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Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Nina Kummer Carola Carstens Seminar: Talk at Work.

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Presentation on theme: "Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Nina Kummer Carola Carstens Seminar: Talk at Work."— Presentation transcript:

1 Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Nina Kummer Carola Carstens Seminar: Talk at Work

2 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Communication Behavior in Organizations, p.289

3 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication The Role of Communication in Organizations key purposes: direct action: to get others to behave in desired fashion achieve coordinated action  systematic sharing of information + interpersonal side with the focus on interpersonal relations between people

4 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Communication “the social glue … that continues to keep the organization tied together” “the essence of organization” a key process underlying all aspects of organizational operations  properly managing communication processes is central to organizational functioning Behavior in Organizations, p.289

5 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Organizational Structure: Directing the Flow of Messages Organizational structure: the formally prescribed pattern of interrelationships existing between the various units of an organization dictating who may and may not communicate with whom abstract construction depicted in Organizational Charts

6 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Organizational Charts Source: Skript BWL II

7 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Formal Communication the process of sharing official information with others who need to know it, according to the prescribed patterns depicted in an organization chart

8 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Formal Communication President Vice President Vice President Manager Efforts at coordination Information Instructions and directives © Copyright 2002 by Prentice Hall, Inc.

9 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Formal Communication downward communication: instructions, directions, orders feedback upward communication: data required to complete projects status reports suggestions for improvement, new ideas horizontal communication: coordination of cooperation

10 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Centralized Networks One central person Unequal access to information Central person is at the “crossroads” of the information flow

11 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Communication Structures Centralized Y

12 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Communication Structures Centralized Wheel

13 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Communication Structures Centralized Chain

14 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Decentralized Networks Information can flow freely No central person All members play an equal role in the transmittal of information

15 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Communication Structures Decentralized Circle

16 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Communication Structures Decentralized Comcon

17 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Communication Networks Behavior in Organizations, p.305

18 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Network Performance Behavior in Organizations, p.306

19 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Gatekeepers Behavior in Organizations, p.320

20 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Informal Communication Structures Deviation from the planned communication structure Direction of the flow of information Leaving out people in the communication line Integrating people into the communication line

21 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Informal Networks Y D C B A Chain A JB DHI K F G E C Gossip A FB D J H C E K GI X Probability A C D F J I B Cluster McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

22 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Network Roles Bridge Liaison Isolate Isolated Dyad Cosmopolites

23 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Formal Structure vs Informal Networks Communities of practice: informal collaborative networks  Text: reveals real leaders ??? Behavior in Organizations, ch. 15

24 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Informal Organization [Buchanan, 2000, p. 463]

25 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Informal Communication information shared without any formally imposed obligations or restrictions if an organization’s formal communication represents its skeleton, its informal communication constitutes its central nervous system (Behavior in Organizations, p. 307) eng. “ grapevine “ An organization’s informal channels of communication, based mainly on friendship or acquaintance origin: American Civil War [grapevine telegraphs]

26 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication “Grapevine“  a secret means of spreading or receiving information  the informal transmission of (unofficial) information, gossip or rumor from person-to-person -> "to hear about s.th. through the grapevine"  a rumor: unfounded report; hearsay

27 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Grapevine Characteristics oral  mostly undocumented open to change fast (hours instead of days) crossing organizational boundaries

28 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Grapevine Characteristics inaccuracy: levelling deletion of crucial details sharpening exaggeration of the most dramatic details while the grapevine generally carries the truth it seldom carries the whole truth

29 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Grapevine Figures 70% of all organizational communication occurs at the grapevine level estimated accuracy rates: 75-90% the incorrect part might change the meaning of the whole message though an estimated 80% of grapevine information is oriented toward the individual while 20% concerns the company

30 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Factors Influencing Grapevine Activity I According to Gordon Allport: importance of the subject for both listener and speaker ambiguousness of the facts Formula: R = i x a “R“: intensity of the rumor “i“: importance of the rumor to the persons “a“:ambiguity of the facts associated with the rumor

31 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Factors influencing Grapevine Activity II Employees rely on the grapevine when: they feel threatened, insecure, under stress when there is pending change when communication from management is limited

32 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Positive Aspects of the Grapevine social function reduction of anxiety release mechanism for stress identification of pending problems early warning system for organizational change vehicle for creating a common organizational culture desired information can be circulated quickly to a large group of subordinates (inofficially!)

