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13

Business communication

A Activity 13.1 research activity.


Activity 13.2 (page 232): Which communication
method is best?
1

In each case, explain why it is important that communication is effective. [8]

safety notice on board a cruise ship


Customers and staff must be aware of, and heed, safety information to avoid
accidents and injury to themselves. It is also possible that a failure to follow
safety instructions could put lives at risk.

sales order from a customer sent to the production department


Goods need to be produced and dispatched to meet customer needs. Failure to
communicate effectively could lead to incorrect production of goods and delays
to orders; consequently, customers will be dissatisfied.

official warning to a staff member about quality of work


Poor-quality work may lead to customer dissatisfaction. Thus, it is important that
the worker is fully aware of their mistakes so as to be able to improve quality.

sending of detailed architectural plans from one office to another office abroad
Plans must not be lost, as this would lead to increased costs.

need to solve a work problem with a team of staff


Productivity may be affected by work problems; this will increase costs of
production.

thirty members of staff need to be given essential information but they are in
different regional offices
It may be important for the staff to act consistently across the organisation.
Thus, the information needs to be disseminated effectively.

need to check some details of a product order with the customer


It is important to avoid any errors with a customers order. Customer
dissatisfaction will result if work does not match the customers specific needs.

list of emergency telephone numbers in case of accidents in the factory


This is important to ensure that appropriate personnel are alerted when there is
an accident and will also ensure that there is an appropriate response from the
business to an accident.

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Suggest and justify a suitable method of communication to be used in each case. [16]
Any reasonable answer.
safety notice on board a cruise ship
Written communication is required. The notice should be displayed in a
prominent place next to the hazard in question. It important that it is written so
that all individuals will be made aware of the hazard as they approach it.
sales order from a customer sent to the production department
Preferably a written communication should be supplied to ensure that the
production department has clear details of the order requirement. Electronic
media, e.g. email, would give the benefit of providing a written copy, and the
order would be transmitted quickly.
official warning to a staff member about quality of work
Face-to-face oral communication to ensure that message is received and
understood. There would also need to be a written message to provide a record
of the warning made.
sending of detailed architectural plans from one office to another office abroad
Electronic media via the internet would provide quick and accurate
transmission of plans. Some form of registered or recorded post could be used
to ensure that the plans reach their destination.
need to solve a work problem with a team of staff
Oral communication through a team meeting will ensure that all team
members understand the problem and will allow them to contribute ideas to its
solution.
thirty members of staff need to be given essential information but they are in
different regional offices
As the information is essential, there should be some way of ensuring that the
message has been received and understood. Telephone may be appropriate, as
you can be sure that the message has been received.
need to check some details of a product order with the customer
Telephone is quick and allows two-way communication to clarify details of the
order. However, it may also be important to have an accurate written record.
list of emergency telephone numbers in case of accidents in the factory
Written communication via a notice would ensure that the numbers can be
accessed quickly by all staff.

Activity 13.3 answer provided on Student's CD-ROM.


Revision case study 1 (page 237): We all seem to be
working in the dark
1

Do you consider that writing a report was the best way for Metta to communicate to
directors in this case? Explain your answer. [6]

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Yes

No

A report is a very formal method of

A memo might be a more appropriate

communication and will set out in detail


Mettas concerns and suggestions for
directors to consider.
There will be a written record to refer back
to. Directors emphasise the importance of
writing everything down.

way of raising the issue with


directors. Directors may be busy
and, therefore, reluctant to read an
unsolicited report.
Metta intends to pass over the section
heads. This may cause conflict and
resentment as Metta is not using the
appropriate communication channels.

Discuss the factors that this business should consider before introducing an internal
communication based on IT systems. [12]
A range of factors could be discussed including:
Cost is there a sufficient IT network to enable relevant members of staff to
have access to a computer? If there is poor provision of computer equipment
throughout the organisation, then messages will not be received by staff unless
there is investment in new computers.
Training of staff will employees need training to use IT? If they do, it will add
to costs of introducing this form of communication.
Information overload the use of IT can lead to staff sending too much
information to each other and, consequently, staff begin to ignore messages or
miss important messages.
Misunderstandings emails can easily be misunderstood as employees may not
spend time checking that the message is clear.
Breakdowns computer networks may be subject to breakdown and there is
the threat of viruses disabling the system.
Speed of communication IT offers instantaneous transmission of messages.
However, there is no guarantee that the message will be received quickly; that
will depend on how frequently employees check their inboxes.

