messaging to communicate with colleagues

messaging to communicate with colleagues

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Sixty percent. That’s the percentage of respondents in a recent employee survey who said that gossip was their biggest pet peeve about their jobs. Most gossip centers around the workplace and the personal lives of coworkers. How often have you gossiped at work . . . either as a sender or a receiver? Although you may think workplace gossip is harmless, it can have some pretty serious consequences. First, spreading rumors can damage morale and increase anxiety. Secondly, it can hamper productivity and impact performance. And it can lead to something you might not even have considered, as it did for four former employees of the town of Hooksett, New Hampshire. Fired by the city council for gossiping about their boss, they learned the hard way that gossip can cost you your job.1

The longtime employees were fired because one of the women had used derogatory terms to describe the town administrator and because all of them had discussed a rumor that he was having an affair with a female sub- ordinate. All four of the women acknowledged feeling resentment toward the woman, who worked in a specially created position and was paid more than two of the employees, despite having less experience and seniority.

Despite an appeal of their dismissal by the four employees, the Hooksett council didn’t budge and stated, “These employees do not represent the best interests of the town of Hooksett and the false rumors, gossip and

derogatory statements have contributed to a negative working environment and malcontent among their fellow employees.” Despite national media attention

and a petition signed by 419 residents asking for the women to be reinstated, the city council didn’t waver on its decision. An attorney for the four women

said that his clients were, “legitimately questioning the conduct of their supervisor, and whether the female

subordinate was getting preferential treatment. It almost cheapens it to call it gossip. It might have been idle, not particularly thoughtful, talk. But there was no harm intended.”

Although the four women represented nearly 50 years of combined service to the city and all had positive performance reviews, the town coun-

cil believed that the women’s actions were “insubordinate” and “dishonest.” All four

received a settlement for being fired, which cost the town a total of $330,000. The settlement agreement also stipu- lated, however, that two of the women can never apply for a job with the town again.

Gossip Girls

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12.1

Describe what managers need to know

about communicating

effectively.

320

Communication takes place every day in every organization. In all areas. By all organiza-

tional members. Most of that communication tends to be work-related, but as this story

shows, sometimes that communication doesn’t lead to positive outcomes. In this chapter,

we’re going to look at basic concepts of interpersonal communication. We’ll explain the

communication process, methods of communicating, barriers to effective communication,

and ways to overcome those barriers. In addition, we’ll review several communication-based

interpersonal skills including active listening, providing feedback, delegating, managing

conflict, and negotiating. Managers must be proficient at these skills to be able to manage

effectively in today’s organizations.

How Do Managers Communicate Effectively? The importance of effective communication for managers cannot be overemphasized for one specific reason: Everything a manager does involves communicating. Not some things but everything! A manager can’t formulate strategy or make a decision without information. That informa-

tion has to be communicated. Once a decision is made, communication must again take place. Otherwise, no one will know that a decision has been made.

The best idea, the most creative suggestion, or the finest plan cannot take form without communication. Managers, therefore, need effective communication skills. We’re not suggesting, of course, that good communication skills alone make a successful manager. We can say, however, that ineffective communication skills can lead to a continuous stream of problems for a manager.

How Does the Communication Process Work? Communication can be thought of as a process or flow. Communication problems occur when deviations or blockages disrupt that flow. Before communication can take place, a purpose, expressed as a message to be conveyed, is needed. It passes between a source (the sender) and a receiver. The message is encoded (converted to symbolic form) and is passed by way of some medium (channel) to the receiver, who retranslates (decodes) the message initiated by the sender. The result is communication, which is a transfer of understanding and meaning from one person to another.2

Exhibit 12-1 depicts the communication process. This model has seven parts: (1) the communication source or sender, (2) encoding, (3) the message, (4) the channel, (5) decoding, (6) the receiver, and (7) feedback.

The source initiates a message by encoding a thought. Four conditions affect the encoded message: skill, attitudes, knowledge, and the social cultural system. Our message in our communication to you in this book depends on our writing skills; if we don’t have the requisite writing skills, our message will not reach you in the form desired. Keep in mind that a person’s total communicative success includes speaking, reading, listening, and reasoning skills as well. As we discussed in Chapter 8, our attitudes influence our behavior. We hold predisposed ideas on numerous topics, and our communications are affected by these attitudes. Furthermore, we’re restricted in our communicative activity by the extent of our knowledge of the particular topic. We can’t communicate what we don’t know, and should our knowledge be too extensive, it’s possible that our receiver will not understand our message. Clearly, the amount of knowledge the source holds about his or her subject will affect the message he or she seeks to transfer. And, finally, just as attitudes influence our behavior, so does our position in the social cultural system in which we exist. Your beliefs and values, all part of your culture, act to influence you as a communicative source.

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Message

Noise

Noi se Noise

Nois e

Purpose Message MessageP Sender

M Encoding

e M Channel

Me Decoding

e Receiver

Message transferred successfully? Feedback

EXHIBIT 12-1 The Communication Process

The message is the actual physical product from the source that conveys some purpose. When we speak, the words spoken are the message. When we write, the writing is the message. When we paint, the picture is the message. When we gesture, the move- ments of our arms, the expressions on our faces are the message.3 Our message is affected by the code or group of symbols we use to transfer meaning, the content of the message itself, and the decisions that we make in selecting and arranging both codes and content.4

The channel is the medium through which the message travels. It’s selected by the source, who must determine which channel is formal and which one is informal. Formal channels are established by the organization and transmit messages that pertain to the job- related activities of members. They traditionally follow the authority network within the organization. Other forms of messages, such as personal or social, follow the informal channels in the organization.

The receiver is the person to whom the message is directed. However, before the message can be received, the symbols in it must be translated into a form that can be under- stood by the receiver—the decoding of the message. Just as the encoder was limited by his or her skills, attitudes, knowledge, and social cultural system, the receiver is equally restricted. Accordingly, the source must be skillful in writing or speaking; the receiver must be skillful in reading or listening, and both must be able to reason. A person’s knowledge, attitudes, and cultural background influence his or her ability to receive, just as they do the ability to send.

The final link in the communication process is a feedback loop. “If a communication source decodes the message that he encodes, if the message is put back into his system, we have feedback.”5 Feedback is the check on how successful we have been in transferring our messages as originally intended. It determines whether understanding has been achieved. Given the cultural diversity that exists in our workforce today, the importance of effective feedback to ensure proper communications cannot be overstated.6

communication process The seven-step process in which understanding and meaning is transferred from one person to another.

communication A transfer of understanding and meaning from one person to another. feedback

Checking to see how successfully a message has been transferred.

decoding Translating a received message.

channel The medium by which a message travels.

message A purpose for communicating that’s to be conveyed.

encoding Converting a message into symbolic form.

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322 PART FOUR | LEADING

Are Written Communications More Effective Than Verbal Ones? Written communications include memos, letters, e-mail, organizational periodicals, bulletin boards, or any other device that transmits written words or symbols. Why would a sender choose to use written communications? Because they’re tangible, verifiable, and more per- manent than the oral variety. Typically, both sender and receiver have a record of the commu- nication. The message can be stored for an indefinite period of time. If questions arise about the content of the message, it’s physically available for later reference. This feature is partic- ularly important for complex or lengthy communications. For example, the marketing plan for a new product is likely to contain a number of tasks spread out over several months. By putting it in writing, those who have to carry out the plan can readily refer to the document over the life of the plan. A final benefit of written communication comes from the process itself. Except in rare instances, such as when presenting a formal speech, more care is taken with the written word than with the spoken word. Having to put something in writing forces a person to think more carefully about what he or she wants to convey. Therefore, written communications are more likely to be well thought out, logical, and clear.

Of course, written messages have their drawbacks. Writing may be more precise, but it also consumes a great deal of time. You could convey far more information to your college instructor in a one-hour oral exam than in a one-hour written exam. In fact, you could probably say in 10 to 15 minutes what it takes you an hour to write. The other major disadvantage is feedback or, rather, lack of it. Oral communications allow receivers to respond rapidly to what they think they hear. However, written communications don’t have a built-in feedback mechanism. Sending a memo is no assurance that it will be received and, if it is received, no guarantee that the recipient will interpret it as the sender meant. The latter point is also relevant in oral communication, but it’s easier in such cases merely to ask the receiver to summarize what you have said. An accurate summary presents feed- back evidence that the message has been received and understood.

Is the Grapevine an Effective Way to Communicate? The grapevine is the unofficial way that communications take place in an organization. It’s neither authorized nor supported by the organization. Rather, information is spread by word of mouth—and even through electronic means. Ironically, good information passes among us rapidly, but bad information travels even faster.7 The grapevine gets information out to organizational members as quickly as possible.

Kicking off the grand opening celebration of a new Cabela’s outdoor-supply store, the company’s sales manager and store manager high-five each other before delivering an employee pep talk. For this type of message, oral communication is much more effective than written communication because it gives the senders and the receivers of the message the opportunity to respond rapidly to what they hear. Before opening the doors of the store to customers, the managers take this opportunity to give employees last-minute details about their work and to motivate them in giving customers a special welcome to the store.

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From the Past to the Present• • One of the most famous studies of the grapevine was conducted by management researcher Keith Davis who investigated the communication patterns among 67 manage- rial personnel.8 The approach he used was to learn from each communication recipient how he or she first received a given piece of information and then trace it back to its source. It was found that, while the grapevine was an important source of information, only 10 percent of the executives acted as liaison individuals (that is, passed the information on to more than one other person). For example, when one executive decided to resign to enter the insurance business, 81 percent of the execu- tives knew about it, but only 11 percent transmitted this informa- tion to others. At the time, this study was interesting both because of what it found, but more importantly because of what it showed about how the communication network worked.

