Organizational Communication | Organizational Communication Definition
Organizational communication simply refers to communication that takes place in business environments. Because organizational communication encompasses everything from individual to mass communication, it is an extensive field. “As a result, organizational communication is as broad in its domain as the field of communication as a whole,”
According to Journal of Communication. “Furthermore, communication in organizations has been studied not only by communication scholars, but by scholars in most of the social sciences. This breadth has given the area eclecticism in approach, theory, and methodology that is a strength in its diversity … for at least the past 20 years, the field has been repeatedly and extensively reviewed and is arguably the most thoroughly reviewed domain of communication research.”
What Is Organizational Communication
Like defining communication study, many definitions of organizational communication exist. Deetz argues that one way to enlighten our understanding of organizational communication is to compare different approaches. However, for the purpose of this text, we want to define organizational communication so you have a frame of reference for understanding this chapter. Our definition is not definitive, but creates a starting point for understanding this specialization of communication study.
We define organizational communication’ as the sending and receiving of messages among interrelated individuals within a particular environment or setting to achieve individual and common goals. Organizational communication is highly contextual and culturally dependent. Individuals in organizations transmit messages through face-to face, written, and mediated channels.
Organizational Communication Approaches And Processes
Organizational communication helps us to 1) accomplish tasks relating to specific roles and responsibilities of sales, services, and production; 2) acclimate to changes through individual and organizational creativity and adaptation; 3) complete tasks through the maintenance of policy, procedures, or regulations that support daily and continuous operations; 4) develop relationships where “human messages are directed at people within the organization-their attitudes, morale, satisfaction, and fulfillment” (Goldhaber 20); and 5) coordinate, plan, and control the operations of the organization through management (Katz & Kahn; Redding; Thayer). Organizational communication is how organizations represent, present, and constitute their organizational climate and culture—the attitudes, values and goals that characterize the organization and its members.
Organizational Communication Jobs
Graduates of master’s programs in corporate or organizational communication can work at companies in both the private and the public sectors, facilitating and improving channels of communication between managers and their employees, company leadership and the public, and leaders of different companies in the formation of partnerships. Organizational communication professionals may specialize in one area of corporate communication, or oversee communications across multiple departments within a company. Examples of roles that graduates of master’s programs in corporate and organizational communication may pursue after they graduate include:
- Corporate Communication Consultants: Corporate communication consultants work for companies that help other corporations improve their internal and/or external communication. For example, they may design and implement initiatives aimed at improving employee engagement, team-building, or leadership training. Or they may work with the marketing department of a company to revamp the company’s brand messaging. They may even work closely with company leadership to help them clarify or revise their organization’s mission statement, and to change internal and customer-facing communications accordingly. Consultants also help managers within companies to communicate more effectively with employees under their supervision.
- Marketing Directors: Marketing directors oversee the design and creation of advertisements and marketing content that promote a company’s products or services. They typically manage a team of marketing specialists, and supervise the progress of multiple marketing initiatives simultaneously. Marketing directors combine an expert understanding of their company’s industry (e.g. tech products, education, clothes and fashion, etc.) with their training in effective customer-facing communication to create engaging content that builds their company’s customer base and brand identity.
- Public Relations Directors: Public relations directors manage a company’s public image, and its relationship with all parties external to the company, including consumers, investors, and other companies. They typically supervise a team of public relations specialists, who craft external-facing communications such as press releases, informational content both online and in print, social media posts, and speeches, all of which aim to maintain the positive reputation of a company and its leadership. PR directors and their staff also collaborate with other departments to organize speaking engagements and business events and facilitate partnerships with other companies.
- Project Managers: Project managers, while not strictly communication professionals, employ strong interpersonal and organizational communication skills in order to push a particular project forward. They coordinate teams from different departments across their company (e.g. the finance department, the engineering or product design department, the marketing department, the legal department, etc.) in order to ensure that their project is adequately funded, is designed with the consumer in mind, passes legal considerations, and is launched at a time that aligns with when the marketing department can promote it. All of these tasks require that project managers possess a strong understanding of their company’s organizational structure, as well as the kinds of communication to employ when working with people from different departments.
