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Department of Banking and Finance, Western Delta University, Oghara
The paper focused on effective communication as a means of improving organizational performance in Nigeria. In pursuit of the focus of this paper it treated numerous issues. It did an over view. It examined the major types of communication and X-rayed in detail the various channels of communication in organizations .The review of relevant literature was done along the research objectives and hypotheses. In treating this topic, the study raised some pertinent questions for determination. The paper utilized both primary and secondary data methods for collecting information for the study. The method applied for data analysis involved the use of statistical tools such as Chi-square (X2). The major findings were discussed, conclusion and recommendations made.
Keywords: Effective; communication; improving; organizational; performance
In an organization, there are different units performing various functions. Thus, communication serves as a linking process by which parts of a system are tied together. Communication provides the links, which bind an organization together in order to evolve common understanding. (Rogers et al 2002)
Communication in an organization relates to the deliberate, intentional application of physical symbol complexes, with a view to elicit specific meanings in the mind of another individual (Stewart, 2002). In his view, Chester, (1938) says that communication is the means by which people are linked together in an organization to achieve a common purpose.
Weihrich and Koontz, (2005) say that communication is the transfer of information from a sender to a receiver, with the information being understood by the receiver, which stoner and Freeman, (2005) define communication as the process by which people attempt to share meaning via the transmission of symbolic messages.
Communication applied to all phases of management process. It is the process of transferring information from sender to receiver, who interprets the information in order to achieve organizational objectives. Information, according to Miller, (2002, Roll, 2004) “is simply the vehicle by which we attempt to provoke- or evoke- a human response. Information on it own is quite static and lifeless. It simply exists… waiting to be interpreted and have meaning attached by people.” In the view of Nabeth et al (2002) information needs interpretation by people - knowledge workers in an organization. Knowledge he said, could be assimilated to objects that can be identified, separated from their initial context and handled in information system. Information system management is largely under a new label “Information Technology” (IT) (Wilson, 2002)
The above definition forms the essential elements of effective communication in an organization namely:
Both the sender and receiver of any message share a common responsibility. The sender should ensure that his message is such that could be understood. A
message could be in the form of an instruction or information. An instruction in the sense that the receiver is told the definite things he is expected to accomplish. Information could take two forms namely; information proper and news. Information proper guides the receiver on what decision to make while news is of no value for decision making.
However, what is important about communication is that the receiver must understand the message that has been sent across by asking certain questions; it may be possible to find out if the receiver has actually understood the message. This makes communication to be a two way process in a sense that it prevents the development of psychologically negative attitude among the personnel in an organization. Thus, a feedback mechanism should be built into a communication process. There is need therefore to avoid an excessive amount of one-way communication. (Uwakwe, 2004)
It is pertinent to say that communication has been characterized as the life wire of any organization. Without communication, organizations don’t achieve goals. The purpose of communication in an organization is to effect change – to influence action toward the welfare of the enterprise. Communication is essential for the internal functioning of enterprises because it integrates the managerial functions. (Weihrich et al 2005). Especially communication is needed of an organization:
Generally, in the opinion of Efimova, (2004) much of the work of finding, interpreting and connecting relevant pieces of information, negotiating meanings and eliciting knowledge in conversations with others, creating new ideas and using them to come up with a final product, happens as part of communication in organizations.
The following research questions will be determined:
Undertaking this study, some working and guiding hypotheses have been formulated thus:
Scope of the Study
Types of Communication
consequently, they are often used together so that the favourable qualities of each can complement the limitations of the other. In addition usual aids may be used to supplement both oral and written communications. It is believed that a message that is repeated through several media will be more accurately comprehended and recalled by the receiver. Hence Wiehrich et al, (2005) say that in selecting the media, one must consider the communicator, the audience, and the situation. An individual who feels uncomfortable in front of a large audience may choose written communication rather than speech. On the other hand, certain audiences who may not read a memo may be reached and become motivated by direct oral communication.
