Horizontal, Vertical and Internal Communication in an Organization

1 January 2017

A wealth of evidence shows that increasing the power of immediate supervisors increases both satisfaction and performance among employees. This was first discovered by Donald Pelz (1952) and is commonly referred to as the Pelz effect. Pelz was attempting to find out what types of leadership styles led to employee satisfaction (informal/formal, autocratic/participative, management oriented/front line-oriented). He found that what matters most is not the supervisor’s leadership style but whether the supervisor has power.

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One way to give supervisors power is to communicate directly with them and to have them provide input to decisions. Ensuring that supervisors are informed about organizational issues/changes before staff in general, and then allowing them to communicate these issues/changes to their staff, helps reinforce their position of power. When the supervisor is perceived as having power, employees have greater trust in the supervisor, greater desire for communication with the supervisor, and are more likely to believe that the information coming from the supervisor is accurate (Roberts and O’Reilly 1974).

Jablin (1980), after reviewing almost 30 years of research, pronounced the Pelz effect to be “one of the most widely accepted propositions about organizational communication. ” Downward Communication: is more than passing on information to subordinates. It may involve effectively managing the tone of the message, as well as showing skill in delegation to ensure the job is done effectively by the right person. Although the content riorities of downward communication have not been definitively demonstrated, there is some level of certainty with respect to the best approach to downward communication (Jablin 1980).

Top managers should communicate directly with immediate supervisors oImmediate supervisors should communicate with their direct reports oOn issues of importance, top managers should then follow-up by communicating with employees directly Perhaps the most tried and true rule of effective downward communication is to: Communicate orally, then follow up in writing (Gibson and Hodgetts 1991).

In addition, McCelland (1988) found a number of employee-based reasons why upward communication tends to be poor, including: oFear of reprisal – people are afraid to speak their minds oFilters – employees feel their ideas/concerns are modified as they get transmitted upward oTime – managers give the impression that they don’t have the time to listen to employees Horizontal Communication can be defined as the information exchange between departments or functional units as means of coordinating their activities.

Horizontal communication is when people on the same hierarchical level communicate between departments or functional units. Horizontal communication provides unified vision and direction, accurate feedback and the ability to implement change effectively. Horizontal communication helps a leader gain control and maintain a level of common purpose. Create Unified Vision oGather the leadership from the various departments within your organization to create a vision. If your organization does not have a mission or purpose tatement, discuss the reason your organization exists and create a mission statement. Below the mission statement, detail how you’re going to ensure the vision is understood and implemented by the entire organization. Once the vision is created, keep one another accountable to seeing the vision upheld and maintained. Set up checks and balances between the departments to prevent people from slacking or cutting corners. Generate Accurate Feedback oGenerate accurate feedback between departments or units.

A lot of frustration is found in teams and organizations between departments because of lack of communication. Each department functions as its own subunit within the greater team or organization and many times loses sight of the big picture. Horizontal communication bridges the gap between departments and allows for more accurate feedback. Set up interdepartmental focus groups to gather feedback for specific areas of the team. Send out a survey across the team or company that assesses the same information.

Use the feedback to implement effective change. Implement Change oImplement change in the team more effectively with horizontal communication. When policy or procedure changes, each department needs to be on the same page with the same outcome in mind. Set up a communication system between departments or units such as an e-mail list or a memo system so that the communication is delivered without question. Provide a step-by-step worksheet to the leaders that explains what to say, when to say it and how to communicate the changes. INTERNAL COMMUNICATION

Internal communications (IC) is the function responsible for effective communication among participants within an organization. A relatively young profession, IC draws on the theory and practice of related professions, not least Journalism, Knowledge management, Public relations, Media relations, Marketing and Human resources, as well as wider Organizational studies, Communication theory, Social psychology, Sociology and Political science. Role of IC in the organization.

People at work communicate regardless of the intentions of their managers or leaders. The purpose that a ormally-appointed IC manager or IC team will serve within a given organization will depend on the business context. In one, the IC function may perform the role of ‘internal marketing’ (i. e. , attempting to win participants over to the management vision of the organization); in another, it might perform a ‘logistical’ service as channel manager; in a third, it might act principally as strategic adviser. It is important to distinguish between communications on behalf of the organisation and the day to day intercourse within work groups or between managers and subordinates.

Minzberg [1] talks about the fact that communications is intrinsic to the work of a manager – it is the very essence of work in many situations. This article is less concerned with the interpersonal communications that take place in most workplaces and which are explored by writers such as Phillip Clampitt. [2] There are a number of reasons why organisations should be concerned about internal communication. Importantly, there is commonly a legal requirement for organisations to communicate with their workers.

In Europe, for example, the EU has made very specific provision about workers’ rights to be informed and consulted. Effective internal communications is one of the key drivers of employee engagement (see, e. g. , the UK government-sponsored Macleod Report [3] for a summary of research) and proven to add significant value to organizations on all metrics from productivity to customer research. As noted in Quirke (2008)[4]: “Traditionally, internal communications has focused on the announcement of management conclusions and the packaging of management thinking into messages for mass distribution to the ‘troops'”.

Research indicates a limit to the value of this ‘broadcasting’ model of IC. Without feedback loops and harnessing the active involvement and mediation skills of frontline supervisors or team leaders, broadcasting tends to be more effective at influencing senior and middle managers than frontline employees – see, e. g. , Larkin and Larkin (1994). [5] As the IC function matures within the organization, then, it may come to play a wider role in facilitating conversations “upwards”, “downwards” and “across” the organization, per Stohl (1995). 6] Organizations increasingly see IC as playing a role in external reputation management. Joep Cornelissen in his book Corporate Communications [7] touches on the relationship between reputation and internal conversations. This trend reaches its full potential with the arrival of new ‘norms’ and customer expectations around social media, for example in the work of Scoble and Israel. [8] Market researchers MORI[9] have likewise highlighted the effects of employee advocacy on an organisation’s external reputation.

IC managers aim to achieve strategic influence, to help bring reputational risk analysis to bear before senior leaders take a final decision, to improve the quality of that decision and improve the chances it will be accepted by all participants within the organization. IC practice Five general modes of IC practice are itemised below, ranked loosely according to their position along a spectrum from tactical to strategic activities. The modes of IC practice, arranged along a spectrum from the tactical to the strategic Message distribution

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