Communication and Technology

Public Management
Communications in Organizations
Thursday, March 24, 2016
Hun Myoung Park, Ph.D.
Public Management & Policy Analysis Program
Graduate School of International Relations
Communications 1
• Communication Process:
– Initiate (sender, encoding)
– Transmit (channel)
– Receive (receiver, decoding)
• Sendermessageencoding
• Channel (media)
• Decodingdecoded messagereceiver
Communications 2
• Central to the exercise of authority.
• Exchange information among components
• Deliver products/services
– Order (authority)
– Budgets
– Information
• Input  process in organization output
Communications 3
• “[H]ow effectively and easily information
can be transmitted from its source to a
decision center” and
• “[H]ow effectively and easily the decision
can be transmitted to the point where
action will take place.” (Simon et al.
Communication Systems
• Formal communications
– Standard forms
– Formal requirement
• Informal communications
– Indispensable, inevitable, annoying
– Social relations with employees in various strategic
parts of an organization
• Internal & external (outward) communications
• Horizontal (lateral) and vertical (up/downward)
Questions in Communications
– How is information passed on in each
structure ?
– How do processes affect outcomes?
– Who has direct access to the information ?
– Do all members play an equal role in
– Who waits for the information?
– What are the advantages and
disadvantages of each structure ?
Communication Assessments
• Other dimensions of communications have
received attention in the literature.
– How does the amount of information sent
relate to such factors as performance, pay
and benefits?
– Who communicates with whom and about
– What determines whether recipients are
satisfied with the information they receive?
• The main issue with communication is “getting it
Barriers of Communications 1
• Language” gobbledegook, jargon
• Frame of reference: preconceptions,
specialization effect, cumulative effect
• Status distance: filtering and distorting in
upward and downward (interpretation and
Barriers of Communications 2
• Geographical distance: inadequacy of
techniques, insufficient/excessive
• Self-protection of the initiator
• Time pressure of other work
• Deliberate restriction (security vs.
democratic control)
• Censorship
Communication Problems
• Barriers to Effective Communication
• Lack of feedback: One-way communication, in which the
receiver provides no return of information about whether
and with what effect the information came across
• Noise in communication: Interference with the message
during its transmission, ranging from actual physical
noise or distortion to distractions or interference from the
presence of others, personal biases, or past experiences
• Misuse of language: Excessively vague, inaccurate,
inflammatory, emotional, positive, or negative language
• Listening deficiencies: Receivers’ listening inattentively,
passively, or not at all
Communication Problems
• Barriers to Effective Communication Between
• When two groups define a conflict between them as a
win-or-lose conflict
• When one or both groups seek to aggrandize their own
power and emphasize only their own goals and needs
• When they use threats
• When they disguise their true positions and actively
distort information
• When they seek to exploit or isolate the other group
• When they emphasize only differences and the
superiority of their own position
Communication Problems
• Communication Distortions in Public Bureaus
• Distorted perceptions: Inaccurate perceptions of
information that result from preconceived ideas or
priorities or from striving to maintain self-esteem or
cognitive consistency
• Erroneous translation: Interpretation of information by
receivers in ways not intended by the senders
• Errors of abstraction and differentiation: Transmission of
excessively abstract or selective information;
underemphasized differences in favor of similarities or
excessive polarization of fairly similar positions
Communication Problems
• Lack of congruence: Ambiguity or inconsistency
between elements of a message or between the
particular message and other sources of
information, such as conflicts between verbal
and nonverbal cues or between officially
communicated values and policies and other
communications indicating that these policies
and values do not hold
• Distrusted source: Failure to accept an accurate
message because of suspicions about bias or
lack of credibility of the source
Communication Problems
• Jargon: Communication difficulties that result from highly
specialized professional or technical language that
confuses those outside the specialization (and often
those within it). Some jargon has value, but officials may
use inflated an pretentious language to appear
knowledgeable or important, to intimidate or impede
clients, to distort true intentions, or to evade
accountability and scrutiny.
• Manipulating and withholding information: Senders’
actively distorting or withholding information in line with
their own interests and related influences that they seek
to impose on the receiver
Group Formation, Norms
• The communication structure determines how
information flows through the group (e.g. circle ,
chain, wheel) and can have a profound affect on
• Group formation can be either voluntary or
• The decision to join a group and the functioning
of the group is influenced by power structures.
• As groups form, norms and standards develop,
which in turn influence group behavior.
• Effective leaders can impact group behavior
Teamwork 1
• “Groups can bring in more knowledge,
information, approaches, and alternative
than individuals. The participation of more
people in group settings increases
organization members’ understanding and
acceptance of decisions; members have a
better idea of what the group decided and
why, and they can carry this information
back to people in the outer units or groups
to which they belong.” (p. 364)
Teamwork 2
• “… groups under the stress of making
major decisions often exhibit the
symptoms of groupthink. … to see the
group as invulnerable to opponents, … to
both see themselves as morally right and
stereotype their opponents as incapable or
immoral. … thus displayed groupthink
symptoms, such as stereotyping the
opposition, overestimating one’s own
position, and stifling dissent. (p. 365)
Pros and Cons of Groups
• Pros
– Groups can outperform individuals as a result
of the collective availability of talent,
– Group dynamics can motivate individuals.
– Interaction can foster knowledge and
• Cons
– Groups can stifle individual opinions
– Encourage the “wrong culture.”
– Larger groups can have “free riders.”
Groupthink 1
• The work of Irving Janis on this topic is important
to public managers.
• A type of thought exhibited by group members
who try to minimize conflict and reach
consensus without critically evaluating ideas.
• Independent thinking is lost in the pursuit of
group cohesiveness as group members avoid
promoting viewpoints outside the comfort zone
of consensus thinking.
• Groupthink is a decision making shortcut.
Groupthink 2
• “To avoid groupthink and its dangers,
public executives and administrators need
to learn to recognize its symptoms and
correct them, or better yet, build
mechanisms for accountability, impartial
leadership, links to sound information,
vigilance over process, heterogeneity of
membership, and other factors that
minimize groupthink” (Garnett, p.255)