On the other hand written communication occurs when a sender puts on paper the information he wants to send. It is mostly made for formal message. Written communication has the advantage of providing records, reference and legal defense. [ii) Messages can be carefully prepared and can be read by large audience (iii) can promote uniformity in policy and procedures. (iv) can reduce cost in some cases.
The disadvantages of written communication are: written messages may create mountain of paper, may be poorly expressed by ineffective writers, and may provide no immediate feedback. Consequently, it may take a long time to know whether a message has been received and properly understood. (Strunk et al 1999)
Channels of Communication in an Organization
proper channel must be utilized (Bell. 1996). There are various channels of communication which could be applied in an organization be it business or social; some are oral, some are written, and some use information technology. They range from face-to –face communication, group meeting and the various kinds of written communication discussed, above.
These channels are means of transmitting information within and outside the organization. These channels are broadly categorized into formal and informal communication channels (Madu, 2006).
External Communication: All enterprises also initiate communication with individuals and groups outside the organization. Generally, as an organization grows, external communications increase and may include thousands of suppliers, wholesalers, retailers, and other types of organization.
Formal Communication: This type of communication in an effective organization flows in various, directions, downward, upward, and crosswise / horizontal. These are officially recognized by the enterprise.
Upward Communication: This is a system of communication, which travels from subordinates to supervisors and continues up the organizational hierarchy. Unfortunately, this flow is often hindered by
manager in the communication chain, who filters the message and do not transmit all the information especially unfavourable news to their bosses. Upward communication transmission of information is essential for control purposes. Upper management needs to know specially production performance facts, marketing information, and financial data, what lower-level employees are thinking and so on. (koontz and O’Donnell, 1998).
Crosswise Communication: Crosswise Communication includes the horizontal flow of information among people on the same or similar organization levels and the diagonal flow, among persons at different levels, who have no direct reporting relationship with one another. This kind of communication is used to speed in formation flow, to improve understanding, and to co-ordinate efforts for the achievement of organizational objectives. A great deal of communication does not follow the organizational hierarch but cuts across the chain of commend.
Informal Communication: Informal Communication exists outside the formal authority structure. Informal communication co-exists with formal communication but bypasses hierarchical level and cuts across vertical chains of command to connect virtually any member of the organization (Madu, 2006). An example of this informal type of communication is the grapevine. It is an information communication channels in an organization, which does not respect formal lines of authority. The grapevine has come to mean an informal means of circulating information; news or gossip that has bean obtained secretly or from private sources. All organizations have a grapevine or an informal communication channel. The grapevine creates a problem in that the information that is communicated is usually only partially based on fact or at best is incomplete and as information passes through the grapevine it generally become distorted. Some managers deliberately use the grapevine to sample people opinions on various ideas because it is accurate and most of the time relevant to organization. It is a very important aspect of organization communication. Efficient managers should not do away with it.
review of existing literature in the area of study. The method applied involved the use of statistical tools such as Chi-square (X2).
Population and Sampling
The structured questionnaire, which was one of the major instruments of research, was administered to 140 people and all responded, representing 100% of the respondents. The questionnaire was made up of 13 questions and it was specifically based on the statement of the problem and the hypotheses of the study. The primary data collected was analyzed and subjected to percentage and chi-square techniques. In analyzing the data collected for the study, the chi-square statistical techniques was employed because of the nature of the research, which is survey research .The survey method is one of the most important data collection techniques in social science and as such, it was used extensively to collect information in this study” The observed frequency was weighted against the expected frequency, which emerged from the sample opinion. The Chi-square (X2) statistical analysis was employed to test for null hypothesis.
The three hypotheses formulated for the study were tested using the chi-square test of independence. Since they involved more than one dimension, and sample size more than forty, the use of Chi-square method was to test whether any significant difference existed between the variable in the hypothesis. The chi-square formula is as follows
Where E = the expected outcome
The difference between the observed and the expected frequencies was squared, and then the result was divided by the expected frequencies. The first statistic is closely approximated by the chi-square distribution and it has a degree of freedom K-i. When X2= 0, there is a perfect agreement between observed and expected frequencies. The greater the discrepancy, the larger the value of X2.
