An effective communication system is an essential requirement of modern administration. Important messages have to be communicated within an organisation and outside. Important decisions have to be communicated widely inside the organisation. Feedback on the implementation of decisions has to be obtained and analysed. The impact of the organisational decision on the public has to be assessed. This usually comes in the form of communication from the people either through their representatives or directly. It is often necessary to consult the clients and other interest groups. It is impossible to think of any organisational activity which does not involve the process of communication in some form or the other. This applies to all organisations in private business as well as in public sector.

The recent advances in the field of communication have affected the administration very profoundly. So much so that the effectiveness of an organisation now depends to a large extent on the effectiveness of its internal and external communication system. Imagine for instance what happens to an army in the field whose communications have broken down. It could be impossible for such an army to put up any organized and co-ordinated fight. Or, imagine a large business enterprises spread over wide geographical areas functioning without a very elaborate communication system. It is, therefore, of great importance for an administrator as well as a scholar of public administration to study the various processes of communication and ways to overcome the factors that militate against effective communication. But, before we do that let us attempt to define communication.

Defining Communication

Communication has been defined differently by different individuals. One researcher listed as many as 95 definitions, none of which is widely accepted. We may take the following as a working definition:

‘Communication is the process by which people attempt to share meaning via transmission of symbolic messages’.

This definition of communication emphasises three essential points indicated below:

  • Communication involves people- therefore to understand communication, it is necessary to understand how people relate to each other.
  • Communication involves shared meaning – It suggests that in order to communicate with each other, people must agree on the definition of terms they use.
  • Communication is symbolic gestures, sounds, letters, numbers and words can only represent or approximate the ideas they are meant to communicate.

Importance of Communication

Effective communication is important for managers and administrators for several reasons:

  • Through the communication process, management functions of planning, organising, leading and controlling are accomplished. Information has to be communicated to the senior managers to provide a basis for planning. Organising requires communicating with people about their jobs and assignments and of course, the leadership function involves primarily communicating with the group to achieve organisational goals. A lot of two-way communication is required in the job of controlling. Instructions have to be communicated to the subordinates and feedback received from them to apply necessary correctives. Communication is thus required for almost every aspect of managerial and administrative function.
  • Managers and administrators have to spend a large part of their time in the activity of communication. They have to undertake a lot of face-to-face, electronic or written communication with their subordinates as well as their clients. They hardly sit alone, even if they do, they are either disturbed by some phone-calls (communication) or are dictating letters, conference minutes, office memos – all activities connected with communication.

One-way and Two-way Communication

Communication is one-way when the senders send the message without expecting a feedback. For example, policy directives to subordinates do not require immediate feedback. On the other hand two-way communication takes place where the receiver sends a feedback to the original communication. Seeking a progress report or inviting a suggestion are examples of two-way communication.

Harold Levit and Renold Mueller conducted experiments on the effects of one-way and two-way communications which are types of communication. We will state below their results without giving details of their experiments:

  1. One-way communication is faster than the two-way communication as obviously the time of feedback is saved.
  2. Two-way communication is more accurate. The feedback allows the sender enough opportunity to clarify the doubts of the receiver.
  3. Receivers are more sure of the contents of the communication when two-way communication is used. They can clarify their doubts.
  4. Senders can feel attacked by the questions of the receivers in a two-way communication.
  5. Although less accurate, one-way communication is more orderly than two way communication which appears to carry a lot of noise.

These results can provide practical guidelines for communication in organisation:

One-way communication can be used when:

  1. the speed of communication is important;
  2. the accuracy is either easy to achieve or not so important;
  3. orderliness is required – like in a public meeting.

An incidental advantage of one-way communication is that the sender’s mistakes are saved from the embarrassment of a public discussion.

The two-way communication should be used when:

  1. the accuracy is the more important factor;
  2. speed is either easily achieved or is not so important

In most cases, managers use a good mix of one-way and two-way communications.


Communication and Advanced Technology

The computers are changing the communication scene very fast. They not only store and process data but also distribute numerical data and information throughout the organisation. In advanced countries corporate electronic mail and tele-conferencing are also becoming popular. Many companies are using computers to improve inventory keeping and consumer ordering. Tele-commuting is also being used to send and receive work people do at home.

What is the effect on organisations? An important result is that the content, size, form and frequency of messages has changed. This has influenced the interaction between the individuals and departments. Most of the employees now work on the computers and are able to get most of information without the help of others. This has reduced the interpersonal communication between them. This is effecting the lower level workers more, but even the managers are affected. When they get information in seconds, their dependence of their subordinates is reduced. If computers workers get too isolated, the organisation may lose valuable training and knowledge sharing advantages that come from informal social contact at work. Special efforts will be necessary to encourage these workers to interact more. Some remedies are:

  • more frequent work-breaks
  • redesigning of job so that employees do not have to remain on the terminal all the time.
  • Tasks to be reorganised to present more opportunities for personal interaction.
  • There may be more problems which should be anticipated and corrective action taken in advance.

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