- Human Resources Specialists and Directors: Human resource specialists and directors serve as the point-person for employees within an organization. They guide new employees through a company’s internal systems and protocols, and also develop training materials and modules to support employees’ development and success.
- Managers: Managers across all fields, from product management to project management, employ strong interpersonal communication skills and a solid understanding of corporate communications to support the teams under their supervision, facilitate progress on key projects, and to uphold a company’s mission statement.
- Public Affairs Specialists and Advocacy Specialists: Public affairs and advocacy specialists work in governmental agencies and at political non-profits to help these organizations connect with and educate the public. They use their strong understanding of organizational communication and sociopolitical issues to advance the policy and social service objectives of their organization.
- Media Researchers: Media researchers use their understanding of communication theory, rhetorical criticism, and organizational dynamics to gather data on and analyze how systems of communication operate and evolve across a variety of contexts, from sociocultural to organizational to political. They often write about and publish their findings in articles that inform both people in academia and people in industry about the landscape of communication across different fields.
- Professors of Communication: Professors of communication conduct scholarly research on how communication impacts society and social institutions, as well as how communication operates at the individual, group, organizational, and community levels. They also teach undergraduate and graduate courses in communication, providing students with theoretical knowledge and applied skills in general and specialized areas of communication. While some positions may require a doctorate in communication or a related field, others positions may be open to graduates of a master’s program. This is also typically true for teaching positions at the community college level.
Organizational Communication Theory
Different theories about organizations involve different assumptions about communication. Developed during the beginning of the 1900s, “classical management theory”—including scientific management theory, administrative management theory, and formal bureaucracy theory—arose in response to the growth of large organizations performing standardized procedures to produce manufactured materials, a result of the industrial revolution. Classical management theory generally proposed that organizations could be efficient and successful through hierarchical structures, downward flow of task information from managers to workers, recognition of monetary and security motivations of employees while ignoring social relations and personal goals, avoidance of ambiguity or subjectivity of information especially in rules and procedures, optimal design of the work process, authority and legitimacy located in hierarchical position rather than in personal and political influence, hiring and rewarding employees on the basis of technical competence and task performance, division of labor to increase efficiency and specialization, facilitation of horizontal communication when necessary but only with approval of the relevant superiors, and a continuing focus on organizational goals. In classical management theory, communication is highly structured and hierarchical, impersonal, and focused only on the goals of the organization.
Organizational Communication Examples
Formal communication is associated with the formal organizational structure of the company. Ideally, communication flows smoothly, accurately and timely through the proper channel appropriate to the specific company. For instance, seniority will dictate how communication will flow from one department to another or from specific managers to specific employees. Certain tools and technologies are often used to aid in formal communication.
Formal communication can have several forms.
- Telephone calls
- Company newsletters
- Performance reviews
The strength of formal communication is that it standardizes communication, ideally benefiting the clarity of each message. Its primary weakness is that it undermines the free and uninterrupted flow of communication, which is what defines informal communication.
Informal communication includes casual, social and personal messages in the organization. Also referred to as the grapevine, informal communication and messages involve person-to-person communication networks of employees that are not officially sanctioned by the organization. This type of communication cannot be prevented. The strength and weakness of informal communication is that it is spontaneous and quick. This can lead to meaningful insights or inaccurate, misinterpreted and distorted information.
There are three general types of directional communication that take place in organizations.
- Downward communication flows from superiors to subordinates. This typically takes the form of orders, instructions and policy directives to people at lower levels in the company. Examples include feedback on job performance and information about policy and procedures.
- Upward communication flows from subordinates to superiors. This is the opposite of downward communication; it originates from people at lower levels and is directed to those who are above them. Examples include suggestion statements, reactions, reports and proposals.
- Horizontal communication flows from people who are on the same level of the organization. This type of directional communication enables people to interact with their peers without involving people at other levels in the company. Examples include the communication between subordinates of one boss or between managers.