Hence we reject the HO for Hi if the calculated X2 (written as X2C) is greater than the given table value of X2 (written as X2t).
The three hypotheses will be tested at 95% significant level at degree of freedom K-I where K = no of rows. Therefore the decision rule applied in this study is that at 95% level significance, if X2C > X2t
(1) How does effective communication breakdown in an organization affects its positive performance?
Breakdown in communication: It is no surprise that managers frequently site communication breakdown as one of their most important problems. However, communication problems are often symptoms of more deeply rooted problems as a result of poor planning which may be the cause of uncertainty about the
direction of the organization (Weihrich et al 2005). Similarly, a poorly designed organization structure may not clearly communicate organizational relationships. Vague performance standards may leave managers uncertain about what is expected of them (Holmes, 2007). Thus the perceptive manager will look for the causes of communication breakdown, which could include:
From these stated causes of communication breakdown in an organization, it is apparent that communication problems fall in to three broad categories. Firstly, there may be a bad formal communications system, secondly there may be misunderstanding about the actual content of a message, and thirdly, there may be inter-personal difficulties causing breakdown even though the formal communications organization may be adequate under normal circumstances.
Poor Listening Skills of Employees
We probably have observed people entering discussion with comments that have no relation to the topic. The rushed, never-listening manager will seldom get an objective view of the functioning of the organization. Time empathy and concentration on the communicator’s message are prerequisites for understanding. People (manager) want to be heard, want to be taken seriously, and want to be understood. Thus managers most avoid interrupting subordinates and putting them on the defensive. Employees should learn the techniques of better listening in order to maintain good relation with those who deal with the organization. Poor listening is perhaps one of the most serious barriers to effective communication. Poor listening can generate costly accidents and cause misunderstanding and rumours in an organization. (Weihrich et al, 2005).
Effective communication is the responsibility not only of the sender but also of the receiver of the information. Because of the dangerous consequences of poor listening habits of employees in an organization, Newstrom and Davis, (2001) says that listening is a
skill that can be developed, and propose ten techniques for improving listening. These include: stop talking, put the talker at ease, show the talker that you want to listen, remove distraction, empathize with the talker, be patient, hold your temper, go easy on arguments and criticism, and ask question; and stop talking. The first and the last points though the same are the most important; people have to stop talking before they can listen. Thus, to elicit honest feedback, managers should develop an atmosphere of trust and confidence and a supportive leadership style with a de-emphasis on status (such as barricading oneself behind an extra wide executive desk).
Testing Hypothesis I:
Frequency Table (1)
Source: Survey Data
Degrees of freedom:
The null hypothesis is rejected and the alternative hypothesis accepted which states that there is a relationship between communication breakdown and organizational performance. It shows that communication breakdown negatively affect organizational performance. This confirms the views held by Weihrich et al (2005)
performance of an organization.
Frequency Table (II)
Source: Survey Data
X2C = 49.2
Research Questions III
To adequately respond to this research question, the study reviewed along research objective relevant literature to identify the purpose of communication in an organization and how the barriers to effective communication earlier identified in this study could be overcome to improve organizational performance.
Having discussed the purpose and Barriers to effective communication in an organization, this section is now set to discuss how to overcome or manage the Barriers to improve effective communication. Vis-à-vis improves the organizational performance.
To improve both upward and downward communication, regular staff meetings or formal consultation with trade union representatives should be held and a house journal should be issued regularly. For the same reason, there should be formal appraisal interview between a manager and his subordinates to discuss the job performance and career prospects of the subordinates. More formal meetings or inter-department committees would improve horizontal or lateral communication. Also communication between superiors
and subordinates will be improved when an inter-personal trust exists.
Misunderstandings about the actual content of a message could be improved by using the principal of redundancy – i.e. issuing a message in more than one form (e.g. by word of mouth at a meeting, confirmed later in minutes, discussed and re-confirmed on the telephone and subsequently in a written memo or letter), so that if the message fails to get through the first time, it may do so on one of the subsequently occasions. Managers should learn to express themselves clearly. (Davis, 2003).
