CHAPTER OVER VIEW
One of the important human relations skills
supervisors need is the ability to
The communication process occurs when
people send and receive information.
The process begins when someone encodes a
The message is then transmitted either verbally or
The receiver decodes and interprets the message.
The message is shaped and filtered by personal
experience, perceptions, and beliefs by both the
sender and the receiver.
Effective communication depends on a
number of factors.
The receiver can hear a message, or register
sound in the brain, but not listen.
Listening occurs when the person who hears sounds
also pays attention and tries to understand.
Effective communication is most likely to
when the parties communicate from the receivers
viewpoint, learn from feedback,
use strategies for effective listening, and
overcome barriers to communication.
Barriers to communication include
perceptions and prejudices, and
biases in paying attention to messages.
Ways to avoid these barriers include
encoding messages carefully and simply
being aware of inferences and prejudices, and
phrasing messages to appeal to the receiver.
Messages may be sent through a variety of
Verbal messages may be oral or written.
Oral messages can be
use an electronic device such as a telephone or voice mail.
Oral messages have the advantage of including the
additional information transmitted by
tone of voice and
phrasing of the message.
Face-to-face and phone communications have the
additional advantage of
immediate feedback and
provide the opportunity to ask questions to clarify meaning.
Verbal messages are also transmitted in written
Letters, memos, and reports take longer to encode and
transmit, but they have the advantage of leaving a record
for the file.
This is important for taking disciplinary action and ordering
Written communications also reduce the potential
misunderstanding of complex messages.
Nonverbal messages include things like
body position, and
noises such as laughter
The combination of verbal and nonverbal
messages provides a clearer message than
either type used separately.
The effective managing of an organization
requires that communication flows in all
For supervisors, this means they will receive
information from all directions and be
responsible for sending messages in all
For example, they will receive directions and orders from
their boss, and be responsible for sending information to
They will also receive messages from their employees,
and be responsible for informing and passing
information to employees.
Coordination of the organization takes
cooperation among departments, which is
accomplished by lateral communication.
Organizations have both formal and informal
channels of communication.
Formal communication is work related.
It usually follows the chain of command.
Policies, procedures, and directives follow the formal
Informal communication is directed toward
personal needs and interests.
It is not necessarily work related.
Informal communication includes gossip, rumors, and
It is transmitted by the organization’s grapevine.
The Process of Communication
1. Communication: The process by which people
send and receive information.
– Information may include opinions, facts, or feelings.
• The intended audience should be receiving and
understanding the same message sent for communication
to take place.
Sending does not assure receiving.
Receiving does not assure the message is
the intended one.
Talking or writing does not guarantee that
communication will occur.
2. Noise: Anything that can distort a message
by interfering with the communication
Includes distractions such as
having a headache,
feeling too cold or too hot,
sitting in an uncomfortable chair;
ambiguous words; and
worn equipment to transmit message.
3. Feedback: The way the receiver of a
message responds to the message.
Feedback may take the form of words or behavior.
Failure to respond is also a feedback response.
Communication is at the heart of the supervisor’s
Supervisors must communicate in order to work with
sending and receiving ideas,
submitting progress reports, and
processing many kinds of information.
The successful communication process
The sender encodes, or thinks up and formulates the
The sender then transmits or sends the encoded
message by writing, speaking, or other personal contact.
The intended audience receives the message.
The message is decoded, or interpreted as intended.
The sender encodes, or thinks up and formulates
The sender wants someone to know or do something.
For this to happen, the sender first decides what it is he or she
wants to pass along.
These thoughts are translated into verbal and nonverbal
The specific words, expressions, and gestures depend on the
sender’s knowledge and skills with the language and
knowledge and understanding of the situation that directs the
The encoding process may not be a recognized activity in all
The sender then transmits or sends the
encoded message by writing, speaking, or
other personal contact.
Transmitting the message may include either
written or spoken words or gestures.
The intended audience receives the
The receiver can hear the words, read lips, read
the signing, hear the tone of voice, hear the
emphasis on specific words, and see facial
expressions and gestures.
The message is decoded, or interpreted as
The message will be interpreted by the receiver.
Interpretation depends on what the receiver has
heard and previous experience, perceptions,
biases, and so forth.
Hearing and Listening
The receiver must decode the message.
Both the sender and the receiver have an active
role in communication.
If the receiver is not active, communication is not
Hearing the message means that the brain is
Listening, in contrast, means paying attention
to what is being said and trying to understand
the message fully.
Active Listening: Hearing what the speaker
is saying, seeking to understand the facts
and feelings the speaker is trying to convey,
and stating what the listener understands that
message to be.
Effective communication is most likely to
occur when the parties
communicate from the receiver’s viewpoint,
learn from feedback,
use strategies for effective listening, and
overcome barriers to communications.
