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Channels of communication

Channels of communication

Channels of communication

There are two channels of communication; (i) Official or Formal and (ii) Unofficial or Informal.

  1. Formal Channel-

Formal communication channel is deliberately established by the organization structure and officially recognized by all concerned. The delegation of authority creates a channel of command, liking every individual of the organization at one or the other point. All messages pass through this channel of command to all sides, upward, downward and sideways. All the orders of the top executives are transmitted downward to the lowest person in the organization through the intermediate levels of management. All the upward messages are also conveyed through the proper, channel, i.e., from a worker to his supervisor, from the supervisor to his departmental head and from the department head to the chief executive. Similarly, sideways communications among different individuals of the same levels are done by means of official channel. The ability of any organization to operate effectively depends upon smooth, prompt and precise flow of information from one end to the other.

Media of Official Communication

Several kinds of official communication are employed for exchange of information in the enterprise and which can broadly be divided into oral and written communications.

Oral Communication-

When the communication is done by means of talks, verbal discussions, speeches, orders, conferences, interviews, personnel counseling, audio-visual aids (like slides and movies, ), plant broadcasts, whistles and bells, it is considered oral communication. Oral communication is used for a variety of purposes and reasons and is supposed to be important part of the official communication.

Advantages of Oral Communication

Some of the main advantages of oral communication are outlined below:

  1. Speedy and Economical-

    The oral communication is the least time consuming, most direct and simple and least expensive device of communication. It avoids delays, formalities and red tapes.

  2. More Effective-

    Oral communication is more communicative and effective. The words of mouth along with gesture, tones and facial expressions are more communicative. A mere twist of face or a sweet smile can convey the real sense of information, probably which thousands of happiness, anguish hatred or respect can more effectively be expressed through facial expression or gestures that by written words. The face-to-face discussions are more effective because they are direct and provide an opportunity of exchange of information. Oral communication is more effective also because most people can express themselves more easily and more precisely by words of mouth than by written words Public address is found generally a very forceful device of influencing and inspiring people. Personal meetings and mutual discussions are often more convincing.

  3. Possibility of Immediate Feedback-

    Oral communication provides and immediate feedback. The reaction of the recipient is immediately known to the sender, though the response may only be the expression of the person’s face. The sender can put questions and repeat the information in different ways to confirm that the receive is correctly following and the receiver gets an opportunity for removal of his doubts by seeking clarification.

  4. The only Alternative in Emergencies-

    During emergencies and for bulk of routine communications, the only way out is an oral communication. It is not practically possible and economically desirable to reduce very communicable subject matter to writing, and hence bulk of the routine message are conveyed by means of oral orders, instructions, telephonic conversations and mutual discussions.

Disadvantages of Oral Communication

However, oral communication suffers from the following disadvantages:

  1. Fear of Distortion of Message-

    The verbal talks are likely to be distorted if there exists controversy between the sender and the recipient and when they are carried to a series of persons in succession.

  2. Incapable for Permanent Records-

    Unlike written statements the oral talks are incapable of permanent records and hence at some future occasion they can neither be referred to nor be produced as an evidence.

  3. Unsuitable for Lengthy Communication-

    Lengthy, important and distant communications are not suited to oral communications. Lengthy messages cannot be grasped and given by words of mouth without omissions. Important policy and other messages which should be understood in precisely the same sense are likely to be misunderstood, if given orally. And distant conveyance of messages is also not possible by oral communication.

  4. Emotional Barriers-

    For a variety of barriers, such as wide gap in status of the sender and the receiver, language, hesitancy, emotional reactions, deep rooted feelings, prejudices, adverse physical conditions (excessive deep cold, or heat,) the real and complete sense may be not be conveyed to the recipient. For instance, the worker while making a complaint of his supervisor may not express himself before the General Manager of the company because of fear, regard, hesitation, or inadequacy of language.

  5. Spontaneous Response is not well Thought-

    Spontaneous response may not be carefully thought, does not provide opportunity for cooling off emotions and may lead to decisions out or pressures or emotions.

2. Informal Channel of Communication or the Grapevine-

The channels of communication are officially designed to circulate information in an organization, but it is foolish to think that communication between individuals will be restricted to what management has provided. Informal channel of communication or grapevine does not have any formal shape and is not officially established or recognized. It is believed that the word grapevine’ for informal communication has come in use since the civil war in U.S.A. During the civil war telephone lines were closely connected from one to another in the manner of a grapevine by the intelligence department and all sorts of rumors and distorted messages were communicated through it. Now, it is synonymous to informal communication.

People pass facts and rumours through spontaneous channels, usually referred to as ‘grapevine’. The grapevine is a natural outgrowth of the informal organization, the social interaction of people, their natural desire to communicate with each other and must be looked upon as perfectly normal activity. The grapevine fulfils the subordinates’ need and desire to be in the know’ an kept posted on the latest information. It gives the members of the organisation an opportunity to relieve their apprehensions in the form of rumours. At the same time, it offers the superior an insight into what the subordinates think and feel. An efficient manager should acknowledge the grapevine’s presence and put it to good use.

The new which a grapevine carries consists at times of factual information, but mostly it carries inaccurate information, half, truths, rumours, private interpretations, suspicions with amazing speed and often faster than most official channels could. “With the rapidity of a burning power train, information flows like magic out of the woodwork past the water fountain, past the manager’s door and the janitor’s map closet.”

The grapevine, being spontaneous, has no definite pattern or stable membership. Its path and behaviour are unpredictable. Normally a small number of persons are active participants in the grapevine, and the vast majority hears of the information through the grapevine but does not pass it along. There are some subordinates who tend to be more active as they feel their prestige is enhanced by providing the latest news and in so doing they do not hesitate to spread and change the news as to ‘completeness’ and ‘accuracy’. Since the grapevine is transmitted through the oral communications, the transmitter usually screens it and relates it as he ‘understood’ it. In periods of excitement and sudden changes the grapevine becomes more active that at other occasions. During the periods of insecurity and great anxiety the grapevine gives the members of an organization an outlet to air their fears and apprehensions in the form of rumours. It serves as a safety value for the emotions of the subordinates as they can freely air their attitudes and thoughts without the danger of being held accountable.

How informal communication can effectively be used by managers

The informal communication or Grapevine is an integral part of organizational communication. The managers cannot eliminate grapevine even if they so wish. It represents a substantial portion of the communication network. The managers should, therefore, endeavor to make effective use of the grapevine, by recognizing the potential members taking active part in it and by learning from it what is going on in the organization. If properly utilized, it can assist, clarify and spread messages which the managers wish to convey to the members. The grapevine can effectively be used by managers in the following ways:

  1. Getting Information-

    The managers should learn from what the grapevine is saying. A manager can know and sense the reactions and emotions of the organization members of a decision already taken or expected to be taken. They can then make necessary adjustments and modifications, if they think necessary.

  2. Communicating Information-

    The grapevine can be utilized to spread such information unofficially which for various reasons cannot be disseminated through the official channel. For instance, an executive suddenly resigns and the management does not want to state officially the real facts and circumstances, but at the same time, it is interesting that the members of the organization should know the real facts so that they may not gather an impression of injustice and unfairness on the part of management. The management can tell the real facts and reasons to some of the active members of the grapevine to spread the news unofficially.

  3. Counter-acting Rumours-

    The managers can encounter rumours and half-truths by feeding the grapevine the real facts. An executive should know what actually is bothering his people; and to relieve them of this. They can issue statements officially or spread the news through the grapevine to remove their apprehensions.

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