Analyse three causes of communication problems at Asian Lights. [12]

Size of the organisation as the business has grown, there has been an increase
in the number of managers and the creation of more levels of hierarchy.
Length of communication chains each section head has to check the message
before passing it on to the next person who needs to know. This slows down the
communication process. It has taken three days for an important message about
production to reach Metta.
The need to write everything down there is evidence that there is a lack
of clarity from the senders of messages; Metta can barely read the scribbled
message regarding the correct product mix to manufacture. Sometimes this
will be inappropriate. It may be better for simple messages to be given orally.
Sometimes very important messages should be given face to face to ensure the
message has been received.
Autocratic style of management this may lead to one-way communication.
This can demotivate employees and make them less receptive to receiving
messages.

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Cambridge University Press 2010

Using the case study:

Examine the possible links between the effectiveness of internal communication


and staff motivation. [10]

Effective communication relates to the exchange of information between people,


with feedback. It is a two-way process and may have a significant impact on
motivation.
Answers may include reference to:
In the case of Asian Lights plc, Metta Viravong has become demotivated
by communication problems. The ineffective communication within the
organisation has frustrated Metta because it is preventing him doing his job
effectively. It appears that receiving information late from the south-east
sales manager has increased the stress he feels as it means that there has been
overproduction of standard bulbs.
Group discussion can help fulfil some of the needs identified by Maslow and
thus aid motivation. Herzberg also suggests that employees will be motivated
by greater involvement within the business. Effective communication can help
ensure that employees feel part of the business and that they are valued.
Two-way communication gives a chance for employees to express their views
and encourages a sense of belonging.
Communication is essential to give recognition to staff and promote an
individuals sense of worth.
Effective communication may help employees understand what is happening
within the business. When change is occurring, such as the takeover of Bangkok
Brightlights, it is important to communicate effectively with staff as they may
need reassurance about the future. This will help prevent demotivation.

Evaluation may consider:


Evaluation may note that effective communication may help motivate employees,
but that, in itself, it is unlikely to be sufficient to motivate. Many other factors are
also important. For example, Herzberg highlights other hygiene factors as being a
precondition for a satisfied workforce that can be motivated.
The message that is being communicated is also important. For example, after the
takeover of Bangkok Brightlights, if a strategy of rationalisation was pursued, then
however effective communication was it is unlikely that employees would feel motivated
as colleagues lost their jobs. In such a situation, good communication will, at best,
minimise dissatisfaction.

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Using your knowledge of communication media and networks, horizontal and vertical
communication and barriers to communication, examine the internal communication
problems and possible solutions within Asian Lights plc. [12]
Internal communication
problems

Possible solutions

An inappropriate medium
is used to communicate,
e.g. scribbled note from
south-east sales manager.

Messages need to be clear. To some extent, this is a

Communication is
too slow channel of
communication too long.
The merger has added
layers of hierarchy to the
organisation. Messages
have to pass through too
many managers before
reaching the person
who needs to know the
information.

Delayering the organisation would remove levels of

Autocratic style of
management is a barrier to
two-way communication.
Directors are distant from
employees, such as Metta,
and communication is
made more difficult by
having to go through
section heads.

It is difficult to change the style of management.

There may also be a


problem of geographical
distance since the merger
with Bangkok Brightlights.

Using IT solutions will reduce the problems of

problem of the poor attitude of the sender. All staff need


to be aware of appropriate channels of communication.
Meetings should perhaps be held between the sales
managers and Metta to discuss changing sales and
production needs.
hierarchy and, therefore, messages would pass through
a shorter chain. This solution would be opposed by
middle managers, however. As well as improving
communication it would also reduce overhead costs of
Asian Lights.
Installation of IT systems could lead to quicker
communication times. However, email can lead to
information overload and it is difficult to ensure that
the message receiver has read the communication.
An advantage of a technical solution would be that
communications would still be written and, therefore, a
record would exist.
However, delayering would help reduce frustration and
enable more direct communication with directors.

geographical distance. As well as email and the internet,


video conferencing can be used and, of course, one-toone communication using the phone is always possible.
Cost is an issue with introducing IT solutions; there are
the capital cost and training costs. However, cost savings
in the longer term can be great once the equipment
is installed, communication becomes faster and more
efficient.

Revision case study 2 (page 238): Switching off is no way to


handle job losses how not to communicate bad news
1

To what extent does this case demonstrate a failure in effective communication? [10]
Effective communication refers to the exchange of information between people, in
this case between Panasonic and its workers. For communication to be effective,
the message needs to be clear, an appropriate medium used and the employees and
local community need to have received and understood the message.