The Receiver’s Viewpoint
Communicate from the receiver’s viewpoint.
People do not share
Lack of shared experiences may lead to the
intended audience ignoring or misunder-
standing the message sent.
If you want the receiver’s attention, interest,
and understanding, you must communicate
from his or her viewpoint.
using a vocabulary the receiver will understand,
referring to experiences shared with the receiver, and
addressing the receiver’s interests.
The supervisor should ask what the message
to himself or herself, and
to the employee.
The supervisor should try to imagine the
message from the employee’s experience
Learn from Feedback
Feedback can help the supervisor
When a message is sent, a certain kind of
response is usually expected.
One type of response is what the receiver says or
Another type of response comes from employees’
behavior later on.
When the supervisor says the lunch break is
between 11:00 and 1:00, the employee may
shake his head “yes,”
look puzzled at getting two hours for a one-hour lunch
return to the work station at 1:15.
All of these are examples of possible feedback to
the supervisor’s lunch break definition.
A supervisor can clarify the message, or
check for understanding, by asking
For example, the supervisor might ask when the
employee is planning to take his or her lunch
Use Strategies for Effective Listening
Effective listening begins with the
commitment to listen carefully.
should avoid assuming a message will be boring
or irrelevant, and
should listen carefully, trying to identify important
information and tune out distractions.
When an employee complains often about
seemingly petty matters, the complaints may
hide a broader concern the employee has not
If there is no time to listen when someone wants
to talk, a time should be scheduled later to
continue the conversation.
The supervisor should be aware of the
context of the comments, and the urgency or
frustration an employee may display at the
The employee may feel that the supervisor is not
interested or is trying to put him or her off if the
talk is to be continued later.
Later may be too late if the employee makes a
decision based on the comment.
If the speaker uses words or phrases that stir
an emotional reaction,
control the emotions and
don’t let them interfere with the understanding.
The best response is to listen and
acknowledge the emotions without agreeing
Ask questions that look for the facts underlying an
A technique called active listening involves
not only hearing what the speaker is saying,
but also seeking to understand the facts and
feelings of the speaker.
Active listening can help supervisors
understand employees’ situations,
get them to take responsibility, and
gain their cooperation.
To communicate effectively, the supervisor
must actively listen with genuine respect for
employees and believe in their ability to take
Be Prepared for Cultural Differences
Effective communications with limited people who
have limited understanding of English may require
sticking to simple and basic words,
talking slowly and pronouncing words carefully,
learning about the communication styles used by people
from different cultures and trying to match them when
Barriers to Communication
Communications may fail because
the sender fails to encode the message properly,
the transmission is poor, or
the receiver misinterprets the message.
Some communications barriers include:
Inferences vs. facts
Perceptions and prejuices
Biases in paying attention
People often respond to information overload by
tuning out the message.
To avoid this possibility, supervisors should give
employees information only that will be useful to them.
They should give information in an environment conducive
an environment that has minimum distractions.
Also, supervisors should be sure the employee is paying
To avoid misunderstandings, messages
should be simple.
Supervisors should make sure that they
understand what they are going to say before
they create the message.
When the supervisor is the receiver of a
message, he or she needs to be careful to
understand the true meaning of that
message, asking questions about unclear
points when necessary.
The supervisor must also keep in mind that
sometimes the sender prefers that the
receiver not understand the message.
The supervisor needs to recognize when people
have reason to be intentionally vague or
On those occasions, the supervisor should interpret
messages with particular care.
One of the times messages may be vague is when
an organization is undergoing significant change.
For example, the message may be that top management is
keeping communication lines open.
They want to take into consideration all detail and everyone
will have a say.
Unfortunately, the important decisions have already been
But to keep the organization functioning, the sender has
determined the message would be the best strategy for
Make appropriate word choices when
encoding the message.
Choose simple words and avoid words that could
Avoid using words that attribute
characteristics to another person.
Instead, describe specific behaviors and your own
feelings, such as,
“That is the second time this week you’ve made that
mistake. I get annoyed when I have to explain the same
procedure more than once or twice.”
The supervisor must be familiar with the
communication styles of the various cultures
of people with whom he or she works.
Text examples include:
(1) The Japanese.
In Japan, harmony is a key value. The Japanese say “yes
(hai, pronounced hi) as a way of signaling that they hear
what the speaker is saying.
Americans generally say “yes” to mean they agree with the
Assertiveness in women is often viewed as aggressiveness
so women tend to use a less assertive style of
communication than men do.
They tend to speak less and use phrases such as “Don’t
Word choice is also a concern when dealing
with cultural differences.
Supervisors must seek to understand the
communication style and meaning of their
employees to reap the benefits and to avoid
unnecessary conflict of a diverse work force.
