information theory is to encode messages of statistical nature and to use electrical signals, to transmit messages over a given channel with minimum error.
Organisational Communication Theory
The organisational communication theory views an organisational communication network as analogous to a telephone system. According to the information flows through certain restricted patterns or paths through the entire system.
Interpersonal Communication Theory
Interpersonal communication theory views communication as a basic method of effecting behavioural change. It incorporates the psychological process (perspective learning and motivation), on one hand, and language on the other.
Non-verbal Communication Theory
At the other extreme of the technically based information, the theory is the non-verbal communication theory. Sometimes called as ‘silent pe language’, non-verbal communication can be defined as `all behaviour expressed 26 consciously or unconsciously, performed in the presence of another or others, and perceived on either consciously or unconsciously.
Methods and means of communication
Communication essentially involves sending messages from one person to another person. The message may be transmitted either by word of mouth or in writing. Modern organisations use different methods and means to communicate messages. They are:
Personal contact in an organisation can be maintained through tot personal messengers, telephone or teleprinter. Mechanical aids such as telephones or have widened the scope of personal contacts within the organisation. They have led also to a speedier and more knowledgeable action.
Formal correspondence is maintained in an organisation through a system of files, memoranda, minutes, etc. These devices facilitate the exchange of views and knowledge on the matters at hand.
All administrative agencies use official forms to secure information from their clients. Based on information secured from his clients an administrator acts. The use of forms is no doubt expensive. However, if they are properly used, they save time, energy and money. They also standardize the administrative process and ensure equality of treatment to the citizen. They can secure these objectives if they are clear and complete.
Another important communications tool is the report. Reports contain much information regarding the progress of work or completed work: The reports should be brief. If they are lengthy, valuable time of productive people will be wasted in their writing and reading.
Most organisations prepare manuals for the use of their employees. Such manuals guide the employees in their work and their organisational life. They provide the employees’ information relating to the general policies, objectives and philosophy of the organisation in which they work. However, the preparation of such manuals is expensive.
The staff meeting is a valuable tool for achieving lateral communication. Staff meetings help the officials to know each other and exchange information. They also build morale and secure coordination. Such meetings give the employees an overall grasp of the problem confronting them.
Essentials Of Communicating
The contents of effective communication are based on the following essentials!
Communication should be clearly and precisely stated. All the aspects of the communication, such as the purpose behind the decision, the desired response and the time element-should be so expressed as to convey the precise information to the recipient. Clarity depends not only on the simplicity of language but also on the expression of the reason for the decision. Brief and abrupt instructions, like those found in most of our Government offices, are as much faulty, from the clarity point of view, as those coached in pompous, formalized language.
Communication should be consistent with the expectations of the recipients. It should ordinarily express what the recipient expects by his experience in the agency. Of course, there may be occasions when the management has to bring about changes in the programme or procedure or both of the agencies. But it has to first prepare the recipients to receive the change and only then should it change the form or content of the communication. An unexpected communication will not cause the expected response in the recipients and hence must be avoided.
Thirdly, the communication should be adequate. That is, the formation in the communication should be sufficient to stimulate the desired response but at the same time not so much as to over-burden the recipients. Repetitions or too many communications are right self-defeating. Likewise, too little information, provided in the communication, is also not adequate mmunications and it needs to be based upon sound principles of human relationships.
Communication should be timely, neither too late nor too early. The purpose of communication is to produce a desired administrative behaviour in the recipient and this cannot be achieved by obsolete information even by information given too much in advance.
Keeping the instructions Upto-date is a lesson which a good administrator should not miss. Feat In the welfare and economic development departments, instructions usually become quickly out-of-date and need to be upto-date from time to time. But when changes are made too at often, then again, the communication becomes self-defeating. Top management must beware of both extremes.
Communications should be uniform for all those who are expected to behave ou in the same way. Discrimination in the nature or amount of communication causes heart e burning and jealousy. Moreover, it is a simple law of human nature that uniform reaction. So, if management expects uniform behaviour from its employees, it must provide uniform stimulus.
Uniformity should not bring about rigidity in the form or character of communication. An essential of good communication is flexibility. Public administration involves human beings both on the serving side as well as on the receiving side. Local conditions may require variation in administration. Hence sufficient discretion should be allowed to the local officials if people in different areas have to be served according to their needs and circumstances. When the headquarters prescribes too many details and leaves too little discretion to its field officers, then the purpose of communication is defeated. For communication is meant to facilitate the successful implementation of a programme. It is not an end in itself. Acceptability: Lastly, good communication stimulates acceptance. After all, communication is a technique of conveying the decisions of the management to the rank and file. Effective art is that which stimulates a positive response in the recipient. This is done in a variety of ways and leads us to the question of forms or media of communication.
Barriers To Effective Communication
In every organisation, there exists certain barriers to communication that tend to distort the message, thereby retarding the success of the managers in the performance of their managers. Some of the important barriers are :
1. Semantic barriers:
Semantic barriers refer to the barriers caused by failure to understand the language of the communicator. Faulty translations, badly expressed messages, unclarified assumptions, and technical jargon would fall in this category. Rudolf Flesch refers to the technical jargon (officialese) used by bureaucracy as Gobbledegook.
2. Psychological barriers:
The meaning of the message communicated depends upon the emotional or psychological status of both the parties involved. Some of the important psychological barriers are barriers due to premature evaluation, barriers due to perfunctory attention, and barriers due to lack of mutual trust.
3. Rigid rules and regulations :
Communication through prescribed rules and regulations can also lead to delay. Delay inevitably needs distortion.
4. Status relationships
The hierarchical system places people in superior-subordinate capacities. This relationship operates to block the flow of communication – more particularly or in the upward direction. The greater the differences between the hierarchical positions in the terms of their status, the greater would be the possibility of a communication breakdown. at
5. Attitudinal barriers in the superior
These barriers are inherent in the behaviour of the superior towards his subordinates. Conservative attitudes take the form of withholding of o information, strict adherence to the proper channel, lack of confidence in subordinates, ignoring communication from subordinates etc.
Overcoming Barriers To Communication
The important approaches and methods that can be used to minimise distortion of information are as follows:
- Effective orientation of employees about organisational objectives, procedures and authority relations.
- Developing proper interpersonal relations based on mutual trust and confidence.
- Empathetic listening by the higher authorities.
- Proper use of language, avoiding technical jargon so that the message is understood properly.
- Acting upon the communication that is passed on. If a message is passed without being acted upon, it tends to distort the current and subsequent communications from the superiors.
- Proper use of the grape-vine channel.
- Developing proper feedback systems.