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[1]Communication is one of the most important aspects of management. It is heavily linked to managerial success and is essential for organisations to work effectively and efficiently. This article discusses the main aspects of communication, including its methods and barriers and ways to overcome them.

This article is a topic within the subject Managing Organisations and People.


Required Reading

Robbins et all, Managing Organisations and People MGMT1001, compiled from Management (6th ed) and Organisational Behaviour (6th ed), (3rd ed, Sydney, Pearson Australia, 2012), pp. 153-180 (chapter 5) and 190 - 214 (Chapter 6).

Defining Communication

[2]The reason communication is so important is that everything a manger does involves communication. In order to make decisions, a manager requires information which needs to be communicated to them. Once the decision is made, it needs to be communicated to the organisation to take effect.

Accordingly, communication can be defined as the "transfer and understanding[3] of meaning". Others define it as "not a one way transmission, but a two way transaction dialogue[4]" and still others maintain that communication's most important goal is to "hear what isn't being said[5]". The essential characteristics to remember are that communication involves:

  • the transfer of information
  • two parties, a communicator and a receiver
  • understanding of meaning

Communication Methods

[6]There are many different ways that communication occurs, some more subtle than others. On an interpersonal level, communication may be verbal or non verbal (such as facial expressions) as well as written. Non verbal communication may involve facial expressions but it can also be used through a handshake as well as the proximity of a conversation (for example keeping physical distance assumes that the conversation is public which very close interaction implies a very personal conversation).

[7]On an organisational level, communication occurs both formally (through the organisational chart and hierarchy) or informally (through the grapevine, essentially by rumours running through the organisation, to give one example).

Communication Models

[8]There are three important communication models to take note of, but the essential part is being able to use their jargo to understand where communication barriers arise.

Linear Transmission Model

[9]The linear transmission model asserts that the process of communication involves the communicator and the receiver, and between them lie four steps. They are:

  1. The sender encodes the message
  2. The message is transferred by a channel
  3. The message is decoded by the receiver
  4. The receiver may add feedback to the sender

According to this model, "noise" may arise in any of these steps but many communication issues arise in the channel. For example, a manager (communicator) might write (encode) an email and send (channel) it to an employee who will have to read (decode) it an act accordingly. The challenges then might be in the channel, for example if the email was never sent, or if the employee was at a different time zone and takes a few hours to receive it. Other obvious might be that the manager never wrote (encoded) the email in a clear manner, or if they did, it may not have been understood by the employee due to their way of decoding it.

Interactional Transmission Model

The interactional transmission model is essentially the same as the linear transmission model except that its doubled. The sender sends a message via the channel and then the sender becomes the receiver, waiting for their message to be decoded and understood and for feedback to be sent. It also asserts that communication takes place around the field of experience which is the cultural and personal context. This model suggests that feedback is an important aspect of communication though it does not occur simultaneously.

According to this model, noise and other barriers to effective communication are doubled as they occur both on the sender's end and the receiver's end.

Transaction Model

The transaction model asserts that all parties involved are simultaneously communicators and receivers. Messages are constantly encoded and decoded and sent. The model also suggests that wherever decoding and encoding exists, there is a communication environment (the way the messages are interpreted) and that there is an area of this environment where the most effective communication occurs (which is where the message sent and received meet and ful understanding is achieved).

According to this model, noise and communication barriers constantly exist and are shared by all parties involved. Communication is also much more complex, involving all channels including facial expressions, verbal feedback as well as electronic.

Communication Barriers

[10]As has already been discussed, barriers to effective communication exists in different locations depending on what model we assume. However the main sources of barriers, regardless of where in the transmission process they occur, are:

  1. Aural noise - messages might not be received properly due to hearing problems between participants
  2. Visual distractions
  3. Physical intrusions
  4. Physiological noise
  5. Semantic noise - messages may not be received properly due to the way different people understand different ways
  6. Psychological noise
  7. Stereotyping

Overcoming Communication Barriers

[11]The main methods used to overcome communication barriers is active listening. Active listening involves:

  • Not interrupting
  • Being empathetic
  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Avoid distracting movement
  • Questioning
  • Using appropriate facial expressions

Other methods may be using feedback, watching for non-verbal cues (such as facial expressions) and simplifying language.


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"Textbook" refers to Robbins et all, Managing Organisations and People MGMT1001, compiled from Management (6th ed) and Organisational Behaviour (6th ed), (3rd ed, Sydney, Pearson Australia, 2012).

  1. Textbook p.192
  2. Textbook p.192
  3. Textbook p.192
  4. Johannsen, 1971, cited in Blundel, 2004 and the course lecture slides, week 5.
  5. P. Drucker cited in the course lecture slides, week 5
  6. Textbook p.195
  7. Textbook p.203
  8. Textbook p.194
  9. Textbook p.194
  10. Textbook p.197
  11. Textbook p. 200
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