Organizational communication Roles of formal and informal communication in governmental organization 1.0 Introduction Organizational communication is an area of study that examines the complex communicative behaviors which occur in organizational settings. Organizational communication occurs when a group of people working together and communicate to each other in order to achieve individual or collective goals. Communication is been considered a functional part of an organizational system and in interpersonal context. The purpose of organization communication ranges from completing a task or mission to creating and maintaining satisfying human relationships within the organization. The structure of an organization is determined in part by the network of channels or paths along which information must flow between members or sub-units within the organization. 2.0 Communication networks in government organization In the past, the concern of management of large bureaucratic structure such as government organization, in which the major focus of the organizational communication literature, was formal and top-down communication. The government needs systems for controlling the flow of information in order to balance the structure. Today, informal communication in which is generally associated with interpersonal, horizontal communication is primarily seen as a potential contribution to effective organizational performance. On-going, dynamic, and non-formal, if not informal, communication has become more important to ensuring the effective conduct of work in modern government organizations. 3.0 Creating a climate of formal and informal communication Communication climate can be defined as the internal environment of information exchange among people through an organization's formal and informal networks. Communication climate is open when information flows freely and closed when information is blocked. Open communication is characterized by supportive, participative, and trusting behaviors. While open communication climate may make formidable personal demands, such openness ultimately rewards both the individual and the organization in providing an environment where people thrive and enterprise flourishes. To create a climate of formal and informal communication, government officers must ensure that they and their staff have the skills and knowledge to communicate effectively. In some cases, this may require formal training. However, the most important aspect of staff training should come on a daily basis from officers who lead through example while making communication issues a priority. Involving the staff in decisions about the goals and methods of communication will also help create a climate of communication. Government officers and their staff should develop a consensus on how disagreements should be handled, how communication should flow between them and staff and between staff members, and what information should be available and when. Communication must become a habit for government department officers and their staff members, with systems in place to support it. It can be done through a) b) c) d) e) f) Regularly scheduled group meetings. Regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings. Newsletters. Staff briefings. Informal social gatherings. Team lunches and other activities. Effective communication through communication network either it is a formal or informal approaches in government organization is an intentional effort made by all personnel within it. It flourishes only in an environment where positive interaction is valued, fostered and nurtured by all concerned. Effective management knows that frequent interaction and communication with staff provides insight into their talents, skills, goals and day to day work issues. This can help the management to foster staff growth, achieve departmental target and manage work productively. Positive interaction inspires loyalty and helps develop improved work relationships. 4.0 Study of informal and formal communication in government organization In government organization, formal and informal communication systems seem best suited to different types of activities in terms of functional characteristics. Formal communication tends to be used for coordinating relatively routine transactions within the management levels and working groups. For example, an officer in the procurement department might go through a procedure process simply by following the steps specified in the department purchasing guide. The departmental procedure guideline will include material specification, purchase requisition forms, bidding procedures, desiderata for selecting one vendor over another and stages in the approval process would all be specified in advance. The procedure guideline could so totally describe the conditions under which certain actions should occur and the precise ways of executing them with. There is reason to think that informal and formal communication is particularly useful in supporting the social functions of groups. This is because government organizations are less explicit in regulating social relationships than they are in regulating other aspects of work procedures. For example, a government personnel frequently describe the bureaucratic procedures for annual performance appraisals, but he neither attempts to nor could he regulate the ad hoc personal judgments that his superior make of the people reporting to him. There are both structural and functional characteristics of communication occasions that cause the communication to be more or less formal. Among structural characteristics, the nature of the relationship among the participants and their social roles influences its formality. For example, conversations among office staff or among those with highly unequal status will be more formal than conversations among close friends or among peers. Similarly, conversation among people acting in their official roles will be more formal than conversation among the same people out of role. The frequency of communication also influences its formality which is common in government organization. In government organization, the nature of the communication setting always influences the formality of communication. A discussion in a meeting room is likely to be more formal than one in the cafe. Finally, the communication channel itself may partially determine the formality of a communication event. By their nature, for example, with the emerging of information and communication technology (ICT) approaches set by the government, telephone and face-to-face discussion are more interactive and richer than are computer mail systems and as a consequence becoming more informal. Computer generated information systems reports and human generated memoranda are more formal than are scheduled meetings and electronic bulletin boards, which in turn are more formal than telephone calls or hallway chats. 