Recent research by IBM and Massachusetts Institute of Technology using a similar type of analysis focused more on people’s social networks of contacts at work rather than on how information flowed through the organiza- tional grapevine. However, what was noticeably interest- ing about this study was that it found that employees who have strong communication ties with their managers tend to bring in more money than those who steer clear of the boss.

What managers can learn from both these studies is that it’s important to understand the social and communication networks that employees use as they do their work. Know who the key contact points are so that if you ever need to find out or relay information, you know who to go to.

The biggest question raised about grapevines, however, focuses on the accuracy of the rumors. Research on this topic has found somewhat mixed results. In an organization charac- terized by openness, the grapevine may be extremely accurate. In an authoritative culture, the rumor mill may not be accurate. But even then, although the information flowing is inaccu- rate, it still contains some element of truth. Rumors about major layoffs, plant closings, and the like may be filled with inaccurate information regarding who will be affected or when it may occur. Nonetheless, the reports that something is about to happen are probably on target.

How Do Nonverbal Cues Affect Communication? Some of the most meaningful communications are neither spoken nor written. These are nonverbal communications. A loud siren or a red light at an intersection tells you some- thing without words. A college instructor doesn’t need words to know that students are bored; their eyes get glassy or they begin to read the school newspaper during class. Similarly, when papers start to rustle and notebooks begin to close, the message is clear: Class time is about over. The size of a person’s office and desk or the clothes he or she wears also convey messages to others. However, the best-known areas of nonverbal communica- tion are body language and verbal intonation.

Body language refers to gestures, facial expressions, and other body movements.9

A snarl, for example, says something different from a smile. Hand motions, facial expressions, and other gestures can communicate emotions or temperaments such as aggression, fear, shyness, arrogance, joy, and anger.10

Verbal intonation refers to the emphasis someone gives to words or phrases. To illustrate how intonations can change the meaning of a message, consider the student who asks the instructor a question. The instructor replies, “What do you mean by that?” The student’s reaction will vary, depending on the tone of the instructor’s response. A soft, smooth tone creates a different meaning from one that is abrasive with a strong emphasis on the last word. Most of us would view the first intonation as coming from someone who sincerely sought clarification, whereas the second suggests that the person is aggressive or defensive. The adage, “It’s not what you say but how you say it,” is something managers should remember as they communicate.

verbal intonation An emphasis given to words or phrases that conveys meaning.

body language Nonverbal communication cues such as facial expressions, gestures, and other body movements.

grapevine An unofficial channel of communication.

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324 PART FOUR | LEADING

BARRIER DESCRIPTION

Filtering The deliberate manipulation of information to make it appear more favorable to the receiver.

Selective Perception Receiving communications on the basis of what one selectively sees and hears depending on his or her needs, motivation, experience, background, and other personal characteristics.

Information Overload When the amount of information one has to work with exceeds one’s processing capacity.

Emotions How the receiver feels when a message is received.

Language Words have different meanings to different people. Receivers will use their definition of words being communicated.

Gender How males and females react to communication may be different, and they each have a different communication style.

National Culture Communication differences arising from the different languages that individuals use to communicate and the national culture of which they are a part.

EXHIBIT 12-2 Barriers to Effective Communication

The fact that every oral communication also has a nonverbal message cannot be overemphasized.11 Why? Because the nonverbal component is likely to carry the greatest impact. Research indicates that from 65 to 90 percent of the message of every face-to-face conversation is interpreted through body language. Without complete agreement between the spoken words and the body language that accompanies it, receivers are more likely to react to body language as the “true meaning.”12

What Barriers Keep Communication from Being Effective? A number of interpersonal and intrapersonal barriers help to explain why the message decoded by a receiver is often different from that which the sender intended. We summarize the more prominent barriers to effective communication in Exhibit 12-2 and briefly describe them here.

HOW DOES FILTERING AFFECT COMMUNICATION? Filtering refers to the way that a sender manipulates information so that it will be seen more favorably by the receiver. For example, when a manager tells his boss what he feels that boss wants to hear, he is filtering information. Does filtering happen much in organizations? Sure it does. As information is passed up to senior executives, it has to be condensed and synthesized by subordinates so upper management doesn’t become overloaded with information. Those doing the condensing filter communications through their own personal interests and perceptions of what’s important.

The extent of filtering tends to be the function of the organization’s culture and number of vertical levels in the organization. More vertical levels in an organization mean more opportunities for filtering. As organizations become less dependent on strict hierarchical arrangements and instead use more collaborative, cooperative work arrangements, information filtering may become less of a problem. In addition, the ever-increasing use of e-mail to communicate in organizations reduces filtering because communication is more direct as intermediaries are bypassed. Finally, the organiza- tional culture encourages or discourages filtering by the type of behavior it rewards. The more that organizational rewards emphasize style and appearance, the more managers will be motivated to filter communications in their favor.

HOW DOES SELECTIVE PERCEPTION AFFECT COMMUNICATION? The second barrier is selective perception. We’ve mentioned selective perception before in this book. We discuss it again here because the receivers in the communication process selectively see

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CHAPTER 12 | COMMUNICATION AND INTERPERSONAL SKILLS 325

and hear based on their needs, motivations, experience, background, and other personal characteristics. Receivers also project their interests and expectations into com- munications as they decode them. The employment interviewer who expects a female job applicant to put her family ahead of her career is likely to see that tendency in female applicants, regardless of whether the applicants would do so or not. As we said in Chapter 8, we don’t see reality; rather, we interpret what we see and call it reality.

HOW DOES INFORMATION OVERLOAD AFFECT COMMUNICATION? Individuals have a finite capaci- ty for processing data. For instance, consider the inter- national sales representative who returns home to find that she has more than 600 e-mails waiting for her. It’s not possible to fully read and respond to each one of those messages without facing information overload. Today’s typical executive frequently complains of information overload.13 The demands of keeping up with e-mail, phone calls, faxes, meetings, and professional reading create an onslaught of data that is nearly impossible to process and assimilate. What happens when you have more information than you can sort out and use? You’re likely to select out, ignore, pass over, or forget information. Or you may put off further processing until the overload situation is over. In any case, the result is lost information and less effective communication.

HOW DO EMOTIONS AFFECT COMMUNICATION? How a receiver feels when a message is received influences how he or she interprets it. You’ll often interpret the same message differently, depending on whether you’re happy or distressed. Extreme emotions are most likely to hinder effective communications. In such instances, we often disregard our rational and objective thinking processes and substitute emotional judgments. It’s best to avoid reacting to a message when you’re upset because you’re not likely to be thinking clearly.

HOW DOES LANGUAGE AFFECT COMMUNICATION? Words mean different things to different people. “The meanings of words are not in the words; they are in us.”14 Age, education, and cultural background are three of the more obvious variables that influ- ence the language a person uses and the definitions he or she applies to words. Columnist George F. Will and rap artist Nelly both speak English. But the language one uses is vastly different from how the other speaks.

In an organization, employees usually come from diverse backgrounds and, therefore, have different patterns of speech. Additionally, the grouping of employees into departments creates specialists who develop their own jargon or technical language.15 In large organiza- tions, members are also frequently widely dispersed geographically—even operating in different countries—and individuals in each locale will use terms and phrases that are unique to their area.16 And the existence of vertical levels can also cause language problems. The language of senior executives, for instance, can be mystifying to regular employees not familiar with management jargon. Keep in mind that while we may speak the same lan- guage, our use of that language is far from uniform. Senders tend to assume that the words and phrases they use mean the same to the receiver as they do to them. This assumption, of

selective perception Selectively perceiving or hearing a communication based on your own needs, motivations, experiences, or other personal characteristics.

filtering Deliberately manipulating information to make it appear more favorable to the receiver.

jargon Technical language.

information overload What results when information exceeds processing capacity.

One of the barriers to effective communication is information overload. Because people have a limit to how much information they can process, too much information can affect the communication process. When it becomes almost impossible to process and assimilate too much data, people are prone to ignore, pass over, or forget information. This often results in lost information or less effective communication. Efforts to remove the barrier of information overload include an experiment by Intel Corporation’s chip design group. They tried establishing periods of quiet time for employees and limiting e-mail messages, but employees said they found the experiment too restrictive. The end-of-chapter Case Application describes another organization that tried something similar . . . with similar results.

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326 PART FOUR | LEADING

MANAGING DIVERSITY | The Communication Styles of Men and Women

“You don’t understand what I’m saying, and you never listen!” “You’re making a big deal out of nothing.” Have you said statements like these to friends of the opposite sex? Most of us probably have! Research shows, as does personal experience, that men and women communicate differently.19

Deborah Tannen has studied the ways that men and women communicate and reports some interesting differ- ences. The essence of her research is that men use talk to emphasize status, while women use it to create connection. She states that communication between the sexes can be a continual balancing act of juggling our conflicting needs for intimacy, which suggests closeness and commonality, and independence, which emphasizes separateness and differences. It’s no wonder, then, that communication problems arise! Women speak and hear a language of connection and intimacy. Men hear and speak a language of status and independence. For many men, conversations are merely a way to preserve independence and maintain status in a hierarchical social order. Yet for many women, conversations are negotiations for closeness and seeking out support and confirmation. Let’s look at a few examples of what Tannen has described.

Men frequently complain that women talk on and on about their problems. Women, however, criticize men for not listening. What’s happening is that when a man hears a woman talking about a problem, he frequently asserts his desire for independence and control by offering solu- tions. Many women, in contrast, view conversing about a

problem as a way to promote closeness. The woman talks about a problem to gain support and connection, not to get the male’s advice.

Here’s another example: Men are often more direct than women in conversation. A man might say, “I think you’re wrong on that point.” A woman might say, “Have you looked at the marketing department’s research report on that issue?” The implication in the woman’s comment is that the report will point out the error. Men frequently misread women’s indirectness as “covert” or “sneaky,” but women aren’t as concerned as men with the status and one- upmanship that directness often creates.

