Communication-Importance, Types and Barriers of Communication

Hello Respected Researchers and HR managers, In this section we will discuss about “Communication-Importance, Types and Barriers of Communication “. It is very much important for a Researcher as well as HR Concern person/ manager to know the definition of  Communication-Importance, Types and Barriers of Communication . If researcher or HR Manager could follow the Points accordingly,it would easier to reach the goal. Let’s have a look…


⊕ Communication:

⇒ Communication is the process of transmitting or exchanging information and meaning between two people. It can be defined as the process of transmitting information from one person to another. By effective communication is meant the process of sending a message in such a way that the message received is close in meaning to the message intended. In our definition of communication, we see that three conditions are necessary for communication to take place.

  • First, there must be at least two persons involved. Of course, more than two persons can be involved in communication.
  • Second, there must be information to be communicated.
  • Third, some attempt must be made to transmit this information.


⇒ The person who initiates the communication process is known as a The person to whom communication is directed is known as the receiver. It is important that the sender encode the message. Encoding is the determination of the method of conveying meaning to others. How might you deliver this message? This might include decisions about choice of language (including body language), and your decision might depend on who the receiver is and what information you are transmitting. You must select a form of transmission, which involves sending the message over a specific channel. You might communicate your thoughts face to face, by written memo, or by email.

⇒ Through a process of decoding, the receiver makes sense of the information that was sent. We often know whether the receiver has decoded information accurately when he or she provides some feedback to the sender. Feedback is two-way communication that allows the sender to determine if the meaning of that communication was correctly received.

Why Is Communication Important:

Substantial research emphasises the importance of communication. On of the reasons that we must communicate effectively is that ineffective communication can lead to substantial conflict. A number of studies have identified some interesting findings:

  • studies of production workers indicate that they are involved in somewhere between 16 and 46 communication episodes per hour. In higher levels, communication is even more frequent. First level supervisors of production jobs spend 20 to 50% of their time in verbal communication. If written communication is added these figures increase to somewhere between 29 and 64%. Finally, if we move even higher to middle and upper management, 66 to 89% of managers’ time is spend in verbal communication (this refers to face-to-face meetings and telephone).
  • Chester I. Barnard viewed communication as the means by which people are linked together in an organisation to achieve a common purpose. As a matter of fact, group activity is impossible without communication, because co-ordination and change cannot be effected.
  • Psychologists have greatly been interested in communication. They focus on human problems that occur in the communication process of initiating, transmitting, and receiving information. In fact, the internal functioning of an enterprise depends upon effective communication to a great extent, which integrates the managerial functions. The main purposes of communication, however, are to:
  • (i)  set and disseminate the goals of an enterprise,
  • (ii) develop plans for their achievement,
  • (iii) Organise human and other resources in the most effective and efficient way,
  • (iv) lead, direct, motivate, and create a climate in which people want to contribute and
  • (vi) control performance.

It needs to be emphasised that communication not only facilitates managerial functions but also relates an enterprise to its external environment. It is through communication that managers become aware of the claims of stockholders, the needs of customers, the regulations of governments, the availability of suppliers, the concerns of the community etc.

Types/Forms of Communication:

Managers need relevant information for effective decision-making. Obtaining this information frequently requires getting information from managers’ subordinates and also from people and divisions elsewhere in the organisation. Managers also have to disseminate information for effective management. At this stage we need to elaborately understand the following:

  1. Flow of Communication; and
  2. Form of Communication

Flow of communication: In any modern organisation communication flows in various directions : (a) downward, (b) upward and (c) crosswise (horizontal and diagonal)

(a) Downward communication: It flows from executives at higher levels to those at lower levels in the management structure. This type of communication is preferred mostly by authoritarian managers. Downward communication may be both written (such as memorandums, pamphlets, letters etc.) and oral (e.g., telephone, loudspeakers, verbal instructions etc.),

(b) Upward communication: Upward communication includes written, oral and non-verbal messages from subordinates to superiors. Usually this type of communication originates from a subordinate to his or her direct superior, then to that person’s direct boss, and so on up through the hierarchy. Sometimes, however, a message might by-pass a particular superior. When this happens, the by-passed superior may feel resentful and hostile.

