December 8, 2011

Communication: Importance and Definition

Importance of Communication in Managing People and Organizations

Communication is a central activity in most human and organizational activities.

Communication is one of the important topics of organization behavior. Effective communication is a prerequisite for implementing organizational strategies as well as for managing day to day activities through people. Managers spend more than three fourths of their time in communicating – exchanging information. Communication is found to make the biggest relative contribution to the effectiveness of managers. Or in other words, good communicators are more likely to be adjudged as effective managers (followers voluntarily listen to them and carry out instructions).
 But is communication the reason and solution to all problems in the world? Certainly not. Fred Luthans [1] strongly asserts this. Other issues like motivation, decision making, stress, organizational structure, etc. can also contribute to problems and therefore can be solutions to problems. But, it is to be stated that communication is a central activity in most human and organizational activities.

Development of Theory Regarding Communication in Management and Organizations Behavior (Research and Books)



In management texts, Chester Barnard [2] identified communication as an important management activity, and examined its elements and issues. According to him, communication is the major shaping force in the organization. Communication both makes the organization cooperative system and links the organization purpose to the human participants. He brought the communication activity into the concept of authority and superior-subordinate relations and gave the following guidelines in this respect.
 1. The channels of communication should be definitely known.
2. There should be a definite formal channel of communication to every member of an organization.
3. The line of communication should be as direct and short as possible.
4. The complete formal line of communication should normally be used.
5. The persons serving as communication centers should be competent.
6. The line of communication should not be interrupted while the organization is functioning.
7. Every communication should be authenticated.

The Definition of Communication

Luthans [1] says experts have not agreed on a definition among themselves.

 Most explanations of communication stress the use of symbols to transfer the meaning of information. One version is that communication is the understanding not of the visible but of the invisible and hidden. These hidden and symbolic elements embedded in the culture give meaning to the visible communication process. Involvement of people is another factor stressed. Ivancevich and Matteson [3] state that “communication among people does not depend on technology but rather on forces in people and their surroundings. It is a process that occurs within people.” 

Communication also has behavioral component. One of the statements emphasizing role of behavior is, “the only means by which one person can influence another is by the behaviors he performs-that is, the communicative exchanges between people provide the sole method by which influence or effects can be achieved.” In other words, the behaviors that occur in an organization are important elements in the communication process of the organization. The personal and behavioral exchange view of communication takes many forms.

Channels or Media  of Communication

Communication is now done through variety of channels or modes ranging from very sophisticated communication media and technology to nonverbal signals.

Organizational Communication - Categorization

The communication that takes in the organization can be categorized as formal and informal.
Formal communication is categorized mainly  as vertical and horizontal.
Vertical communication in classical management hierarchy can be upward or downward between a superior and a subordinate. Functional communication or communication within a function or department also comes under this category.
Horizontal communication is also cross functional communication. Interdepartmental meetings are a mechanism for formal facilitation of horizontal communication.
The communication that takes place within the organization can be categorized as interpersonal when it is taking place between two persons, and as interactive when more people are involved.
Even though the text of Luthans does not discuss the issue, within an organization there are certain persons who have to communicate to a very large number of persons at the same time or at different times with the same message. For instance, CEO communicating to his organization. Organization behavior texts have to discuss the issues involved in this communication. Similarly, the PR communication aimed at the employees of the organization.


1.  Fred Luthans, Organization Behavior, McGraw-Hill, New York, 2002.
2. Chester Barnard, The Functions of Executive, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1938.
3. John M. Ivancevich and Michael T. Matteson, Organization Behavior and Management, Irwin, 1993. 3rd Edition.
4. Organizational Behavior by Talya Bauer and Berrin Erdogan - FWK Online Book

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Article originally posted in Knol by me in

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