Inferences versus Facts
Inference: A conclusion drawn from the
It is an assumption made based on the facts on
An inference may be true or false.
Inferences often go beyond the actual data.
That is, a decision may be made or the the
interpretation is generalized to a more complex
situation from a very small amount of factual
Or the facts may be too skimpy to make a
For example, because you know several people
with a specific habit or behavior does not mean
that all people have the behavior.
Perceptions and Prejudices
Perceptions: The ways people see and
Perceptions are filters that keep some information
from getting in and make us supersensitive to
Prejudices: Broad generalizations about a
category of people.
Prejudices can have either a negative and positive
influence, and both interfere with the ability to
make sound decisions
A positive prejudice may be called a halo effect.
Based on experiences and values, the
sender and receiver of a message make
assump-tions about each other.
When these perceptions are false, the message
may get distorted.
Prejudices are broad generalizations about a
category of people.
It is common, in our culture to attribute certain
blue-collar workers, and
many other groups.
In order to overcome communication barriers
due to perceptions and prejudices, the
supervisor must be aware of the assumptions
made about people.
Is the supervisor responding to what a person is
saying or to his assumptions about that person or
category of persons?
Biases in Paying Attention
People have biases about the sender or
receiver of the message and about the
People tend to pay more attention to a message
that seems to serve their self-interest and to
ignore messages that contradict their viewpoint.
Nonverbal and Verbal Messages
Verbal Message: A message that consists of
Verbal messages can be spoken or written.
Nonverbal Message: A message conveyed without
Nonverbal messages include such things as gestures,
facial expressions, body position, and leaving the
Many nonverbal messages are referred to as body
The major types of nonverbal messages are:
tone of voice,
facial expressions, and
Nonverbal communications are culture-
A look or gesture will give a specific kind of
message in one culture and an entirely different
message in another culture.
They will also have different meanings or
interpretation depending on the gender of the
Looking down for a woman in the Anglo-American culture
may be interpreted as a sign of modesty;
for a man, the behavior may be interpreted as a sign of
dishonesty or guilt.
In another culture, looking down may show a sign of
Failure to recognize different interpretations
of nonverbal communications can lead to
misunderstandings of supervisors or
employees, or both.
A supervisor needs to send nonverbal signals
that communicate he or she is businesslike
This is done by
the way you sit or stand,
the use of gestures such as open-hand gestures,
readily shaking hands to indicate enthusiasm and
Dressing conservatively signals that the
supervisor commands respect and has self-
Verbal messages are sent by speaking or by
Supervisors usually depend on oral
This type of communication gives the supervisor
the opportunity to send and receive many
nonverbal cues along with the verbal ones.
Most oral communications occur face-to-face.
They can also take place
on the telephone,
at meetings, and
at formal presentations.
Oral messages are best for sensitive issues.
Sensitive discussions should be held in private to
give both parties a chance to air their feelings.
When there is anger or hostility, face-to-face
communication allows for immediate feedback to
diffuse the anger or clarify misconceptions.
Speaking before a group is a type of
communication that may be necessary, but
stressful, for the supervisor.
The following steps can help the supervisor
(1) Learn about the audience.
What are their values and interests and what do they
already know about the topic?
If you are unaware of this information before the
presentation starts, spend the first few minutes talking with
the audience about their interests, expectations, and
(2) Start the presentation with a summary of the main
points or the objective of the meeting.
If the presentation is formal or includes people from areas
outside the work unit, it may be useful to present a written
outline of main points or objectives on a flip chart.
(3) Have a clear plan for what to say.
Use note cards or an outline.
Avoid having a script that is read to the audience.
It is much more effective to speak naturally to a group.
(4) Finally, practice the speech until it is easy to deliver.
It is useful to get feedback, if possible, from a mirror, tape
recorder, video camera, or friend.
Written communications are often used in
A written record may be useful to the organization and the
A written record is also useful as a follow-up to an
important verbal message.
For example, if you have agreed verbally to a purchase order,
customer request, delivery date, or disciplinary action, a
written message will reaffirm the agreement.
Written messages are useful in
communicating complex messages.
A disadvantage of a written message is that it
will take a relatively long time to prepare and
A supervisor may be required to submit
A report may be necessary
to describe a department need or problem,
to summanze a meeting,
and to inform upper management about information
learned on a business trip or other tasks performed by a
Reports should begin with a summary of the
Charts may be used to summarize data and to
make a point through visual impact.
For example, a line graph can be used to illustrate an
increase in productivity following the purchase of new
Bulletin board messages can be used to reach a
large number of people.
These messages can include the need-to-know-type
messages such as
the overtime work schedule,
safety advisories, and
the nice-to-know-type messages
the progress of a quality improvement team or
the investigation of a new-equipment purchase.
Bulletin boards can also be used to recognize
employees and work team successes.