The two types of communication discussed above i.e., downward and upward communication could also be categorised as vertical communication. When vertical communication includes both downward and upward communication, it is termed as ‘two-way’ or both-way communication.

(c) Crosswise communication: This includes the horizontal flow of information, among people on the same level in the organisation, and the diagonal flow, among persons at different levels, who have no direct reporting relationships with one another. This kind of communication is used to speed up information flow, to co-ordinate efforts for the achievement of organisational objectives and to improve understanding. A great deal of communication may happen to cut across the chain of command and avoid following the organisational hierarchy

Form of communication: Communication may take in written, oral or non-verbal form.

  • (i) Written communication: Written communication may take several forms such as notices, circulars, news letters, bulletins, and so on. These written forms have the advantage of providing references, records and legal defences. A message can be prepared with care and then directed to a large number of audience through mass mailings. Written communication can also promote uniformity in policy and procedure and can reduce costs.
  • (ii) Oral communication: A great deal of communication is done orally. It can occur in a manager’s presentation to a large number of subordinates, or in a face-to-face meeting of two persons; it can be planned or sudden, and it can be formal or informal.
  • (iii) Non-verbal communication: Little understood but powerful, non-verbal communication is interpersonal in nature. It includes any communicational exchange that does not use words or that uses verbalisation to carry more meaning than the strict definition of the words themselves. Body movements, facial expressions and physical contact may all be used.

The Communication Model/ Process:

⇒ One-way communication involves five steps – meaning, encoding, transmission, decoding, and meaning. In the case of two-way communication the three steps of encoding, transmission and decoding are repeated as the second person responds to the first.

⇒ The process begins when one person (sender) initiates a communication process. He or she may decide that an idea, opinion or fact needs to be transmitted to someone else. This idea, opinion or fact has meaning to the sender which is the first step in the communication process.

⇒ The next step is to encode the meaning into a form appropriate to the situation. This encoding might take the form of verbal words, gestures, facial expressions, physical actions or even artistic expressions.

⇒ After encoding, the message is transmitted through the appropriate channel. The common channels include printed pages, face-to-face discussion, the air waves and telephone lines. Transmission is the third step of the communication process.

⇒ In the fourth step the message is received and decoded by one or more other people via such senses as eyesight and hearing. After the message is received, it must be translated into meaning relevant to the receiver.

⇒ In many cases, this meaning prompts a response, and the cycle is continued when the new message is sent by the same steps back to the original sender (steps 6,7 and 8). As shown in figure 11.1, “noise” may occur at any stage of the communication process and distort the message. It is particularly troublesome in the encoding or decoding stage. Since noise can interfere with understanding, managers should attempt to restrict it to a level that permits effective communication.

Barriers to Communication:

  • Poor planning: Effective communication seldom happens by chance. Sometimes people start communication without proper planning, and stating the purpose of the message. This is wrong and wasteful.
  • Poorly worded messages: The sender of communication may have a clear idea about the message but it may still be marked by poorly chosen words, poor organisation, awkward sentence structure, lack of coherence, omissions, unnecessary jargon, and a failure to clarify its implications.
  • Semantic problems: Another barrier to effective communication is semantic problem, which can be deliberate or accidental. Semantic problems arise when words have different meanings for different  Words and phrases like ‘profit’, ‘increased productivity’, ‘return on investment’, or ‘retained earnings’ may have positive meanings for managers but less positive (or even negative) meanings for labour.
  • Status differences between sender and receiver: Communication problems may arise when people of different status try to communicate with each other. The employer may not pay much attention to a suggestion from a worker, thinking something like, “how can someone at that level help men run my business.” Conversely, when the employer goes out to inspect a new plant, workers may be reluctant to offer suggestions because of their lower status.
  • Perceptual differences between sender and receiver: If people perceive a situation differently, they may also have difficulty communicating with one another.
  • Environmental factors: Environmental problems may also disrupt effective communication. For example, noise may affect communication in many ways. Similarly, overload may be a problem when the receiver is being sent more information than he or she can effectively handle.
  • Unclarified assumptions: Unclarified assumptions that underlie messages may also create problems. For example, a customer may send a note stating that he/ she will visit a vendor’s plant. Then the customer may assume that the vendor will meet him/ her at the airport/railway station, reserve accommodation, arrange for transportation, and set up a full-scale review of the program at the plant. But the vendor may assume that the customer is coming to city mainly to meet friends and will make a routine call at the plant. These unclarified assumptions in both instances may result in confusion and the loss of goodwill.
  • Loss by transmission and poor retention: In a series of transmissions from one person to the next, the message becomes less and less accurate. Poor retention of information is another serious problem. Thus, the necessity of repeating the message and using several channels are imperative indeed. Consequently, companies often use more than one channel to communicate the same message.
  • Poor listening and premature evaluation: There are many talkers but few listeners. Everyone probably has observed people entering a discussion with comments that have no relation to the topic.
  • Distrust, threat and fear: Distrust, threat, and fear undermine communication. In a climate containing these forces, any message will be viewed with scepticism.
  • Insufficient period for adjustment to change: the purpose of communication is to effect change that may seriously concern employees. Changes affect people in different ways, and it may take time to think through the full meaning of a message. Thus, for maximum efficiency, it is important not to force change before people can adjust to its implications.

          Gender Distinction Barriers:

Tannen’s research has identified a number of key distinctions between males’ and females’ communication:

  • Getting credit: Men tend to receive more credit for their contributions because they communicate their own accomplishments more often.
  • Confidence and Boasting: Men sometimes tend to be boastful about their capabilities, while women downplay their capabilities. Sometimes this results in men being perceived as more confident.
  • Asking Questions: Typically men ask fewer questions, as they feel it might reflect negatively on them.
  • Apologies: Women are more likely to say ‘I’m sorry’ as a way of showing concern, whereas men often perceive it as a sign of weakness.
  • Feedback: Women might buffer negative feedback by beginning with statements of praise. Men tend to be much more straightforward.
  • Compliments: It is more common for women to exchange compliments than men.
  • Managing up and down: Men and women communicate up and down in the organisational chain of command differently. Men tend to spend more time communicating with their superiors, associating themselves with those levels, while women who are in power positions tend to downplay their superiority.
  • Indirectness: Women in positions of authority tend to be less direct when giving orders. Often this can lead to misunderstandings.

Cross-Cultural Distinctions:

Another barrier to communication emerges from cultural distinctions. The most obvious cross-cultural communication barrier is language. Even when two parties speak the same language, sometimes the meanings of specific words are quite different for two countries (for example, Americans take the elevator, the English take the lift).

Groups and individuals can do a number of things to reduce misperceptions and misinterpretations across cultures. These four rules are useful to keep in mind:

  • Assume differences until similarity is proven: it is likely safe to assume that people from different countries are not similar to us when considering style and interpretations of communication.
  • Emphasise description rather than interpretation or evaluation: If you take some time to observe and interpret a situation from the multiple perspectives of the cultures associated with the communication, you are less likely to interpret meaning based on your own culture and background.
  • Practice empathy: The best way to do this is to try and understand the receivers’ values, experiences, and frames of references by placing yourself in their shoes.
  • Treat your interpretations as a working hypothesis: If you feel you have developed some understanding of communication from a foreign culture, it is likely in your best interests to treat this interpretation as a hypothesis – something that might need fine tuning as time goes on.


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