Finally, men often criticize women for seeming to apologize all the time. Men tend to see the phrase “I’m sorry” as a sign of weakness because they interpret the phrase to mean the woman is accepting blame, when he may know she’s not to blame. The woman also knows she’s not at fault. Yet she’s typically using “I’m sorry” to express regret: “I know you must feel bad about this and I do, too.”

How can these differences in communication styles be managed? Keeping gender differences from becoming persistent barriers to effective communication requires acceptance, understanding, and a commitment to communicate adaptively with each other. Both men and women need to acknowledge that there are differ- ences in communication styles, that one style isn’t better than the other, and that it takes real effort to “talk” with each other successfully.

course, is incorrect and creates communication barriers. Knowing how each of us modifies the language would help minimize those barriers.

HOW DOES GENDER AFFECT COMMUNICATION? Effective communication between the sexes is important in all organizations if they are to meet organizational goals. But how can we manage the various differences in communication styles? To keep gender differences from becoming persistent barriers to effective communication requires acceptance, under- standing, and a commitment to communicate adaptively with each other. Both men and women need to acknowledge that there are differences in communication styles, that one style isn’t better than the other, and that it takes real effort to talk with each other success- fully. See the “Managing Diversity” box for more information on how men and women communicate.

HOW DOES NATIONAL CULTURE AFFECT COMMUNICATION? Finally, communication differences can also arise from the different languages that individuals use to communicate and the national culture of which they’re a part.17 For example, let’s compare countries that place a high value on individualism (such as the United States) with countries where the emphasis is on collectivism (such as Japan).18

In the United States, communication patterns tend to be oriented to the individual and clearly spelled out. Managers in the United States rely heavily on memoranda, announce- ments, position papers, and other formal forms of communication to state their positions on issues. Supervisors here may hoard information in an attempt to make themselves look good (filtering) and as a way of persuading their employees to accept decisions and plans. And for their own protection, lower-level employees also engage in this practice.

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In collectivist countries, such as Japan, there’s more interaction for its own sake and a more informal manner of interpersonal contact. The Japanese manager, in contrast to the U.S. manager, engages in extensive verbal consultation with employees over an issue first and draws up a formal document later to outline the agreement that was made. The Japanese value decisions by consensus, and open communication is an inherent part of the work setting. Also, face-to-face communication is encouraged.20

Cultural differences can affect the way a manager chooses to communicate.21 And these differences undoubtedly can be a barrier to effective communication if not recognized and taken into consideration.

How Can Managers Overcome Communication Barriers? Given these barriers to communication, what can managers do to overcome them? The following suggestions should help make communication more effective (see also Exhibit 12-3).

WHY USE FEEDBACK? Many communication problems are directly attributed to misun- derstanding and inaccuracies. These problems are less likely to occur if the manager gets feedback, both verbal and nonverbal.

A manager can ask questions about a message to determine whether it was received and understood as intended. Or the manager can ask the receiver to restate the message in his or her own words. If the manager hears what was intended, understanding and accuracy should improve. Feedback can also be more subtle as general comments can give a manager a sense of the receiver’s reaction to a message.

Feedback doesn’t have to be verbal. If a sales manager e-mails information about a new monthly sales report that all sales representatives will need to complete and some of them don’t turn it in, the sales manager has received feedback. This feedback suggests that the sales manager needs to clarify the initial communication. Similarly, managers can look for nonverbal cues to tell whether someone’s getting the message.

WHY SHOULD SIMPLIFIED LANGUAGE BE USED? Because language can be a barrier, managers should consider the audience to whom the message is directed and tailor the language to them. Remember, effective communication is achieved when a message is both received and understood. This means, for example, that a hospital administrator should always try to communicate in clear, easily understood terms and to use language tailored to different employee groups. Messages to the surgical staff should be purpose- fully different from that used with office employees. Jargon can facilitate understand- ing if it’s used within a group that knows what it means, but can cause problems when used outside that group.

Use Feedback Check the accuracy of what has been communicated—or what you think you heard.

Simplify Language Use words that the intended audience understands.

Listen Actively Listen for the full meaning of the message without making premature judgment or interpretation—or thinking about what you are going to say in response.

Constrain Emotions Recognize when your emotions are running high. When they are, don’t communicate until you have calmed down.

Watch Nonverbal Cues Be aware that your actions speak louder than your words. Keep the two consistent.

EXHIBIT 12-3 Overcoming Barriers to Effective Communication

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328 PART FOUR | LEADING

Developing Your Skill About the Skill Active listening requires you to concentrate on what is being said. It’s more than just hearing the words. It involves a concerted effort to understand and interpret the speaker’s message.

Steps in Practicing the Skill 1 Make eye contact. How do you feel when somebody

doesn’t look at you when you’re speaking? If you’re like most people, you’re likely to interpret this behavior as aloofness or disinterest. Making eye contact with the speaker focuses your attention, reduces the likeli- hood that you will become distracted, and encour- ages the speaker.

2 Exhibit affirmative nods and appropriate facial expressions. The effective listener shows interest in what is being said through nonverbal signals. Affirma- tive nods and appropriate facial expressions, when added to good eye contact, convey to the speaker that you’re listening.

3 Avoid distracting actions or gestures that suggest boredom. In addition to showing interest, you must avoid actions that suggest that your mind is some- where else. When listening, don’t look at your watch, shuffle papers, play with your pencil, or engage in similar distractions. They make the speaker feel that you’re bored or disinterested, or indicate that you aren’t fully attentive.

4 Ask questions. The critical listener analyzes what he or she hears and asks questions. This behavior provides clarification, ensures understanding, and assures the speaker that you’re listening.

5 Paraphrase using your own words. The effective listener uses phrases such as “What I hear you saying is . . .” or “Do you mean . . .?” Paraphrasing is an excellent control device to check on whether you’re listening carefully and to verify that what you heard is accurate.

6 Avoid interrupting the speaker. Let the speaker com- plete his or her thought before you try to respond. Don’t try to second-guess where the speaker’s thoughts are going. When the speaker is finished, you’ll know it.

7 Don’t overtalk. Most of us would rather express our own ideas than listen to what someone else says. Talking might be more fun and silence might be uncomfortable, but you can’t talk and listen at the same time. The good listener recognizes this fact and doesn’t overtalk.

8 Make smooth transitions between the roles of speaker and listener. The effective listener makes transitions smoothly from speaker to listener and back to speaker. From a listening perspective, this means concentrating on what a speaker has to say and practicing not thinking about what you’re going to say as soon as you get your chance.

Practicing the Skill Ask a friend to tell you about his or her day and listen with- out interrupting. When your friend has finished speaking, ask two or three questions, if needed, to obtain more clarity and detail. Listen carefully to the answers. Now summarize your friend’s day in no more than five sentences.

How well did you do? Let your friend rate the accuracy of your paraphrase (and try not to interrupt).

WHY MUST WE LISTEN ACTIVELY? When someone talks, we hear. But too often we don’t listen. Listening is an active search for meaning, whereas hearing is passive. In listening, the receiver is also putting effort into the communication.

Many of us are poor listeners. Why? Because it’s difficult, and most of us would rather do the talking. Listening, in fact, is often more tiring than talking. Unlike hearing, active listening, which is listening for full meaning without making premature judgments or interpretations, demands total concentration. The average person normally speaks at a rate of about 125 to 200 words per minute. However, the average listener can comprehend up to 400 words per minute.22

The difference leaves lots of idle brain time and opportunities for the mind to wander. Active listening is enhanced by developing empathy with the sender—that is, by

putting yourself in the sender’s position. Because senders differ in attitudes, interests, needs, and expectations, empathy makes it easier to understand the actual content of a message. An empathetic listener reserves judgment on the message’s content and carefully listens to what is being said. The goal is to improve one’s ability to get the full meaning of a communication without distorting it by premature judgments or interpretations. Other specific behaviors that active listeners demonstrate are discussed in the “Developing Your Active-Listening Skill” box.

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Explain how technology

affects managerial

communication.

12.2

WHY MUST WE CONSTRAIN EMOTIONS? It would be naïve to assume that managers always communicate in a rational manner. We know that emotions can cloud and distort communication. A manager who’s upset over an issue is more likely to misconstrue incoming messages and fail to communicate his or her outgoing messages clearly and accurately. What to do? The sim- plest answer is to calm down and get emotions under control before communicating. The following is a good example of why it’s important to be aware of your emo- tions before communicating.

Neal L. Patterson, CEO of Cerner Corporation, a health care software development company based in Kansas City, was upset with the fact that employees didn’t seem to be putting in enough hours. So he sent an angry and emotional e-mail to about 400 company managers that said, in part:

We are getting less than 40 hours of work from a large number of our K.C.-based EMPLOYEES. The parking lot is sparsely used at 8 a.m.; likewise at 5 p.m. As managers, you either do not know what your EMPLOYEES are doing, or you do not CARE. You have created expectations on the work effort which allowed this to happen inside Cerner, creating a very unhealthy environment. In either case, you have a problem and you will fix it or I will replace you . . . I will hold you accountable. You have allowed things to get to this state. You have two weeks. Tick, tock.”23

Although the e-mail was meant only for the company’s managers, it was leaked and posted on an Internet discussion site. The tone of the e-mail surprised industry analysts, investors, and of course, Cerner’s managers and employees. The company’s stock price dropped 22 percent over the next three days. Patterson apologized to his employees and acknowledged, “I lit a match and started a firestorm.”

WHY THE EMPHASIS ON NONVERBAL CUES? If actions speak louder than words, then it’s important to make sure your actions align with and reinforce the words that go along with them. An effective communicator watches his or her nonverbal cues to ensure that they convey the desired message.