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In this case, there are a number of problems within the communication:


The message was confused and misleading. Employees were told that there
would be no job losses just days before they were announced.
The message was not given by an appropriate person. Given the importance
of the message, it should have been communicated by a senior manager.
Employees would be further alienated because it was the head of personnel at
the factory who announced the job cuts.
There should have been clear communication with the trade union before the
announcement.
There was a failure to deal effectively with press interest in Panasonics plans.
Panasonic should have used a public relations specialist to ensure that their
message was communicated. Journalists were not contacted.
In summary, the whole affair was a public relations disaster for Panasonic and will
have caused more resentment from employees than was necessary.
2

How would you have advised the firm to communicate these redundancies to staff
and the newspapers? Give reasons for your answer. Refer to all aspects of effective
communication the appropriate sender and receiver, the clarity of the message, the
medium to be used and the opportunity for feedback. [12]

Top tip

Possible suggestions include:


Senior managers at Panasonic UK should have held meetings with union
leaders to discuss the problems at the factory. This would have provided an
opportunity for union feedback.
Redundancies should be announced to employees before being announced
to the press. A senior manager would be required to communicate with
employees. This could be done in a meeting with workers at the factory.
Although this would be a hostile meeting, it would be an opportunity for the
reasons to be explained clearly and feedback given.
A public relations expert should be used to deal with the announcement to
the local community and to the newspapers. A suitable press release would be
essential and relevant employees would need to be available to answer questions
from the press.

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When giving answers it is often useful to suggest


and reject relevant but undesirable approaches. For
example, stressing that management must meet face
to face with employees rather than using email.

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Outline how this case could harm employeremployee relationships in this factory in
the future. [8]

This would lead to mistrust of management statements in the future.


Employees would be alienated by the way the redundancies were handled, even
though they were not compulsory.
Unions might be more aggressive in their negotiations with the employer as
they will feel a lack of respect for management.

Essay
2 a What do you understand by the term barriers to communication? [5]

A barrier to communication is anything which prevents effective communication


occurring. Consequently, messages may not be heard or understood. Common
examples of barriers include:
inappropriate medium
use of inappropriate language, e.g technical jargon
information overload, i.e. trying to communicate too much information at once
long channel of communication
noise
form of the message if a message is unclear or unexpected, the receiver is less
likely to understand it.
b Outline how a business might overcome any two barriers to communication. [8]

Barrier to
communication

Outline of how to overcome the barrier

Inappropriate
medium

Use a medium that is suitable for the type of message, the sender
and the receiver. For example, important information is not well
communicated by a notice board as the information may be missed
by key intended recipients. A meeting or face-to-face communication
may be more appropriate.

Form of the
message

Managers need to ensure that the message is clear and precise. The
sender needs to take into account the intended receiver of the message
to ensure that the level of language is appropriate for the receiver to
understand. It is preferable to allow a feedback to the communication
process so that the receiver can check understanding quickly.

Information
overload

Communications should contain information which is necessary;


messages should be concise but adequately detailed. It is important
that organisations control the number of messages sent, e.g. the use of
electronic communication can quickly lead to information overload
and messages being missed as individuals are overwhelmed by the
quantity of communications received.

Technical jargon

This should only be used where it is clear that the receiver of the message
has the skill to understand the technical jargon. If communicating
with a non-technical specialist, then jargon should, as far as is possible,
be removed. It is important that communication intermediaries are
appropriate as well; for example, if a secretary is asked to send technical
information, it is possible that s/he will not understand the language
and, therefore, send a message containing errors.

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c To what extent will good internal communications improve a firms

competitiveness? [12]
Good internal communications will help create an environment in which
cooperation and coordination are enhanced and there is mutual respect between
employees and employer. This will help improve the ability of the firm to be
competitive. Benefits of good internal communication include:
Increased staff motivation this will lead to more efficient work and better
customer service.
Quicker decision making good communication means that information will
be understood and feedback will be given where appropriate.
More responsive to market conditions effective two-way communication will
ensure that senior managers get good feedback from employees dealing with
customers.
Fewer mistakes if communication is clear, then messages will be understood
and mistakes avoided.
Better coordination good communication between departments will ensure
that departments are heading in the same direction.
Of course, good communication is just one of many factors that influence
competitiveness. Answers may contrast the relative importance of other factors as
well.

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Cambridge University Press 2010