A problem today for many supervisors is
communicating in a workplace in which many
employees do not have adequate reading
skills, but are required to read work
instructions, procedures, and other
Some companies are teaching reading and
other skills to their employees.
Supervisors must be aware of potential
problems when written information may not
be understood by all employees.
Supervisors need to be sure all employees have
the information necessary to do a good job.
Since people who have difficulty reading may be
embarrassed by the problem, they may try to hide
Supervisors need to be sensitive to the
feelings of employees while trying to assure
good quality and productivity of the
Downward Communication: Organizational
communication that involves sending a message to
someone at a lower level on the organizational
The supervisor is receiving a downward communication
when he or she receives instructions or an evaluation from
the boss, or a message describing the company policy.
The supervisor sends a downward communication when he
or she discusses a problem with or instructs an employee.
Upward Communication: Communication
that involves sending a message to someone
at a higher level on the organizational chart.
A supervisor receives an upward communication
when an employee asks a question or reports a
To be well informed and to benefit from
employees’ creativity, the supervisor should
encourage upward communication.
One way to do this is to listen well, applying the
strategies for effective listening.
A suggestion box is a method used by some
organizations as a way for employees to send
Supervisors should be aware that suggestion boxes
can be problematic.
Employees who make suggestions have expectations of
seeing their suggestions implemented.
There must be resources devoted to the review and
implementation of suggestions and feedback to the
employees, or they will stop making suggestions.
In some companies, for example General Motors
Corporation, suggestions have been rewarded with
a portion of the saving that results from the
When teamwork is expected, rewarding individuals
for suggestions may undermine the team effort.
Lateral Communication: Organizational
communication that involves sending a message to
a person at the same level on the organizational
Supervisors send and receive lateral communication when
they discuss their needs with coworkers in other departments,
coordinate their group’s work with that of other supervisors,
socialize with their peers at the company.
Lateral communication is a way for new supervisors
to learn the methods and expectations of their job,
and to get help when problems arise.
Why should a supervisor know about the
directions of communication?
Awareness will help a supervisor be sure that he
or she is participating in communication in all
All directions of communication are necessary to
keep all people informed and to keep work
Changes in companies today include
reorganization and downsizing, which is
taking out layers of management.
One of the reasons for these changes is to
increase flexibility and speed
The supervisor who is used to sending a
message up the chain of command and
waiting for an answer will find in the new
reorganized company both faster
communications and the responsibility for
making more decisions formerly made at
Formal Communication: Organizational
communication that is work-related and follows the
lines of the organization chart.
Formal communications are directed toward
accomplishing the goals of the organization.
Examples of formal communication from the supervisor to
the employee include
discussions of performance to help employees do higher-
training on a new procedure that improves quality of service,
the distribution of production schedules to work teams.
Formal communications are often related to the
primary work of the organization and its employees.
policies and procedures,
instructions and directions,
requests for resources,
performance appraisals, and
These communications usually follow the
chain of command.
However, much of the communication in an
organization is informal, such as personal
Informal Communication: Organizational
communication that is directed toward individuals’
needs and interests and does not necessarily follow
formal lines of communication.
Informal communications include both topics
about work and personal interests.
Work-related informal communications may
be an attempt to get necessary information
faster than the prescribed method.
Much of the informal communication takes
the form of gossip and rumors.
Gossip is small talk about people.
People use gossip as a way to indicate
what behavior is acceptable and
what behavior is not acceptable.
Rumors are what people say among
themselves to try to interpret and make sense
out of what is happening.
When there is an absence of facts about what is
happening in an organization, especially during a
time of change, rumors are spread in an effort to
get at the facts.
Rumors tend to circulate most during crises and
conflicts and are often false.
Supervisors should not participate in the
spreading of gossip and rumors.
As a member of management, the supervisor is
expected to know and report the facts about
Guidelines for keeping rumors and gossip
under control include:
Do not share any personal information about other
Discuss matters concerning others only when they truly
need to know.
Keep company information to yourself until the
organization makes an official announcement.
Grapevine: The paths along which informal
The grapevine is important to supervisors because
employees use it as a source of information.
Thus, the supervisor must expect that employees
sometimes have information before the supervisor has
Rumors spread by the grapevine and the information
may be incorrect especially in times of crisis or conflict.
Managers usually have no control over the
Steps the supervisor can take to ensure that some
of the messages in the grapevine are positive and in
line with the organization’s objectives include:
a. Regularly use the tools of formal
communication to inform employees of the
organization’s version of events.
b. Be open to discussion, becoming someone
employees will turn to when they want a rumoi
confirmed or denied.
c. Use performance appraisal interviews as a
time to listen to employees as well as give their
d. Have a trusted employee act as a source of
information about the messages traveling thc
e. When necessary, issue a formal response to a
rumor in order to clear the air.