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Communication and organizational culture

Research shows that company's performance is much higher in environments with good organizational culture. Communication in such an environment is open, focused on cooperation, and based on mutual trust.

Communication and organizational culture

source: Rawpixel

People are social beings. We have been connecting in different communities from time immemorial. First, we are born into a community, later on we are placed into other communities, and then there are some communities that we choose ourselves. We are never completely sovereign in any community or organization, but at the same time, we cannot be completely passive in any of them. We co-create our communities. Each community shapes us with its culture, and we apply our culture, character and values to the community, and in turn shape the organization, and complement or deteriorate its culture and image.

Relationships and culture get built through communication. And on the other hand, the quality of culture influences the quality and pleasure of communication. Communication and culture in an organization work hand in hand in building or tearing each other apart. In order to be able to improve them and build good atmosphere in the organization, it is important to know the types and characteristics of communication. What are good cultural practices based on?

What is communication?

The word communication comes from Latin (“communis”) and means common, community. By means of communication, thoughts and desires are exchanged between individuals or communities using different signs or symbols. Most often, communication takes place in the form of spoken or written words. However, there can also be various signs, gestures, images and so on Communication not only conveys content or meaning, but also the relationship between two people. From the way of speaking (speed, clarity, speaking volume, calmness …), body language (facial expressions, gestures, posture, uniformity …) and the choice of environment (in public or in private, in a quiet or noisy environment, in a large space, in an orderly room …) we receive information that exceeds the mere meaning of words.

The person communicating the information must be well prepared in order to convey the intended message. The first prerequisite is to believe in what you are communicating. Only a well-prepared message will reach its goal. People are becoming increasingly more visual beings, which is why verbal information should be supported by images and photos. Well-chosen images or an emotionally toned story can evoke associations and emotional reactions. After each meeting in the organization (let’s not forget that meetings involve communication), all the participants should receive notes reminding them of the conversation content, no later than three days after the meeting.

However, even well-prepared and important information may fall on deaf ears. Good communication requires a good mediator and an even better listener. It is one thing to listen to information, and it is another thing to hear it. If someone browses the phone while receiving the information, they will not hear the information. The excuse: “Go ahead, I'm listening to you…” is just empty words. Even though being able to repeat the last few words or even sentences like a parrot, in reality the listener did not hear the words. The listener will certainly not remember those words, and will even less be touched by the information and let it soak in. If you are somewhere else with your thoughts, it is best to be somewhere else also with your body. To remember the received information, you need to make an effort, focus only on the communicator, and monitor his or her entire communication. Words, body language and manner of speaking are all important. Notes should be taken to better receive information, and they are a great help to memorize the content.

Sometimes, in spite of all the best intentions and sincere efforts to reach a good understanding, there is communication noise, and consequently conflicts arise. This may happen due to differences in the understanding of the meaning of words. On the other hand, some information may come unexpectedly and you don’t know how to tackle the new situation in your life. Then again sometimes, there’s simply a difference of opinions which need to be harmonized. With good communication, conflicts are resolved even before any harm has been done. It is essential to pursue a common goal, maintain good culture and general sentiment in the organization. How should you react in the event of a conflict? For sure, you need to react with the communication focused on the problem at hand which had led to the disagreement. In doing so, you need to keep in mind all the involved parties and understand them, be compassionate and feel for them. In contrast, the focus on finding the perpetrator and blaming them for problems from the past only deepens the conflict and severely disrupts the friendly work environment. Egotism, self-centeredness, and competitiveness lead to conflict and corrupt the work environment.

Communication is one of the essential elements of leading an organization. We distinguish between democratic, subsidiarity, authoritarian and autocratic leadership. Successful communication always highlights a common goal and is based on mutual respect. The leader must have communication skills that interconnect and must know how to listen to everyone and guide them towards a common goal. The more open and multifaceted the communication, the greater the satisfaction of all members in the organization. It is therefore important that executives, managers, and all other members of the organization communicate also in areas that go beyond immediate business goals. It is good that the members of the organization are a friendly community that knows how to spend quality leisure time together.

Effective communication creates a quality organizational culture

Let’s ask ourselves, what exactly is culture? We use this term quite often, but due to the attribution of a variety of meanings to this concept, there is communication noise and misunderstanding. The word comes from agriculture. People have been improving the usability of plants through cultivation and cultural activities. From wild grain, they grew a cultivated plant with better grain and higher yield. Cultural progress means the development of civilization from a poor, wild and disorderly state to a better, safer and orderly way of life. It is possible to achieve gratifying results of material progress in a cultured environment. In a cultured environment, one feels safe and feels no need to be afraid of being exploited and neglected. All human activities are cultural activities when they contribute to a kinder and better environment. Without a cultured environment, human life is in great danger. Instead of joy and being focused on creativity, a person may struggle to survive in a poor, uncultured and wild environment. In such a situation, you may hide in fear, waste your abilities in vain and spend your strength on bare survival and a relentless struggle to rise to the top, where one feels like a predator to avoid feeling like prey.

A variety of studies, including empirical research, show that the company's performance is much better in environments with good organizational culture. In such an environment, communication is open and focused on cooperation and mutual trust. Relationships are strengthened not only in a narrow business environment, but also in leisure activities. Employees feel accepted and respected. Their sense of security, satisfaction, enthusiasm, belonging to the company and loyalty are boosted. They feel co-responsible for good business results and good reputation of the organization they identify with. They feel at home and are aware that they are not working for someone else, but for themselves. In an environment characterized by good organizational culture, employees are ready to overcome various problems and failures. They will not leave the company on a spur and move to another work environment. The primary reason for employee fluctuation is poor organizational culture.

What boosts culture in an organization?

Culture is based on the values ​​nurtured by a large portion of people in the organization. The greatest influence comes from someone with a strong personality who is visible to everyone, for example the manager. If this manager is committed to the job, others will be committed, as well. If this person is honest, others will be honest, as well. The values ​​of the leading person are also the values ​​of others. Organizational culture gets built by personal example. Written and unwritten rules follow after that. These rules must first be respected by the leader. The leader sets an example and is the first, in both good and bad. The leader must be the one who is the most consistent in following the rules. Even though leaders have more than ample opportunity to cover up any breaches and find excuses, they should be aware that no violation of rules and no excuses remain hidden.

This article was largely written before the situation changed around the world. Due to good mutual communication and organizational culture, productivity has even increased in the new situation where almost everybody works from home. Everyone feels responsible and we all work to the best of our ability. In a crisis situation, the results of a cultured organization become evident.

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Author

Nataša Centa, BSc in Education, Mathematics and Physics, expert in HRM digitization by means of modern IT-solutions, Product Manager at Četrta pot, d.o.o., Kranj


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