How Is Technology Affecting Managerial Communication? Information technology has radically changed the way organizational members communicate. For example, it has significantly improved a manager’s ability to monitor individual and team performance, it has allowed employees to have more complete information to make faster decisions, and it has provided employees more opportunities to collaborate and share information. In addition, information technology has made it possible for people in organizations to be fully accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, regardless of where they are. Employees don’t have to be at their desks with their computers turned on in order to commu- nicate with others in the organization. Three developments in information technology appear to have had a significant effect on current managerial communication: networked computer systems, wireless capabilities, and knowledge management systems.

CHAPTER 12 | COMMUNICATION AND INTERPERSONAL SKILLS 329

active listening Listening for full meaning without making premature judgments or interpretations.

Roman Garza, manager of a Target store, concentrates intensely while listening to an employee who approached him about a work scheduling concern. Garza’s active listening skill requires intense concentration so he can focus on the speaker and tune out the many customary noises and distractions in a retail store environment. Effective listening also requires that Garza empathizes with the employee by trying to understand what she is saying, by listening objectively without judging the content of what she is saying, and by taking responsibility for doing whatever is needed to get the full meaning of what she intends to communicate.

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330 PART FOUR | LEADING

What Are Networked Communication Capabilities? In a networked computer system, an organization links its computers together through compatible hardware and software, creating an integrated organizational network. Organi- zation members can then communicate with each other and tap into information whether they’re down the hall, across town, or anywhere on the globe. Although the mechanics of how network systems work are beyond the scope of this book, we’ll address some of the communication applications.

E-mail is the instantaneous transmission of messages on computers that are linked together. Messages wait at a receiver’s computer and are read at the receiver’s convenience. E-mail is fast and cheap and can be used to send the same message to many people at the same time. It’s a quick and convenient way for organization members to share information and communicate. Files can also be attached to e-mail messages, which enables the receiver to have a hard copy of a document.

Some organization members who find e-mail slow and cumbersome are using instant messaging (IM). This interactive, real-time communication takes place among computer users who are logged on to the computer network at the same time. Instant messaging was first popular among teens and preteens who wanted to communicate with their friends online. Now it’s moved to the workplace. With IM, information that needs to be commu- nicated can be done so instantaneously without waiting for colleagues to read e-mail messages. However, instant messaging is not without its drawbacks. It requires users to be logged on to the organization’s computer network at the same time, which potentially leaves the network open to security breaches.

A voice mail system digitizes a spoken message, transmits it over the network, and stores the message on a disk for the receiver to retrieve later.25 This capability allows infor- mation to be transmitted even though a receiver may not be physically present to take the information. Receivers can choose to save the message for future use, delete it, or route it to other parties.

Fax machines can transmit documents containing both text and graphics over ordinary telephone lines. A sending fax machine scans and digitizes the document, and a receiving fax machine reads the scanned information and reproduces it in hard-copy form. Informa- tion that’s best viewed in printed form can be easily and quickly shared by organization members.

Electronic data interchange (EDI) is a way for organizations to exchange business trans- action documents such as invoices or purchase orders, using direct, computer-to-computer networks. Organizations often use EDI with vendors, suppliers, and customers because it saves time and money. How? Information on transactions is transmitted from one organization’s computer system to another through an interorganizational telecommunications network. The printing and handling of paper documents at one organization are eliminated as is the inputting of data at the other organization.

Meetings—one-on-one, team, divisional, or organization-wide—have always been one way to share information. The limitations of technology used to dictate that meetings take place among people in the same physical location. But that’s no longer the case. Teleconfer- encing allows a group of people to confer simultaneously using telephone or e-mail group communications software. If meeting participants can see each other over video screens, the simultaneous conference is called videoconferencing. Work groups, large and small, which might be in different locations, can use these communication network tools to collaborate and share information. Doing so is often much less expensive than incurring travel costs for bring- ing members together from several locations.

Networked computer systems allow for organizational intranets and extranets. An intranet is an organizational communication network that uses Internet technology but is accessible only to organizational employees. Many organizations are using intranets as ways for employees to share information and collaborate on documents and projects—as well as access company policy manuals and employee-specific materials, such as employee benefits—from different locations.26 An extranet is an organizational communication network that uses Internet technology and allows authorized users inside the organization

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CHAPTER 12 | COMMUNICATION AND INTERPERSONAL SKILLS 331

to communicate with certain outsiders such as customers or vendors. Most of the large auto manufacturers, for example, have extranets that allow faster and more convenient commu- nication with dealers.

Finally, organizations are using Internet-based voice communication. Popular Web sites such as Skype, Vonage, and Yahoo!, among others, let users chat with each other. And a number of companies are using these services for employees to use in conference calls or for instant messaging.

How Have Wireless Capabilities Affected Communication? At Seattle-based Starbucks Corporation, district managers use mobile technology, giving them more time to spend in the company’s stores. A company executive says, “These are the most important people in the company. Each has between 8 to 10 stores that he or she services. And while their primary job is outside of the office—and in those stores—they still need to be connected.”28 As this example shows, wireless communication technology has the ability to improve work for managers and employees.

While networked computer systems require organizations and organizational members to be connected by wires, wireless communication doesn’t. Smartphones, netbook computers, notebook computers, and other pocket communication devices have spawned a whole new way for managers to “keep in touch.” Globally, millions of users use wireless technology to send and receive information from anywhere. One result: Employees no longer have to be at their desks with their computers plugged in and turned on in order to communicate with others in the organization. As technology continues to advance in this area, we’ll see more and more organization members using wireless communication as a way to collaborate and share information.29

How Does Knowledge Management Affect Communication? Part of a manager’s responsibility in fostering an environment conducive to learning and effective communications is to create learning capabilities throughout the organization. These opportunities should extend from the lowest to the highest levels in all areas. How

FYEO—DECODING COMMUNICATION JARGON

Okay . . . how well do you know thenet lingo?27 If you received an e-mailor text message with GFTD written in it, would you know what that meant? What

about NSFW or BIL? When an employee

received an e-mail at work from a friend with

an attached slideshow entitled “Awkward

Family Photos,” she clicked through it and

saw some pretty unusual—yes, awkward—

photos. Looking back at the e-mail, that’s

when she also saw the abbreviation “NSFW”

written at the bottom. Not knowing what that

was, she looked the abbreviation up on

netlingo.com (one of several Web sites that

translate Internet and texting abbreviations).

Come to find out, she should have paid more

attention to the abbreviation since NSFW

stands for “not safe for work.”

“As text-messaging shorthand becomes

increasingly widespread in e-mails, text mes-

sages, and Tweets,” people need to be aware

of what it means. At many workplaces, a

working knowledge of Net lingo is becoming

necessary. As employees use social media

sites like Twitter and Facebook and even text

messaging to communicate with colleagues

and customers, the shorthand abbreviations

are often necessary to stay within message

length limits. However, as the NSFW example

showed, not knowing or even misunderstand-

ing the lingo can lead to surprises, inappro-

priate responses, or miscommunications.

(BTW—which is net lingo for “by the

way”—FYEO means “for your eyes only,”

GFTD stands for “gone for the day,” and BIL is

“boss is listening.”)

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12.3

Discuss the

interpersonal skills that

every manager needs.

332 PART FOUR | LEADING

can managers create such an environment? An important step is recognizing the value of knowledge as a major resource, just like cash, raw materials, or office equipment. To illustrate the value of knowledge, think about how you register for your college classes. Do you talk to others who have had a certain professor? Do you listen to their experiences with this individual and make your decision based on what they have to say (their knowledge about the situation)? If you do, you’re tap- ping into the value of knowledge. But in an organization, just recognizing the value of accumulated knowledge or wisdom isn’t enough. Managers must deliberately manage that base of knowledge. Knowledge management involves cultivating a learning culture in which organizational members systemati- cally gather knowledge and share it with others in the organiza- tion so as to achieve better performance.30 For instance, accountants and consultants at Ernst and Young document best practices that they’ve developed, unusual problems they’ve dealt with, and other work information. This “knowledge” is then shared with all employees through computer-based applications and through community of interest teams that meet regularly throughout the company. Many other organizations—General Electric, Toyota, Hewlett-Packard—have recognized the impor- tance of knowledge management within a learning organization (see Chapter 5). Today’s technologies are helping improve knowledge management and facilitating organizational com- munications and decision making.

What Interpersonal Skills Do Managers Need? Would it surprise you to know that more managers are probably fired because of poor interpersonal skills than for a lack of technical ability?31

Moreover, a survey of top executives at Fortune 500 companies found that interpersonal skills were the most important consideration in hiring senior-

level employees.32 Because managers ultimately get things done through others, competencies in leadership, communication, and other interpersonal

skills are prerequisites to managerial effectiveness.33 Therefore, the rest of this chapter focuses on key interpersonal skills that every manager needs.34

Why Are Active Listening Skills Important? Previously, we discussed the importance of active listening. It’s one of the most important interpersonal skills that managers can develop. But active listening is hard work. You have to concentrate, and you have to want to fully understand what a speaker is saying. Students who use active listening techniques for an entire 75-minute lecture are as tired as their instructor when the lecture is over because they’ve put as much energy into listening as the instructor put into speaking.

Active listening requires four essential elements: (1) intensity, (2) empathy, (3) acceptance, and (4) a willingness to take responsibility for completeness.35 As noted, the human brain is capable of handling a speaking rate that’s faster than that of the average speaker, leaving a lot of time for daydreaming. The active listener concentrates intensely on what the speaker is saying and tunes out the thousands of miscellaneous thoughts (about money, sex, vacation, parties, exams, and so on) that create distractions. What do active listeners do with their idle brain time? They summarize and integrate what has been said. They put each new bit of information into the context of what preceded it.

Right orWrong?

How honest should managers be with employees about a company’s wors- ening financial condition?24 When one business owner who owns a legal services firm mentioned to his employees that the business was not doing well, it ended up scaring them.“People started crying. One person gave notice and left for a job at another company.”What do you think? What would be achieved by telling them? Is not telling them unethical? Why or why not?

