But if this chapter section on technology and organizational structure has shown you anything, the moral of the story is that today’s organizations are reducing vertical hierarchy and leveraging technology to foster horizontal collaboration. In other words, when you graduate and find that great job, you will be doing group projects! And the ability to communicate effectively with your project team—whether in meetings or by e-mail, voice mail, videoconference, online chat, text, phone, fax, or wiki—will be essential. Perhaps you have used these technologies only on a personal basis for networking and leisure. Now think of using them on a basis for building a project team that can accomplish . Then you will have no options: differences in working styles must be resolved, slackers must be covered for and then dealt with, time must be found in your hectic work schedule to keep in regular touch with the team and to attend meetings (either face to face or virtually), and personality differences must be worked out. Nor can you produce the “perfect” project by working alone; for one thing, your boss expects a team effort and, for another, project specifications are too complex.
In this chapter section, we first reviewed the basic elements of organizational structure and then explored how new communication and information technologies are impacting the ways that organizations are structured and coordinate work. If not already, someday you will be pursuing your career within the context of today’s organizations and their structures. Your effectiveness will be enhanced if you understand how communication—your own and your coworkers’—is related to how the organization structures itself to accomplish its goals. To emphasize this point, we return to an illustration used earlier—namely, that group project you did for one of your classes.
A former place of employment.
An organization where you volunteer.
If your organization is larger than 500 employees, you may choose to concentrate on a communication situation pertaining to a particular section or department.
To understand the problems associated with organizational communication, it is imperative to center our attention to a particular case. Chicago University is one of the most renowned and extinguished Universities in the United States. Studies done in the past have posited a rising propensity or inclination to huge group of students in many institutions of learning in the US. This is also evident in Chicago University. Consequently, the learning standards entrenched in these practices function in a specific channel i.e. a broadcast form of communiqué. As a result of the huge groups of students, contact and communication between a lecturer and the students is largely restricted. This results to a situation where the students are incapable of expressing their opinions in the classroom effectively. This follows that the learners are inactive and unreceptive hence do not receive the information relayed by the lecturer. It is important to elucidate the fact that knowledge comprises of facts put into expressions of speech and relayed from the lecturer directly to the learners. Any clarification in terms of notes acts as a storehouse of knowledge.
(Isman, 2011) There is no doubt that communication is so fundamental that without it no organization can exist and function effectively towards achieving its objectives.(Kushal, 2009) It enables organizatio...
The second problem Randy Hirokawa noted with upward communication relates to filtering. Organizations today often suffer from what they term info-glut or data smog, which is to say communication overload. Just as we discussed earlier in this chapter that downward communication can lead to communication overload so can receiving too much information from one’s subordinates. Ultimately, there is a fine line between the necessity of ensuring honest upward communication and receiving too much upward communication. Supervisors must learn how to filter out information from all directions that isn’t necessary, but this is a skill that takes time and energy to learn. At the same time, subordinates also need to learn what information is necessary for their supervisors to have and what information is not necessary.
76), “communication is the primary way in which any group of individuals, small or large, can become aligned behind the over-arching innovative goals of a creative developing organization”....
Recall that the traditional dimensional view of organizational structure focuses on three issues: pattern, formalization, and centralization. An organization’s pattern is, first of all, determined by its size, vertical hierarchy (chain of command), and horizontal differentiation (division of labor). A second component of organizational structure is formalization of its rules and procedures: some organizations emphasize formal written documents, and others work more informally through verbal agreement or unwritten rules that are taken for granted. The third component of structure is the degree to which authority is centralized; that is, whether coordination and control functions are concentrated at the top or dispersed throughout the organization. Janet Fulk and Gerardine Desanctis reviewed the literature on communication technology and its impacts on organizational forms, and their analysis can be broken down according to the three dimensions of organizational structure.
From a subordinate’s perspective, is upward distortion ever an ethical communicative practice? Often supervisors will want information from a subordinate that could harm the subordinate or her or his coworkers, so determining whether one should distort information or not can be a hard thing. For example, what if your supervisor asks you about the recent performance of one of your coworkers and your coworker’s performance was subpar? Do you tell your supervisor the truth, knowing that the coworker could be reprimanded or fired, or do you distort the facts in an effort to “save” your coworker? People in organizations often distort information to help themselves or their peers, but is it ever ethical?
While there is no magic bullet for improving upward communication within an organization, we do believe there are four best practices that all supervisors should engage in: establish trust, use multiple mediums, show utility, and decrease barriers. First, and definitely the most important best practice for ensuring quality upward communication, is establishing a trusting relationship with one’s subordinates. As discussed earlier in this section, trust clearly leads to an increase in upward communication from one’s subordinates. When subordinates trust their supervisors, they are more likely to engage in two-way communication that is honest and productive.
In one study, the researchers examined four different organizations to see the effect of trust, influence, and mobility on the quantity of upward communication. They found that trust and influence both positively related to the quantity of upward communication, and mobility did not really play a role in the quantity of upward communication. This study was later replicated with the same results. In essence, people who trust their supervisors and perceive their supervisors as influencing their careers engage in more upward communication.
As we saw earlier, the impact of new technology is not a simple matter of !—one day a technology comes into existence and organizations merely start using it. Organizations must simultaneously adapt to the new capabilities that the technology affords, while gauging how the technology can be adapted to leverage the strengths of the organization. With regard to communication technologies, William Dutton described this dynamic as a threefold process. The aspect is seen in the ways that a technology enables new forms of organizational coordination and control by reducing gaps in time and distance—as when, in the earlier example, invention of the typewriter allowed documents to be prepared with standard headings that made them easy to file and retrieve. The aspect is seen in the ways that organizations design or customize a technology to their needs—for example, when a company configures a new phone system or server network, or writes customized software, which tailors the technology to its specific needs. The aspect is seen in the ways that technologies and organizations dynamically interact; a new technology provides an occasion for an organization to create new forms while, conversely, the new form calls forth new uses or capabilities out of the technology. For example, after organizations adapted to the convenience of interoffice e-mail, in time they realized that “broadcast e-mails” to potential customers could be an effective marketing tool. This threefold dynamic is represented in Figure 11.3.