Use appropriate tone and language and ensure credibility. There is the saying that the tone makes the music. Similarly, in communication, the tone of voice, the choice of language, and the congruency between what is said and how it is said influence the reaction of the receive of the message. An autocratic manager ordering subordinate supervisor to practice participative management will create a credibility gap that will be difficult to overcome.
According to Hahn (2007) another means of overcoming communication barriers and improving communication in an organization is the consideration of the receivers’ emotions and motivations. The function of communication is more than transmitting information. It also deals with emotions, which are very important in inter-personal relationships between superiors, subordinates and colleagues in an organization. Furthermore, communication is vital for creating an environment in which people are motivated
to work toward the goals of the organization while they achieve their personal aims.
Also to minimize communication breakdown to improve organization performance, the following steps or hints are vital.
are talking about. You have to ask questions to make sure that points have been understood.
It is hopeful that the above-mentioned suggestions will improve effective communication in an organization, and this will result in the achievement of organization goals and improve performances in form of increased profits of the organization.
The formulated hypothesis III will be tested as follows:
To test this hypothesis, question 12 was relevant. Question 12: In your opinion, does effective communication in an organization improves its performance?
Source: Survey Data.
X2C = 10.18
Discussion of the Findings
Communication breakdown has been affirmed to be a barrier, to effective communication in an organization. This barrier could arise through the upward, downward and lateral communication channels. To minimize the adverse effects of this barrier, the senders of massagers in an organization must clarify in their minds what they want to communicate. This suggests that one of the first steps in communicating is to clarify the purpose of the message and make a plan to achieve the intended goals. Therefore effective communication requires that encoding and decoding be done with symbols that are familiar to both the sender and the receiver of the message.
Poor listening skills of employees in an organization have also been identified as a cause or barrier to effective organizational communication. This confirms the view held by Holmes (2007). Poor listening skills can cause misunderstanding and rumours in an organization. It is therefore very reasonable for employees to learn the techniques of better listening in order to maintain good relationship with the other stakeholders. This is to elicit honest feedback by managers who develop an atmosphere of trust and confidence. Communication is complete only when the transmitted message is understood by the receiver and acted upon, and the sender never knows whether the message is understood unless he or she gets feedback. Good listening not only facilitates understanding but also managing. Listening is a key to understanding organization activities toward the achievement of the pre-determined goads.
The study also showed that effective communication in an organization improves its performance thereby enhancing the achievement of the organizational objectives. This is consistent with the opinion of Nwanwene, (2007) and Hahn, (2007). Communication they said is very vital process in every organization. People at work spend a great deal of time communicating with each other in meeting, over the phone via-email. Communicating effectively means being able to send messages across the organization that is easy to understand and accurate. When communication flows accurately and effectively, the organization will run smoothly. The ability of the management of an organization to adopt strategies to manage the identified barriers to communication will improve the overall performance of the organization.
The flows of communication are mainly vertical and sometimes lateral. Vertical flows are used to propagate management information downwards. Plans, policies, instructions etc and employee’s ideas and suggestions upward. The lateral flows are used to communicate across the organization structure.
The study through the hypotheses showed that communication breakdown and poor listening skills of employees as barriers to communication negatively affects the performance of organizations. However, the study indicated that these barriers could be overcome and adequately minimized thereby ensuring an effective communication, which improves organizational performance.
Finally, improvements in communication can be made by adopting a strategy of ensuring that employees are made aware of communication problems, setting up appropriate machinery for communication (upwards, downwards and lateral), ands training employees in the relevant techniques of communication.
For effective communication to take place, the barriers to communication must be reduced since they cannot be completely removed. In general, communication should flow in all directions in the organization, the clarity of language used should be concise and the person receiving the contents of the communication should pay attention. Feedback is an essential element in effective communication; hence a comprehensive feedback system of communication should be adopted in both the private and public sector organizations in Nigeria.
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