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CHAPTER 12 | COMMUNICATION AND INTERPERSONAL SKILLS 333

Empathy requires you to put yourself into the speaker’s shoes. You try to understand what the speaker wants to communicate rather than what you want to hear. Notice that empathy demands both knowledge of the speaker and flexibility on your part. You need to suspend your own thoughts and feelings and adjust what you see and feel to your speaker’s world. In that way, you increase the likelihood that you’ll interpret the message in the way the speaker intended.

An active listener demonstrates acceptance. He or she listens objectively without judg- ing content, which is not an easy task. It’s natural to be distracted by what a speaker says, especially when we disagree with it. When we hear something we disagree with, we have a tendency to begin formulating our mental arguments to counter what is being said. Of course, in doing so, we miss the rest of the message. The challenge for the active listener is to absorb what’s being said and withhold judgment on content until the speaker is finished.

The final ingredient of active listening is taking responsibility for completeness. That is, the listener does whatever is necessary to get the full intended meaning from the speaker’s communication. Two widely used active listening techniques are listening for feeling as well as for content and asking questions to ensure understanding. (Look back at the “Developing Your Active-Listening Skill” box on p. 328 for additional information.)

Why Are Feedback Skills Important? Ask a manager about the performance feedback he or she gives employees, and you’re likely to get a qualified answer. If the feedback is positive, it’s likely to be given promptly and enthusiastically. Negative feedback is often treated differently.37 Like most of us, managers don’t particularly enjoy communicating bad news. They fear offending the receiver or having to deal with his or her emotions. The result is that negative feedback is often avoided, delayed, or substantially distorted. In this section, we want to show you the importance of providing both positive and negative feedback and to identify specific techniques to help make your feedback more effective.

HOW ARE POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE FEEDBACK DIFFERENT? We know that managers treat positive and negative feedback differently. So do receivers. You need to understand this fact and adjust your feedback style accordingly.

Positive feedback is more readily and accurately perceived than negative feedback. Furthermore, whereas positive feedback is almost always accepted, negative feedback often meets resistance.38 Why? The logical answer appears to be that people want to hear good news and block out the rest. Positive feedback fits what most people wish to hear and already believe about themselves. Does this mean, then, that you should avoid giving nega- tive feedback? No! What it means is that you need to be aware of potential resistance and learn to use negative feedback in situations in which it’s most likely to be accepted.39 What are those situations? Research indicates that negative feedback is most likely to be accepted when it comes from a credible source or if it’s objective. Subjective impressions carry weight only when they come from a person with high status and credibility.40 In other words, negative feedback that’s supported by hard data—numbers, specific examples, and the like—is more likely to be accepted. Negative feedback that’s subjective can be a meaningful tool for experienced managers, particularly those in upper levels of the organization who have built the trust and earned the respect of their employees. From less experienced managers, those in the lower ranks of the organization, and those whose reputations have not yet been established, negative feedback that’s subjective in nature is not likely to be well received.

HOW DO YOU GIVE EFFECTIVE FEEDBACK? Six specific suggestions can help you become more effective in providing feedback.41 These are as follows:

� Focus on specific behaviors. Feedback should be specific rather than general. Avoid statements such as “You have a bad attitude” or “I’m really impressed with the good job

knowledge management Cultivating a learning culture in which organizational members systematically gather knowledge and share it with others.

percent of men said they have heard a sexually inap- propriate comment at work.

percent of women said the same.

seconds is how long it takes to retrieve your train of thought after an e-mail

interruption.

percent of workers think it’s very common for employees to engage in office gossip.

percent of those workers think gossip has a negative effect on the workplace.

thousand is the average number of words spoken in a day by women and men.

percent of a day is how much the average U.S. worker loses to interruptions.

36

44 22 64

84 63 16 28

percent of large organiza- tions have a formal pro- cess in place to capture

knowledge.

4

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334 PART FOUR | LEADING

you did.” They are vague, and, although they provide information, they don’t tell the receiver enough so that he or she can correct the “bad attitude,” or on what basis you concluded that a good job has been done so the person knows what behaviors to repeat.

� Keep feedback impersonal. Feedback, particularly the negative kind, should be descriptive rather than judgmental or evaluative. No matter how upset you are, keep the feedback focused on job-related behaviors and never criticize someone personally because of an inappropriate action. Telling people they’re incompetent, lazy, or the like is almost always counterproductive. It provokes such an emotional reaction that the performance deviation itself is apt to be overlooked. When you’re criticizing, remember that you’re censuring job- related behavior, not the person. You might be tempted to tell someone he or she is rude and insensitive (which just might be true); however, that’s hardly impersonal. It’s better to say something more specific, such as “You’ve interrupted me three times with questions that weren’t urgent when you knew I was talking long distance to a customer in Brazil.”

� Keep feedback goal oriented. Feedback should not be given primarily to “dump” or “unload” on another person. If you have to say something negative, make sure it’s directed toward the receiver’s goals. Ask yourself whom the feedback is supposed to help. If the answer is essentially you (“I’ve got something I just want to get off my chest”), bite your tongue and hold the comment. Such feedback undermines your credi- bility and lessens the meaning and influence of future feedback sessions.

� Make feedback well timed. Feedback is most meaningful to a receiver when only a short interval elapses between his or her behavior and the receipt of feedback about that behav- ior. For example, a new employee who makes a mistake is more likely to respond to his or her manager’s suggestions for improving right after the mistake or at the end of the work- day rather than during a performance review session six months from now. If you have to spend time recreating a situation and refreshing someone’s memory of it, the feedback you are providing is likely to be ineffective. Moreover, if you’re particularly concerned with changing behavior, delays in providing timely feedback on the undesirable actions lessen the likelihood that the feedback will bring about the desired change. Of course, making feedback prompt merely for promptness sake can backfire if you have insufficient infor- mation or if you’re upset. In such instances, well timed could mean somewhat delayed.

� Ensure understanding. Is your feedback concise and complete enough that the receiver clearly and fully understands your communication? Remember that every successful communication requires both transference and understanding of meaning. If feedback is to be effective, you need to ensure that the receiver understands it. As suggested in our discussion of listening techniques, ask the receiver to rephrase the message to find out whether he or she fully captured the meaning you intended.

� Direct negative feedback toward behavior that the receiver can control. Little value comes from reminding a person of some shortcoming over which he or she has no control. Nega- tive feedback should be directed toward behavior that the receiver can do something about.

For instance, criticizing an employee who’s late for work because she forgot to set her alarm clock is valid. Criticiz- ing her for being late for work when the subway she takes to work every day had a power failure, stranding her for 90 minutes, is pointless. She was powerless to do anything to correct what happened—short of finding a different means of traveling to work, which may be unrealistic. In addition, when negative feedback is given concerning something that the receiver can control, it might be a good idea to indicate specifically what can be done to improve the situation. Such suggestions take some of the sting out of the criticism and offer guidance to receivers who under- stand the problem but don’t know how to resolve it.

What Are Empowerment Skills? As we’ve described in various places throughout this text, more and more managers are leading by empower- ing their employees. Millions of employees and teams

Guest services employees at Winchester Hospital meet every morning and later in the day to share news and receive up-to-date information that helps them make informed decisions about their work. Winchester empowers its staff to provide service excellence, from guest services employees shown here to medical professionals. Chefs, for example, are encouraged to create their own special dish for patients once a week, and medical staff is empowered to develop new patient programs. One group of nurses worked with the hospital’s child life specialist to devise a program of bringing dogs to the hospital to visit patients. Empowerment contributes to the hospital’s reputation as an employer that cares as deeply for its employees as for its patients.

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CHAPTER 12 | COMMUNICATION AND INTERPERSONAL SKILLS 335

of employees are making key operating decisions that directly affect their work. They’re developing budgets, scheduling workloads, controlling inventories, solving quality prob- lems, and engaging in activities that until recently were viewed exclusively as part of the manager’s job.42

The increased use of empowerment is being driven by two forces. First is the need for quick decisions by those who are most knowledgeable about the issue, which requires mov- ing decisions to lower levels. If organizations are to successfully compete in a dynamic global economy, they have to be able to make decisions and implement changes quickly. Second is the reality that the downsizing of organizations during the past two decades has left many managers with considerably larger spans of control than they had previously. In order to cope with the demands of an increased load, managers had to empower their employees. Two aspects of empowerment are understanding the value of delegating and knowing how to do it.

Delegation is the assignment of authority to another person to carry out specific activities. It allows an employee to make decisions—that is, it is a shift of decision-making authority from one organizational level to another lower one (see Exhibit 12-4). Delegation, however, should not be confused with participation. In participative decision making, authority is shared. With delegation, employees make decisions on their own. That’s why delegation is such a vital component of worker empowerment!

DON’T MANAGERS ABDICATE THEIR RESPONSIBILITY WHEN THEY DELEGATE? When done properly, delegation is not abdication. The key word here is properly. If you, as a manager, dump tasks on an employee without clarifying the exact job to be done, the range of the employee’s discretion, the expected level of performance, the time frame in which the tasks are to be completed, and similar concerns, you are abdicating responsibility and inviting trouble.43

Don’t fall into the trap, however, of assuming that, to avoid the appearance of abdicating, you should minimize delegation. Unfortunately, that’s how many new and inexperienced

delegation Assigning authority to another person to carry out specific activities.

Effective delegation pushes authority down vertically through the ranks of an organization.

Authority

Top managers

Non-managerial employees

First-line managers

Middle managers

EXHIBIT 12-4 Effective Delegation

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336 PART FOUR | LEADING

managers interpret the situation. Lacking confidence in their employees or fearful that they’ll be criticized for their employees’ mistakes, these managers try to do everything themselves.

