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Organizational Communication

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Organizational communication refers to the pathways and patterns through which organizational leaders and employees communicate with each other, and how messages are passed, from one level to another. Organizational communication is very different from other forms of communication, as its setting is highly structured. Managers must understand the need for effective communication in all areas of the Organizations. Communication in the organization depends on the organization’s culture as well as its leadership patterns. The importance of an effective communication system in an organization is realized at times of change and crises. Organizations go through different types and levels of changes, and to help employees adapt to these changes or handles crises, organizational leaders need an effective system of communication. An organization’s culture dictates the control mechanisms as well as the expected behavioral tendencies of employees. To change a person’s behavior, it is mandatory to communicate with the person and let them see the values of the new changes. In addition, to solve a problem, different people must be involved, and communication left open for contributions.

To illustrate the value of an effective communication channel in an organization, describes the crisis of NASA.  In his approach, he describes organizational structures and explains how the structures change as the organization progresses. In this approach, much consideration is put on employees as the subjects of change in an organization. Changes in an organization may occur due to a crisis or as an attempt to expand or improve the productivity of employees. Therefore, it is also important to analyze the ways in which organizations prepare to handle crises, and this majorly depends on the leadership types in the organization. This paper also analyzes the crisis faced by the Catholic Church, in relation to sexual assault allegations against priests. In comparison to the situation at NASA, the paper provides an understanding of organizational changes, and the influence of communication in the changes, and the effects of poor or negative communication. Tompkins & Tompkins, says that communication is an important managerial tool, and can be administered horizontally, upward, or downward. These depend on the structures of the organization. However, implementing changes in organizations are usually unsuccessful because they fail to designate executive positions or specify communication policies that direct the direction of change. To maintain the effectiveness of a communication system within an organization, the management must perform regular appraisals on the system.

Since the mid 1980’s, Catholic priests have always been under investigations following allegations of sex crimes. The most frequent allegations are centered upon abuse against young boys. Since it gained root in the 1980’s, this problem has progressively ashamed the Catholic Church and this may be blamed on lack of effective communication. Some of these accusations remained unreported to the civil authorities while in some cases, offenders were transferred to dioceses, where they continued with the vice. Communication of a sex scandal in a religious organization, especially the Catholic Church is not likely to be open as the subject is treated as “top secret”. This lack of openness in communication may be related to NASA’s reluctance to share vital information that could have prevented further accidents, from the time the first accident occurred. There are allegations where the superiors of offenders conspire to hide or conceal misconduct in order to protect the church from shame. In response to these allegations, the Church communicates on a level basis. These levels are: the diocesan, the Episcopal conference and the Vatican level. Unlike other organizations who maintain middle level management, the church has the strict three levels through which communication flows. This makes it slow and ineffective, as less consultation is done. The Diocesan level, the response is left to the Archbishop, who solely decides how to manage and solve the crisis, leading to poor management of crises. When Crises occur in organizations, there should be a management team and protocol to oversee the smooth running of the organization’s normal activities. This kind of structure is lacking in the Church’s profile, as its structure is flat.

Changes in an organization are not to be taken lightly, as most employees are always not open and receptive to change. Tompkins & Tompkins in an explanation of what happened to NASA introduces a new concept in relation to hierarchical communication in organizations. He called it semantic-information distance. This is the misunderstanding-understanding and the knowledge-ignorance degree between people at different hierarchical levels in an organization.  NASA officials were blamed for poor communication after their disasters with space programs. Tompkins found out that at least sixty to seventy percent of NASA’s reports that were contained in the organization’s database had “information transfer”. This is to say that the reports contained obstacle to effective communication within the organization. The reports were fundamental at explaining the disasters at NASA. These reports provided proof of miscommunication between one or two individuals, in other explanations inaccurate and incomplete information was relayed between pilots and controllers, which led to incorrect decisions about piloting, and in other incidences, the receiver failed to understand the message as well as tardy communication. Because of these rather simple communication mishaps, NASA went through bigger problems, after their unexpected problems. This shows the importance of consistent, accurate and timely information. For organizations to succeed, the information must be timely, accurate and relayed in a way that all participants are able to understand. The primary focus of some communication theories is the structure and culture of the organization. Another important factor to consider is the organization’s division of work. This identifies the protocol followed in the organization during transmission of the information. However, when implementing change in an organization, the focus should be on the “people” or employees. The interpersonal and group relationships in the organization dictate how quickly people will accept and adopt the new policies. The role of communication at this level is to maintain the individuals’ attitudes towards the organization. Openness in communication is closely linked to satisfaction, which may be satisfaction with the superior, presence of relationship, with the organization, and with the job.

It is important to prepare employees before introducing change. To do this, interactive and training programs should be introduced to help employees adopt the new changes. Involving employees is paramount at succeeding in implementing change. Employees must be prepared to face the new changes by training them and making them aware that their positions are secured. Molding the employee’s perception to the change is the first step at ensuring success. This only happens through effective communication and openness. After the Challenger accident, NASA had been reluctant to provide information, and failed to open discussions with employees as well as journalists. This brings about the theme of “ethics of communication. However, after the Columbia accident, other themes came up, including superior-subordinate communication, ideal managerial climate and organizational culture. NASA’s strong “technical” culture prevented effective communication. The two accidents had similarities, which could have been prevented in the Columbia accident, if the managers had open channels of communication, to discuss the possible cause of the Challenger accident. The media coverage of these accidents left NASA with a poor reputation, with some terming its actions as terrorism. With open communication, NASA could have prevented such allegations, and protected its reputation. Concealing important information often amounts to criminal acts, which should be discouraged in successful organizations.

In conclusion, organizational communication is a complex form, owing to its structure and functions. In times of crises, organizations depend on effective communications systems to help it handle the crisis. The way information is relayed is important as it may facilitate it being understood or misunderstood.  Information flow depends on the organization’s culture and leadership style. As illustrated by NASA’s space accidents, communication is an important tool of preventing further crises in an organization. NASA’s Columbia accident could have been prevented if the authorities looked at the communication procedures of the Challenger accident. In relation to this, the problems facing the Catholic Church are closely related to lack of effective communication in the ministry. The church has a flat structure, which does not favor communication of individuals within the structure. Communication in the Catholic Church happens in three levels; the diocesan, the Episcopal conference and the Vatican. At each level, very few people are involved in decision-making. Communication includes a repeated interaction pattern, which forms a stable communication network. This involves providing information and receiving feedback from the recipient. The importance of understanding organizational structures should not be ignored. Where there is no structure, communication happens in all directions, and with this, the organization’s structure decreases.

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