By: Chief Ed Konstanty
One component of management, which is consistent in both the private and public sector, is communication. Managers always feel they are great communicators while subordinates always feel there is a lack of communication from their managers. Communication can be broken down into two elements, official and unofficial communication. Official communication is normally in a form of written documents, procedures, memos, or when a manager directly communicates with an individual or group of employees. This communication becomes credible and it is assumed the information is factual. While this method works in organizations that have a structured management, it is not effective in smaller organizations with employees doing multiple tasks. Official communication usually tells the employee who, what, when or how to speak to someone or how to do a task.
Within organizations that have a structured management philosophy, a procedure is written for every task. While this may be an effective method of communicating, it leaves little input or discretion from the employee. At times, this form of communication can be cumbersome, as employees cannot make a decision or take an action without determining the correct written procedure. Official communications also is a way of reducing face-to-face contact with employees. Technology has made this type of communication more efficient with e-mail. If there is a problem with an employee and the manager does not wish to address the employee personally, an e-mail is a solution to the problem. It is much easier to send an e-mail to an employee than to face a potential confrontation with an employee. The manager feels he is solving the issue and creating a paper trail. The perception from the employee is different in that the employee feels he is not important enough for the manager to personally speak to him. Employees have a tendency to reply minimally in response to e-mails questioning actions, which they deem as confrontational, or critical. Official communication is necessary in any organization. Interpersonal contact must be maintained and discretion must be emphasized to employees to allow growth and job satisfaction.
The next type of communication is unofficial communication or rumors. Unofficial communication is verbal and is almost never directly from a manager. It has a tendency to take a life of its own. This type of communication usually has more validity with employees than official communication. Unofficial communication usually starts with a conceptional idea or a comment taken out of context. This type of unofficial communication spreads through an organization rapidly and as it’s repeated it expands. This communication can be devastating to an organization and reduce its overall effectiveness. While every manager should do everything possible to deter rumors, the manager must also realize that rumors are part of an organization. People like to talk, people like to gossip. As long as the information is not about them, they feel it is acceptable to spread a rumor. A manager can spend a great deal of time deterring rumors, its time that he or she can be devoting to accomplishing the task of an organization.
This unofficial method of communication can create many problems, however rumors can also provide management with information. There is always some validity to every rumor. If the manager can sort through a rumor it can provide information pertaining to the organization or the employees. While not every rumor requires an action by a manager, managers should be selective in deterring them while considering the truth within the rumor.
Communication in an organization is a difficult concept. Managers must be aware of not overburdening employees with official communication along with addressing rumors. Communication is key to any organization. How a manager uses the communication will determine the effectiveness of the organization.
Ed Konstanty is the Chief of the Willowbrook Police Department in Willowbrook, Illinois ©2004