It might be true that you’re capable of doing tasks better, faster, or with fewer mistakes. The catch is that your time and energy are scarce resources. It’s not possible for you to do everything yourself. As a manager, you’ll need to delegate to be effective in your job. This fact suggests two important points. First, you should expect and accept some mistakes by your employees. Mistakes are part of delegation. They’re often good learning experiences for employees as long as their costs are not excessive. Second, to ensure that the costs of mistakes don’t exceed the value of the learning, you need to put adequate controls in place. As we’ll discuss shortly, delegation without feedback controls that let you know about potentially serious problems is a form of abdication.

How much authority should a manager delegate? Should he or she keep authority centralized, delegating only the minimal amount to complete the delegated duties? What contingency factors should be considered in determining the degree to which authority is delegated? Exhibit 12-5 presents the most widely cited contingency factors to provide some guidance in making those determinations.

HOW DO YOU DELEGATE EFFECTIVELY? Assuming that delegation is in order, how do you delegate? A number of methods have been suggested for differentiating the effective delegator from the ineffective one.44

� Clarify the assignment. First determine what is to be delegated and to whom. Identify the person who’s most capable of doing the task and then determine whether he or she has the time and motivation to do the job. Assuming that you have a willing employee, it’s your responsibility to provide clear information on what’s being delegated, the results you expect, and any time or performance expectations you hold. Unless the project entails an overriding need to adhere to specific methods, you should ask an employee only to provide the desired results. That is, get agreement on what is to be done and the results expected, but let the employee decide by which means the work is to be completed. By focusing on goals and allowing the employee the freedom to use his or her own judgment as to how those goals are to be achieved, you increase trust between you and the employee, improve the employee’s motivation, and enhance accountability for results.

• The size of the organization. The larger the organization, the greater the number of decisions that have to be made. Because top managers in an organization have only so much time and can obtain only so much information, in larger organizations they become increasingly dependent on the decision making of lower-level managers. Therefore, managers in large organizations resort to increased delegation.

• The importance of the duty or decision. The more important a duty or decision (as expressed in terms of cost and impact on the future of an organization), the less likely it is to be delegated. For instance, a department head may be delegated authority to make expenditures up to $7,500, and division heads and vice presidents up to $50,000 and $125,000, respectively.

• Task complexity. The more complex the task, the more difficult it is for top management to possess current and sufficient technical information to make effective decisions. Complex tasks require greater expertise, and decisions about them should be delegated to the people who have the necessary technical knowledge.

• Organizational culture. If management has confidence and trust in employees, the culture will support a greater degree of delegation. However, if top management does not have confidence in the abilities of lower-level managers, it will delegate authority only when absolutely necessary. In such instances, as little authority as possible is delegated.

• Qualities of employees. A final contingency consideration is the qualities of employees. Delegation requires employees with the skills, abilities, and motivation to accept authority and act on it. If these are lacking, top management will be reluctant to relinquish authority.

EXHIBIT 12-5 Contingency Factors in Delegation

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� Specify employees’ range of discretion. Every act of delegation comes with constraints. You’re delegating authority to act but not unlimited authority. You’re delegating the authority to act on certain issues within certain parameters. You need to specify what those parameters are so that employees know, in no uncertain terms, the range of their discretion. When those parameters have been successfully communicated, both you and employees will have the same idea of the limits to the authority and how far they can go without further approval.

� Allow employees to participate. One of the best ways to decide how much authority will be necessary is to allow employees who will be held accountable for the tasks to participate in that decision. Be aware, however, that participation can present its own set of potential prob- lems as a result of employees’self-interest and biases in evaluating their own abilities. Some employees might be personally motivated to expand their authority beyond what they need and beyond what they are capable of handling. Allowing such people too much participa- tion in deciding what tasks they should take on and how much authority they must have to complete those tasks can undermine the effectiveness of the delegation process.

� Inform others that delegation has occurred. Delegation should not take place in a vacuum. Not only do you and your employees need to know specifically what has been delegated and how much authority has been granted; anyone else who’s likely to be affected by the delegation act needs to be informed, including people outside the organi- zation as well as inside it. Essentially, you need to convey what has been delegated (the task and amount of authority) and to whom. Failure to inform others makes conflict likely and decreases the chances that your employees will be able to accomplish the delegated act efficiently.

� Establish feedback controls. To delegate without instituting feedback controls is inviting problems. It is always possible that employees will misuse the discretion they have been given. Controls to monitor employees’ progress increase the likelihood that important problems will be identified early and that the task will be completed on time and to the desired specification. Ideally, these controls should be determined at the time of initial assignment. Agree on a specific time for completion of the task, and then set progress dates by which the employees will report on how well they are doing and on any major problems that have surfaced. These controls can be supplemented with periodic spot checks to ensure that authority guidelines are not being abused, organization policies are being followed, proper procedures are being met, and the like. Too much of a good thing can be dysfunctional. If the controls are too constraining, employees will be deprived of the opportunity to build self-confidence. As a result, much of the motivational aspect of delegation may be lost. A well-designed control system, which we will elaborate on in more detail in the next chapter, permits your employees to make small mistakes but quickly alerts you when big mistakes are imminent.

How Do You Manage Conflict? The ability to manage conflict is undoubtedly one of the most important skills a manager needs to possess.45 A study of middle- and top-level executives by the American Management Association revealed that the average manager spends approximately 20 percent of his or her time dealing with conflict.46 The importance of conflict management is reinforced by a survey of the topics managers consider most important in management development programs; conflict management was rated as more important than decision making, leadership, or communication skills.47

WHAT IS CONFLICT MANAGEMENT? Conflict is perceived incompatible differences resulting in some form of interference or opposition. Whether the differences are real is irrelevant. If people perceive that differences exist, then there is conflict.

conflict Perceived differences resulting in interference or opposition.I

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Three different views have evolved regarding conflict.48 The traditional view of con- flict argues that conflict must be avoided—that it indicates a problem within the group. Another view, the human relations view of conflict, argues that conflict is a natural and inevitable outcome in any group and need not be negative, but has potential to be a posi- tive force in contributing to a group’s performance. The third and most recent view, the interactionist view of conflict, proposes that not only can conflict be a positive force in a group but that some conflict is absolutely necessary for a group to perform effectively.

The interactionist view doesn’t suggest that all conflicts are good. Some conflicts— functional conflicts—are constructive and support an organization’s goals and improve per- formance. Other conflicts—dysfunctional conflicts—are destructive and prevent organizations from achieving goals. Exhibit 12-6 illustrates the challenge facing managers.

When is conflict functional and when is it dysfunctional? Research indicates that you need to look at the type of conflict.49 Task conflict relates to the content and goals of the work. Relationship conflict focuses on interpersonal relationships. Process conflict refers to how the work gets done. Research shows that relationship conflicts are almost always dysfunctional because the interpersonal hostilities increase personality clashes and decrease mutual understanding and the tasks don’t get done. On the other hand, low levels of process conflict and low-to-moderate levels of task conflict are functional. For process conflict to be productive, it must be minimal. Otherwise, intense arguments over who should do what may become dysfunctional since they can lead to uncertainty about task assignments, increase the time to complete tasks, and lead to members working at cross-purposes. However, a low- to-moderate level of task conflict consistently has a positive effect on group performance because it stimulates discussion of ideas that help groups be more innovative.50 Because we

Situation Level of Conflict

Type of Conflict

Organization’s Internal

Characteristics

Level of Organizational Performance

A

B

C

Low or none

Optimal

High

Dysfunctional

Functional

Dysfunctional

Apathetic Stagnant Unresponsive to change Lack of new ideas

Viable Self-critical Innovative Disruptive Chaotic Uncooperative

Low

High

Low

A

B C

Low Low

High

High

Level of Conflict

Le ve

l o f

O rg

an iz

at io

na l P

er fo

rm an

ce

EXHIBIT 12-6 Conflict and Organizational Performance

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CHAPTER 12 | COMMUNICATION AND INTERPERSONAL SKILLS 339

don’t yet have a sophisticated measuring instrument for assessing whether conflict levels are optimal, too high, or too low, the manager must try to judge that intelligently.

WHICH CONFLICTS DO YOU HANDLE? When group conflict levels are too high, managers can select from five conflict management options: avoidance, accommodation, forcing, compromise, and collaboration.51 (See Exhibit 12-7 for a description of these techniques.) Keep in mind that no one option is ideal for every situation. Which approach to use depends on the circumstances.

Regardless of our desires, reality tells us that some conflicts are unmanageable.52 When antagonisms are deeply rooted, when one or both parties wish to prolong a conflict, or when emotions run so high that constructive interaction is impossible, your efforts to manage the conflict are unlikely to meet with much success. Don’t be lured into the naïve belief that a good manager can resolve every conflict effectively. Some aren’t worth the effort; some are outside your realm of influence. Still others may be functional and, as such, are best left alone.

HOW DOES A MANAGER STIMULATE CONFLICT? What about the other side of conflict management—situations that require managers to stimulate conflict? The notion of stimu- lating conflict is often difficult to accept. For almost all of us the term conflict has a nega- tive connotation, and the idea of purposely creating conflict seems to be the antithesis of good management. Few of us enjoy being in conflict situations, yet evidence demonstrates that in some situations an increase in conflict is constructive.53 Although no clear demarca- tion separates functional from dysfunctional conflict, and no definitive method is available for assessing the need for more conflict, an affirmative answer to one or more of the following questions may suggest a need for conflict stimulation.54

� Are you surrounded by “yes” people? � Are employees afraid to admit ignorance and uncertainties to you?