33 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Coping or Managing the Grapevine “the grapevine cannot be abolished, rubbed out, hidden under a basket, chopped down, tied up, or stopped“ (Managing the Grapevine, p.222)  don‘t try to control or restrict it  use it to supplement formal channels

34 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication “Tapping“ the Grapevine identify and make use of key communicators (  bridgers) monitor what is happening in the organization use the grapevine to give new ideas a “trial run“

35 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Preventing Rumors provide information through the formal system of communication on the issues important to the employees supply employees with a steady flow of clear, accurate and timely information present full facts keep formal communication lines open and the process as short as possible

36 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Formal Media Company newsletters Employee handbooks Company magazines Formal meetings

37 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Formal Media Letters Flyers and bulletins Memos Faxes All-employees mailings

38 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Informal Media Face-to-face discussions Telephone Voice messaging (voice mail) Instant messaging (chat)

39 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Informal Dialogues Characteristics: often no formal opening or closing first utterance often assumes a common reference to a previous interaction or issue conversations generally last only a few minutes

40 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Example Dialogue A tracking request made by Maureen to Bina about Ian (BOffice35, 9secs). Maureen pops her head over the wall of Bina's cubicle. 1 M: Bina you don't know when Ian's due- oh here's Jane now- know when Ian's back? 2 B: Tomorrow I expect 3 M: Ahh 4 B: Oh yeah he's out today yeah

41 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication An intended interaction leading to unprompted advice (ROffice 66, 28sec of 1min:36sec) Frank is on the phone across the office from Richard. Frank puts down phone. 1 R: Is he alright? 2 F: Yeah 3 R: Which one's he's got? there's a restaurant 4 F: I said that I'll do this one initially and then further afield 5 R: Which one's that? 6 F: That's: eighty two whiteladies road it's the offices 7 R: Oh, yeah we act for the landlord on that one. I did a rent review against him on that 8 F: Right () 9 R: His shop it might be worth checking out he's got a sub-tenant 10 downstairs who's got a clothes shop 11 F: Yeah 12 R: Might be worth trying to get in with them as well 13 F: Yeah alright Example Dialogue

42 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Informal Communication and Physical Proximity Can long distance informal communication be supported by technology? physical proximity is crucial for informal communication trends towards telework, mobile work and the globalisation of business are geographically separating workers

43 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication The Nature of Informal Communication I mostly brief interactions mainly opportunistic (  coordination, initiation) often time-lags between informal interactions (  maintenance and re- establishment of context) occur between frequent interactants who often share large amounts of background knowledge

44 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication The Nature of Informal Communication II communications in offices more frequent than in public areas majority of “roaming“ interactions self-initiated interruptability (importance of prior activity) interactions are very often terminated by a third party joining an existing conversation role of deixis documents involved in 53% of all Own Office interactions

45 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Literatur I Ball, Philip (2003): reveals real leaders. Network analysis maps companies‘ informal structure. Nature News Service/Macmillan Magazines Ltd, 20 March Beger, Rudolf, Gärtner, Hans-Dieter, Mathes, Rainer (1989):Unternehmenskommunikation. Wiesbaden:Gabler, Frankfurt(Main):Frankfurter Allgemeine. Böhle, Fritz, Bolte, Annegret (2002): Die Entdeckung des Informellen. München: ISF. Buchanan, David; Huczynski, Andrzej (2000): Organizational Behaviour. An introductory text. London : Prentice Hall. Crampton, Suzanne M.; Hodge, John W.; Mishra, Jitendra M. (1998): The Informal Communication Network: Factors Influencing Grapevine Activity. Public Personnel Management, Vol. 27, No. 4, Winter Greenberg, Gerald; Baron, Robert A. (1997): Behavior in Organizations. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

46 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Literatur II Kesten, Ulrike (1998): Informale Organisation und Mitarbeiter- Lebenszyklus. Wiesbaden: Deutscher Universitäts-Verlag. Kraut, Robert E., Fish, Robert S., Root, Robert W., Chalfonte, Barbara L. (1990): Informal Communication in Organizations: Form, Function and Technology. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications. Mishra, Jitendra (1990): Managing the Grapevine. Public Personnel Management, Vol. 19, No. 2, Summer Whittaker, Steve; Frohlich, David; Daly-Jones, Owen (1994): Informal Workplace Communication: What is it like and how might we support it? Human Factors in Computing Systems, Boston, Massachusets, USA.

47 11/18/2003Formal and Informal Channels of Communication Literatur III ral/HTML%20Folder/KM/bcp/tools_SocialNetWork.htm# Top ral/HTML%20Folder/KM/bcp/tools_SocialNetWork.htm# Top otes/struc350.html otes/struc350.html mployeeHandbook.cfm mployeeHandbook.cfm 3.htm 3.htm hill.com/sites/ /student_view0/chapter1/cha pter_overview.html hill.com/sites/ /student_view0/chapter1/cha pter_overview.html


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