4.1 Formal communication networks Formal communication networks define who should talk to whom or who reports to whom. Formal communication may be downward or upward and sometimes referred to as vertical or horizontal. Downward communication refers to communications from superiors to those who report to them. Formal communications in government organization are commonly used as to communicate the following such as job instructions, job rationale, procedures and practices, performance feedback, and department missions. Another way in formal communication network which is practiced in government organization is the upward communication. Upward communication refers to messages going from subordinates to superiors and is used to convey the following: updates of what subordinates are doing, unsolved work problems, suggestions for improvement, and how subordinates feel about each other and their jobs. Upper and middle management position in government department such as director and their officers are responsible for improving and encouraging upward communication. Some helpful methods been widely practiced such as open-door policies, establishment of grievance procedures, periodic interviews, group meetings and a suggestion box. However, these methods are only effective when only if the upper and middle management are sincerely interested in hearing from their staff and truly value their ideas. Another approach in formal communication in government organization is horizontal communication. Horizontal communication consists of messages between colleagues at the same level of position in the organization. For example, communication between assistant district officers from the different districts or between department directors from different states. In government organization, horizontal communication are commonly used for purposes such as task coordination, problem solving, sharing information, conflict resolution or building rapport. For example, coordination meeting between the same government departments heads in different state which is held every three months. It a chance for all department directors to meet and discuss in a formal fashion about common issues and create resolutions. In formal communication, downward, upward and horizontal communication work as a network which can be combined to the full circle of feedback received from people above, below and around an individual. In fact, formal communication networking is the process of strategically meeting people in the same position and maintaining contacts to get information, advice and leads. This has been recognized as a key skill in the development of government officers. Normally, those who formally network connected tend to be successful and progress more in their careers compared with those who do not. 4.2 Informal communication networks Informal communication networks are patterns of interaction based on friendship, shared interests and proximity. Informal networks in government organization are to be the most important means of communication and widely practiced in all level of organization personnel. Functions of informal networks within the government organizations may include: a) b) c) d) Confirming a formal communication Expanding on information conveyed formally Expediting messages that arrive more slowly via formal channels. Contradicting formal messages (for example, an officer in accounting department may disclose that the deadline for report on this year’s budget is not as firm as what was conveyed in the procurement department’s recent memo). e) f) Circumventing official channels Supplementing formal communications. Informal networks are faster and sometimes more dependable than formal channels. Informal communication happens every day in the government office and between the staff. For example, try look around their places of work and we will noticed that informal communication seems to be a dominant activity. Clerks work at their desks or busy typing something at their computer, suddenly are interrupted by telephone calls. Officer leave to attend a department meeting but stop on the way to discuss a matter with a colleague. To answer questions about office procedure, they call to the person at the next desk rather than consult the appropriate manual. The conversations seem fluid and undersigned and yet, clearly, work is being accomplished. In looking at the informal communication, it occurred that the more spontaneous and informal communications was, the less well it was supported by formal approach such as procedures for scheduling meetings and writing reports. Communication that leads to work solution usually happens in the hall way or during a cup of tea rather than in the meeting room. Hence, the interest is drawn toward understanding more about the nature and value of informal communication networks and spontaneous communicative activities which are happened daily in government organization. 5.0 Formal and informal channels as paths of communication Communication, through both formal and informal channels, is the lifeblood of any organization especially in government departments. But when discussing both formal and informal communication in public service, environments, channels, processes, systems, and hierarchies, we sometimes lose sight of the essence of the communication act, which it is profoundly the human. At the center of every organization are people held together by slender threads of cooperation. In government service, they are known as public servant. These threads are maintained by people sharing information with each other. The result is a delicate network of human relationships linked through communication. In government organization, information is a commodity. It has value, can be exchanged and is crucial to the success of work and services. Unfortunately, public servants sometimes refuse to exchange this crucial information. They often erect “barriers” to shut out others in situations they consider hostile. Most communication mishaps in these organizations can be traced to these barriers. They impede information exchange and thereby disrupt the orderly flow of activity. Because of barriers, they fail to inform others of a meeting or a project deadline. They neglect to compliment co-workers on a job welldone. They even lash out at others for little or no reason. It is known that the most appropriate paths of communication depend on the importance of the information being communicated and the size of the organization. For example, if information relates to a significant change affecting the department as whole, the message should not be delivered directly from the director of the department to frontline staff. It is advisable that when communicating important changes, specially in government machinery which involving day to day operations, the usual path of communication is from the director as upper management to middle management (assistant director) to his officers who responsible to convey instructions or orders to rest of staff. It is because by establishing a direct communication line to staff only results in weakening the ties between the staff and their upper management. Results of research have shown that employees want to hear about major organization changes from the officers closest to them. However, this is not always an effective path if middle management has weak communication skills. 6.0 Conclusion In government organization, formal and informal communication will encourage the employees to work better. It is done through supporting and allowing them to participate in decision making and trusting them. This will assures the integrity of information channels within the organization. The openness of any communication climate whether in the form of formal and informal communication depends upon the character of the participants. Openness both in formal and informal communication often demands courage because the communicator operates with lowered or eliminated defensive barriers. Because open communicators have to articulate their positions in meetings, public arenas, and in print, they must be secure individuals, confident in their own positions, ability and authority. 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