STRATEGY BEST USED WHEN

Avoidance Conflict is trivial, when emotions are running high and time is needed to cool them down, or when the potential disruption from an assertive action outweighs the benefits of resolution

Accommodation The issue under dispute isn’t that important to you or when you want to build up credits for later issues

Forcing You need a quick resolution on important issues that require unpopular actions to be taken and when commitment by others to your solution is not critical

Compromise Conflicting parties are about equal in power, when it is desirable to achieve a temporary solution to a complex issue, or when time pressures demand an expedient solution

Collaboration Time pressures are minimal, when all parties seriously want a win-win solution, and when the issue is too important to be compromised

EXHIBIT 12-7 Conflict Management: What Works Best and When

functional conflicts Conflict that’s constructive and supports an organization’s goals.

interactionist view of conflict The view that some conflict is necessary for an organization to perform effectively.

human relations view of conflict The view that conflict is natural and inevitable and has the potential to be a positive force.

traditional view of conflict The view that all conflict is bad and must be avoided.

task conflict Conflict that relates to the content and goals of work.

process conflict Conflict that refers to how the work gets done.

relationship conflict Conflict that focuses on interpersonal relationships.

dysfunctional conflicts Conflict that’s destructive and prevents an organization from achieving its goals.

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As a necessary part of the creative process, functional conflict has a legitimate place in innovative organizations. John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, is respected worldwide as a leader of innovation who has the ability to drive an entrepreneurial culture. At Cisco, he has created a culture of trust, open communication, teamwork, and collaboration that generates a steady flow of new ideas. He has formed cross-functional teams that work through problems by exploring alternative viewpoints of employees from different disciplines. Functional conflict helps Cisco adapt to new and shifting technologies and rapidly changing business environments. Chambers is shown here communicating with students of the Mediterranean Youth Technology Club in Israel.

� Are decision makers so focused on reaching a compromise that they lose sight of values, long-term objectives, or the organization’s welfare?

� Do managers believe that it’s in their best interest to maintain the impression of peace and cooperation in their unit, regardless of the price?

� Are decision makers excessively concerned about hurting the feelings of others? � Do managers believe that popularity is more important for obtaining organizational

rewards than competence and high performance? � Do managers put undue emphasis on obtaining consensus for their decisions? � Do employees show unusually high resistance to change? � Is there a lack of new ideas?

We know a lot more about resolving conflict than about stimulating it. That’s only natural, because human beings have been concerned with the subject of conflict reduction for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years. The dearth of ideas on conflict stimulation techniques reflects the recent interest in the subject. The following are some preliminary suggestions that managers might want to use.55

The initial step in stimulating functional conflict is for managers to convey to employees the message, supported by actions, that conflict has its legitimate place. This step may require changing the culture of the organization. Individuals who challenge the status quo, suggest innovative ideas, offer divergent opinions, and demonstrate original thinking need to be rewarded visibly with promotions, salary, and other positive reinforcers.

As far back as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, and probably before, the White House consistently has used communication to stimulate conflict. Senior officials plant possible decisions with the media through the infamous “reliable source” route. For example, the name of a prominent judge is leaked as a possible Supreme Court appointment. If the candidate survives the public scrutiny, his or her appointment will be announced by the president. However, if the candidate is found lacking by the media and the public, the pres- ident’s press secretary or other high-level official may make a formal statement such as, “At no time was this candidate under consideration.” Regardless of party affiliation, occupants of the White House have regularly used the reliable source method as a conflict stimulation technique. It is all the more popular because of its handy escape mechanism. If the conflict level gets too high, the source can be denied and eliminated.

Ambiguous or threatening messages also encourage conflict. Information that a plant might close, that a department is likely to be eliminated, or that a layoff is imminent can reduce apathy, stimulate new ideas, and force reevaluation—all positive outcomes of increased conflict. Another widely used method for shaking up a stagnant unit or organization is to bring in outsiders either from outside or by internal transfer with backgrounds, values, attitudes, or managerial styles that differ from those of present members. Many large corporations have

used this technique during the past decade to fill vacan- cies on their boards of directors. Women, minority group

members, consumer activists, and others whose backgrounds and interests differ significantly from those of the rest of the board have been selected to add

a fresh perspective. We also know that structural vari-

ables are a source of conflict. It is, therefore, only logical that managers look to structure as a conflict stimu- lation device. Centralizing decisions, realigning work groups, increasing formalization, and increasing inter- dependencies between units are all structural devices that disrupt the sta- tus quo and increase conflict levels.

Finally, one can appoint a devil’s advocate, a person who pur- posely presents arguments that run

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negotiation A process in which two or more parties who have different preferences must make a joint decision and come to an agreement.

devil’s advocate A person who purposely presents arguments that run counter to those proposed by the majority or against current practices.

counter to those proposed by the majority or against current practices. He or she plays the role of the critic, even to the point of arguing against positions with which he or she actually agrees. A devil’s advocate acts as a check against groupthink and practices that have no better justifi- cation than “that’s the way we’ve always done it around here.” When thoughtfully listened to, the advocate can improve the quality of group decision making. On the other hand, others in the group often view advocates as time wasters, and their appointment is almost certain to delay any decision process.

What Are Negotiation Skills? We know that lawyers and auto salespeople spend a significant amount of time on their jobs negotiating. But so, too, do managers. They have to negotiate salaries for incoming employ- ees, cut deals with their bosses, work out differences with their peers, and resolve conflicts with employees. Others have to negotiate labor contracts and other agreements with people outside their organizations. For our purposes, we will define negotiation as a process in which two or more parties who have different preferences must make a joint decision and come to an agreement. To achieve this goal, both parties typically use a bargaining strategy.

HOW DO BARGAINING STRATEGIES DIFFER? Two general approaches to negotiation are distributive bargaining and integrative bargaining.56 Let’s see what’s involved in each.

You see a used car advertised for sale in the newspaper. It appears to be just what you’ve been looking for. You go out to see the car. It’s great, and you want it. The owner tells you the asking price. You don’t want to pay that much. The two of you then negotiate over the price. The negotiating process you are engaging in is called distributive bargaining. Its most identifying feature is that it operates under zero-sum conditions.57 That is, any gain you make is at the expense of the other person, and vice versa. Every dollar you can get the seller to cut from the price of the used car is a dollar you save. Conversely, every dollar more he or she can get from you comes at your expense. Thus, the essence of distributive bargaining is negotiating over who gets what share of a fixed pie. Probably the most widely cited examples of distributive bargaining are traditional labor-management negotiations over wages and benefits. Typically, labor’s representatives come to the bargaining table determined to get as much as they can from management. Because every cent more that labor negotiates increases management’s costs, each party bargains aggressively and often treats the other as an opponent who must be defeated. In distributive bargaining, each party has a target point that defines what he or she would like to achieve. Each also has a resist- ance point that marks the lowest acceptable outcome (see Exhibit 12-8). The area between

distributive bargaining Negotiation under zero-sum conditions, in which any gain by one party involves a loss to the other party.

Party A’s aspiration range

Party B’s aspiration range

Settlement range

Party A’s target point

Party B’s resistance

point

Party A’s resistance

point

Party B’s target point

EXHIBIT 12-8 Determining the Bargaining Zone

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342 PART FOUR | LEADING

their resistance points is the settlement range. As long as these ranges of aspiration overlap each other to some extent, there exists a settlement area in which each one’s aspirations can be met.

When engaged in distributive bargaining, you should try to get your opponent to agree to your specific target point or to get as close to it as possible. Examples of such tactics are persuading your opponent of the impossibility of getting to his or her target point and the advisability of accepting a settlement near yours; arguing that your target is fair, but your opponent’s isn’t; and attempting to get your opponent to feel emotionally generous toward you and thus accept an outcome close to your target point.

A sales representative for a women’s sportswear manufacturer has just closed a $25,000 order from an independent clothing retailer. The sales rep calls in the order to her firm’s credit department. She is told that the firm can’t approve credit to this customer because of a past slow pay record. The next day, the sales rep and the firm’s credit manager meet to dis- cuss the problem. The sales rep doesn’t want to lose the business. Neither does the credit manager, but he also doesn’t want to get stuck with an uncollectible debt. The two openly review their options. After considerable discussion, they agree on a solution that meets both their needs. The credit manager will approve the sale, but the clothing store’s owner will pro- vide a bank guarantee that will assure payment if the bill isn’t paid within 60 days.

The sales-credit negotiation is an example of integrative bargaining. In contrast to distributive bargaining, integrative problem solving operates under the assumption that at least one settlement can create a win-win solution. In general, integrative bargaining is preferable to distributive bargaining. Why? Because the former builds long-term relation- ships and facilitates working together in the future. It bonds negotiators and allows each to leave the bargaining table feeling that he or she has achieved a victory. Distributive bargaining, on the other hand, leaves one party a loser. It tends to build animosities and deepen divisions between people who have to work together on an ongoing basis.

Why, then, don’t we see more integrative bargaining in organizations? The answer lies in the conditions necessary for this type of negotiation to succeed. These conditions include openness with information and frankness between parties, a sensitivity by each party to the other’s needs, the ability to trust one another, and a willingness by both parties to maintain flexibility.58 Because many organizational cultures and intraorganizational relationships are not characterized by openness, trust, and flexibility, it isn’t surprising that negotiations often take on a win-at-any-cost dynamic. With that in mind, let’s look at some suggestions for negotiating successfully.

HOW DO YOU DEVELOP EFFECTIVE NEGOTIATION SKILLS? The essence of effective negotiation can be summarized in the following seven recommendations.59

� Research the individual with whom you’ll be negotiating. Acquire as much infor- mation as you can about the person with whom you’ll be negotiating. What are that individual’s interests and goals? What people must he or she appease? What is his or her strategy? This information will help you to better understand his or her behavior, to predict his or her responses to your offers, and to frame solutions in terms of his or her interests.

� Begin with a positive overture. Research shows that concessions tend to be recipro- cated and lead to agreements. As a result, begin bargaining with a positive overture— perhaps a small concession—and then reciprocate the other party’s concessions.

� Address problems, not personalities. Concentrate on the negotiation issues, not on the personal characteristics of the individual with whom you’re negotiating. When negoti- ations get tough, avoid the tendency to attack the other party. Remember it’s that person’s ideas or position that you disagree with, not with him or her personally.

integrative bargaining Negotiation in which there is at least one settlement that involves no loss to either party.

