Communication serves four major functions within a group or organization: control, motivation, emotional expression and information.
Communication acts to control member behavior in several ways. Organizations have authority hierarchies and formal guidelines that employees are required to follow. When employees, for instance for instances are required to first communicate any job related grievance to their immediate boss, to follow their job description, or to comply with company policies, communication is performing a control function. But informal communication also controls behavior. When work groups tease or harass a member who produces too much (and makes the rest of the group look bad) they are informally communicating with, and controlling the member’s behavior.
Communication fosters motivation by clarifying to employees what is to be done, how well they are doing and what can be done to improve performance if it’s subpar. We saw his operating in our review of goal-setting and reinforcement theories. The formation of specific goals, feedback on progress toward the goals, and reinforcement of desired behavior all stimulate motivation and require communication.
For many employees, their work group is a primary source for social interaction. The communication that takes place within the group is a fundamental mechanism by which members show their frustration and feelings of satisfaction. Communication therefore provides release for the emotional expression of feelings and for fulfillment of social needs.
The final function that communication perms relates to its role in facilitating decision making. It provides the information that individuals and groups need to make decisions by transmitting the data to identify and evaluate alternative choices.
No one of these four functions should be seen as being more important than the others. For groups to perform effectively, they need to maintain some from of control over members, stimulate members to perform, provide a means for emotional expression, and make decision choices. You can assume that almost every communication interaction that takes place in a group or organization performs one or more of these four functions.
The communication Process:
Before communication can take place, a purpose, expressed as a message to be conveyed is needed. It passes between a sender and a receiver. The message is encoded (converted to a symbolic form) and passed by way of some medium (channel) to the receiver, who retranslates (decodes) the message initiated by the sender. The result is transference of meaning from one person to another. The key parts of this model are: (1) the sender, (2) encoding, (3) the message, (4) the channel, (5) decoding, (6) the receiver, (7) noise, and (8) feedback.
The sender initiates a message by encoding a thought. The message is the actual physical product from the sender’s encoding. When we speak the speech is the message. When we write, the writing is the message. When we gesture, the movements of our arms and the expressions on our faces are the messages. The channel is the medium through which the message travels. It is selected by the sender, who must determine whether to use a formal or informal channel. Formal channels are established by the organization and transmit messages that are related to the professional activities of members. They traditionally follow the authority chain within the organization. Other forms of messages, such as personal or social, follow the informal channels in the organization. These informal channels are spontaneous and merge as a response to individual choices. The receiver is the object to whom the message is directed. But before the message can be received, the symbols in it must be translated into a form that can be understood by the receiver. This step is the decoding of the message. Noise represents communication barriers that distort the clarity of the message. Examples of possible noise sources include perceptual problems, information overload, semantic difficulties or culture differences. The final link in the communication process is a feedback loop. Feedback is the check on how successful we have been in transferring our messages as originally intended. It determines whether understanding has been achieved.