Communicating and Controlling

Problems of communication directly retard the success of managers in the performance of their functions. If messages are poorly transmitted, or if the action is not effected, management cannot plan or control activities properly. The barriers to good communication require constant attention. Some of these barriers and remedies will now be considered.

Distortion may be a matter of noise in transmission or it may result from inadequacy of the words in carrying the precise ideas of the sender. If an accountant submits a report on costs to an economist, distortion may result because of differences in meanings of the word “costs”. If the industrial engineer receives the report, he may get ideas entirely different from those of the accountant or economist. The financial manager will view “costs” as outgo of funds; the production managers may think of unit costs of the manufactured product; the marketing manger will think of costs as part of the total selling price; the industrial relations manager may view ‘costs” as a social factor of employment. Each of these specialists will tend to have different frames of reference within which to interpret a report. An important means of overcoming the distortion barrier is to expand the horizons of each member of the management team so that each can understand the meaning in the minds of other members. Another means is to use what the psychologists call empathy – attempt to project oneself into the view point of the other person. A major step in handling distortion is the development of an awareness that some degree of distortion always exists.

Filtering is a barrier to communication that takes the form of intentionally sifting the information so that the receiver will look favorably on the message. No one likes to admit mistakes to some one else, especially to the boss. The boss, on the other hand, wants to secure information about what is actually going on, especially those actions that need attention. If management is not careful, it may encourage a free flow of just those messages that provide little information. The remedies for filtering are a well designed control system, the development of rapport with subordinates. Listening to subordinates with an understanding attitude reducing the fear of failure and increasing the awareness of management to problem of subordinates.

Overloading of communication channels can cause the network to be jammed with irrelevant messages. Newer methods of processing and transmitting data have increased the number of communications which flow to executives. Managers can literally be buried in memoranda and reports with no hope of digging themselves out. The answer to this problem lies in monitoring the channels to clear messages in order of priority and importance. More messages do not necessarily mean more information. The communication system should provide for editing devices, or persons, to regulate the quality and quantity of communications with regard to sufficiency of information for decision centers.

Timing of communications can result in problems for management. Some types of messages need to be released so that everyone will receive them simultaneously. Other types of messages being transmitted should be timed sequentially so that receivers will not be confused by issues that are not important to them at the moment.

Routing of communication should provide sufficient information for a decision to be made by the proper persons. The route may determine the content of the message and the language in which it is stated. If official information is first received by the grapevine, or from persons outside the organization, the employee may be placed in an insecure position. If a supervisor receives information from subordinates, it signifies a short circuit in the line of communication from top management, and thus threatens the supervisor’s status and authority. The answers to the problem are in the proper planning of a communicating system to the problem are in the proper planning of a communication system and in recognition of its human elements.