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� Pay little attention to initial offers. Treat an initial offer as merely a point of departure. Everyone has to have an initial position, and initial positions tend to be extreme and idealistic. Treat them as such.

� Emphasize win-win solutions. If conditions are supportive, look for an integrative solution. Frame options in terms of the other party’s interests and look for solutions that can allow this individual, as well as yourself, to declare a victory.

� Create an open and trusting climate. Skilled negotiators are better listeners, ask more questions, focus on their arguments more directly, are less defensive, and have learned to avoid words or phrases that can irritate the person with whom they’re negotiating (such as a “generous offer,” “fair price,” or “reasonable arrangement”). In other words, they’re better at creating an open and trusting climate that is necessary for reaching a win-win settlement.

� If needed, be open to accepting third-party assistance. When stalemates are reached, consider the use of a neutral third party—a mediator, an arbitrator, or a conciliator. Mediators can help parties come to an agreement, but they don’t impose a settlement. Arbitrators hear both sides of the dispute, then impose a solution. Conciliators are more informal and act as a communication conduit, passing information between the parties, interpreting messages, and clarifying misunderstandings.

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To check your understanding of learning outcomes 12.1 – 12.3 , go to

mymanagementlab.com and try the chapter questions.

ApplicationsReview and

Chapter Summary 12.1 Describe what managers need to know about

communicating effectively. Communication is the transfer and understanding of meaning. There are seven elements in the communication process. First there is a sender or source who has a message. A message is a purpose to be conveyed. Encoding is converting a message into symbols. A channel is the medium a message travels along. Decoding is when the receiver retranslates a sender’s message. Finally, there is feedback. The barriers to effective communica- tion include filtering, emotions, information overload, defensiveness, language, and national culture. Managers can overcome these barriers by using feedback, simpli- fying language, listening actively, constraining emotions, and watching for nonverbal clues.

12.2 Explain how technology affects managerial communication. Technology has radically changed the way organizational members communicate. It improves a manager’s ability to monitor performance; it gives employees more complete information to make faster decisions; it has provided employees more opportunities to collaborate and share informa- tion; and it has made it possible for people to be fully accessible, anytime anywhere. IT has affected managerial communication through the use of networked computer systems, wireless capabilities, and knowledge management systems.

12.3 Discuss the interpersonal skills that every manager needs. Behaviors related to effective active listening are making eye contact, exhibiting affirma- tive nods and appropriate facial expressions, avoiding distracting actions or gestures, asking questions, paraphrasing, avoiding interruption of the speaker, not overtalking, and making smooth transitions between the roles of speaker and listener. In order to

provide effective feedback, you must focus on specific behaviors; keep feedback impersonal, goal oriented, and well timed; ensure understanding; and direct negative feedback toward behavior that the recipient can control. Contingency factors guide managers in determining the degree to which author- ity should be delegated. These factors include the size of the organization (larger organizations are associ- ated with increased delegation); the importance of the duty or decision (the more important a duty or decision is, the less likely it is to be delegated); task complexity (the more complex the task is, the more likely it is that decisions about the task will be dele- gated); organizational culture (confidence and trust in subordinates are associated with delegation); and qualities of subordinates (delegation requires subordi- nates with the skills, abilities, and motivation to accept authority and act on it). Behaviors related to effective delegating are clarifying the assignment, specifying the employee’s range of discretion, allow- ing the employee to participate, informing others that delegation has occurred, and establishing feedback controls. The steps to be followed in analyzing and resolving conflict situations begin by identifying your underlying conflict-handling style. Second, select only conflicts that are worth the effort and that can be managed. Third, evaluate the conflict players. Fourth, assess the source of the conflict. Finally, choose the conflict resolution option that best reflects your style and the situation. Effective negotiation skills require researching the individual with whom you’ll be nego- tiating; beginning with a positive overture; addressing problems, not personalities; paying little attention to the first offer; emphasizing win-win solutions; creat- ing an open and trusting climate; and being open to third-party assistance, if needed.

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Understanding the Chapter

1. Which type of communication do you think is most effective in a work setting? Why?

2. Why isn’t effective communication synonymous with agreement?

3. Which do you think is more important for a manager: speaking accurately or listening actively? Why?

4. “Ineffective communication is the fault of the sender.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Discuss.

5. Is information technology helping managers be more efficient and effective? Explain your answer.

6. Why are effective interpersonal skills so important to a manager’s success?

7. How might a manager use the grapevine to his or her advantage? Support your response.

8. Research the characteristics of a good communicator. Write up your findings in a bulleted list report. Be sure to cite your sources.

Understanding Yourself

How Good Are My Listening Skills? Effective communicators have developed good listening skills. This instrument is designed to provide you with some insights into your listening skills.

INSTRUMENT Respond to each of the 15 statements using the following scale:

1 = Strongly agree

2 = Agree

3 = Neither agree or disagree

4 = Disagree

5 = Strongly disagree

1. I frequently attempt to listen to several conversations at the same time. 1 2 3 4 5

2. I like people to give me only the facts and then let me make my own interpretation. 1 2 3 4 5

3. I sometimes pretend to pay attention to people. 1 2 3 4 5

4. I consider myself a good judge of nonverbal communications. 1 2 3 4 5

5. I usually know what another person is going to say before he or she says it. 1 2 3 4 5

6. I usually end conversations that don’t interest me by diverting my attention from the speaker. 1 2 3 4 5

7. I frequently nod, frown, or provide other nonverbal cues to let the speaker know how I feel about what he or she is saying. 1 2 3 4 5

8. I usually respond immediately when someone has finished talking. 1 2 3 4 5

9. I evaluate what is being said while it is being said. 1 2 3 4 5

10. I usually formulate a response while the other person is still talking. 1 2 3 4 5

11. The speaker’s “delivery” style frequently keeps me from listening to content. 1 2 3 4 5

12. I usually ask people to clarify what they have said rather than guess at the meaning. 1 2 3 4 5

13. I make a concerted effort to understand other people’s points of view. 1 2 3 4 5

14. I frequently hear what I expect to hear rather than what is said. 1 2 3 4 5

15. Most people feel that I have understood their point of view when we disagree. 1 2 3 4 5

Source: Adapted from E. C. Glenn and E. A. Pood, “Listening Self-Inventory,” Supervisory Management (January 1989), pp. 12–15. Used with permission of publisher; © 1989 American Management Association, New York.

SCORING KEY You score this instrument by adding up your responses for all items; however, you need to reverse your scores (5 becomes 1, 4 becomes 2, etc.) for statements 4, 12, 13, and 15.

ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION Scores range from 15 to 75. The higher your score, the better listener you are. While any cutoffs are essentially arbitrary, if you score 60 or above, your listening skills are fairly good. Scores of 40 or less indicate you need to make a serious effort at improving your listening skills. You might want to start by looking at the “Developing Your Active-Listening Skill” box included in this chapter.

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FYIA (For Your Immediate Action)

Stone, Hartwick, and Mueller Talent Management Associates

To: Chris Richards From: Dana Gibson

Subject: Office Gossip

I need some advice, Chris. As you know, my department and all its employees are

being transferred from Los Angeles to Dallas. We’ve had to keep the information

“under wraps” for competitive reasons. However, one of my employees asked me

point blank yesterday about a rumor she’s heard that this move is in the works. I didn’t

answer her question directly. But I’m afraid that the office grapevine is going to start

spreading inaccurate information and then affect morale and productivity. What should

I do now? Send me your written response soon (confidential, please!) about what you

would do.

This fictionalized company and message were created for educational purposes only. It is not meant to reflect positively or negatively on management practices by any company that may share this name.

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CASE APPLICATION

It’s estimated that during 2008, each corporate user of e-mail sent orreceived over 150 messages per day. By 2011, that number isestimated to be well over 225. Another study found that one-third of e-mail users feel stressed by heavy e-mail volume. Once imagined to be a time-saver, has the inbox become a burden?

U.S. Cellular’s Chief Operating Officer Jay Ellison thought so and did something about it. He imposed a “no e-mail Friday” rule, a move that a growing number of companies are taking. Although most bans typically allow e-mailing clients and customers or responding to urgent matters, the intent is to slow down the routine internal e-mails that take up time and clog the organization’s computer network. The limits also aim at encouraging more face-to-face and phone con- tact with coworkers and customers. Ellison also hoped that it would give his employees a small respite from the e-mail onslaught. What he got, however, was a rebellion. One employee confronted him saying that Ellison didn’t understand how much work had to get done and how much easier it was when using e-mail.

Discussion Questions

1. What advantages and disadvantages are there to e-mail as a form of communication? In addition to your own personal experience with e-mail, do some research before answering this question.

2. Why do you think the employees rebelled?

3. What’s your opinion about Ellison’s actions? Was he right or wrong? Be sure to look at this from the perspective of both the organization and the employees.

4. What other approaches might Ellison have taken to address this issue of out-of-control e-mail?

Sources: S. Shellenbarger, “A Day Without Email Is Like . . .”Wall Street Journal, October 11, 2007, pp. D1+; M. Kessler, “Fridays Go from Casual to E-Mail-Free,” USA Today, October 5, 2007, p. 1A; D. Beizer, “Email Is Dead,” Fast Company, July/August 2007, p. 46; O. Malik, “Why Email Is Bankrupt,” Business 2.0, July 2007, p. 46; and D. Brady, “*!#?@ the E-Mail. Can We Talk?” BusinessWeek, December 4, 2006, p. 109.

347

OUT WITH E-MAIL

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Fundamentals of Management: Essential Concepts and Applications, Seventh Edition, by Stephen P. Robbins, David A. DeCenzo, and Mary Coulter. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2011 by Pearson Education, Inc.

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