Organizational Structure and Communication Relations

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Introduction

The utilization of an effective communication channel can aid in meeting organizational objectives as well as aiding managerial effectiveness. In a study carried on the impact of organizational structure on communication effectiveness on 68 respondents, seven independent variables of the organizational structure were investigated. The variance in communication effectiveness was best explained by two of the seven investigated variables, namely, specialization and formalization. The study found insignificant results for the impact of demographic factors such as gender, race, and position on communication effectiveness (Devi, 1994). The structure of an organization determines on a large scale how communication is carried out in an organization, and even more, the success of this communication. The success of an organization itself largely leans on the communication and the style the workforce has been trained to use. Every leader needs to learn not only how to manage communication in their organization, but to understand how the organization structure can be tailored to accommodate or ensure effective communication. Breakdown of or poor communication means the beginning of the failure of an organization. In fact, communication alone can be blamed for the failure of several organizations. More importantly, the idea that the organizational structure can affect communication or its success needs careful attention. Training of the employees to equip them with the necessary communication skills is also an important aspect of organizational success. Building an organization’s communication strategy is also important because it helps to impart a culture in the organization which ensures effective and continuous commitment towards improving communication in the organization. Organizational communication revolves around several concepts or many ideas. These include leadership, culture, conflict, gender, and diversity among others. The messages in an organization flow through the organizational communication structure. It depicts the patterns of communication within the organization. There are two types of organizational communication structures, namely, formal and informal structures. An organization that adopts a formal channel has officially designated channels through which messages flow within the organization. In this case, the organization’s policies, manuals, hierarchical structures, and organizational charts must feature the formal communication strategy. The organizational policies are so important in outlining the channels of communication that are acceptable and suitable to the organization. Information technology has shaped how organizations are handling communication.

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In addition, communication technology and ICT have played a significant role in the establishment and maintenance of communication in organizations. Literature has put forward five factors that would directly affect the effectiveness of organizational communication. These are; channels, procedures, and feedback methods; technology; the characteristics of employees on a personal scale; the surrounding environment; and the organizational structure (Mehralizadeh, Sakineh, & Ali, 2008). Communication within an organization encourages effective cooperation and workers would end up being more productive. There is immense literature on the conceptual approach to human communication. The psychological perspective is one of the four approaches put forward by literature, and which focuses on how individual characteristics affect their communication. The mechanistic perspective is a second one that emphasizes the channels that connect communicators. The coordinated behaviors that possess the ability to create, maintain and dissolve organizations are featured in the interpretive-symbolic perspective. Since the context of the message affect symbols used in communication, the effect of cultural factors on the interpretive process is also featured in the interpretive-symbolic perspective. The analysis of the external behaviors is what has featured in the fourth perspective; the system interaction perspective. Communication directly affects the employees’ satisfaction. The quality of communication is associated or linked to the performance of the organization and the outcomes. There has been noted a decrease in the employee strikes, absenteeism levels; as well as improved productivity and overall quality of service, following high quality of internal communications.

The Type of Organizational Structure and the Communication Style

The type of organizational structure that a firm adopts will influence the communication style and the impact of communication. Therefore, the management must consider various types of organizational structures and how they impact the communication within the organization. It is important to mention that every type will offer certain advantages and disadvantages relating to the communication level desired, or the communication channels that the management desires to use. The goal is to promote effective and healthy communication within the organization at all levels (Adubato, n.d.). Hierarchies that are formal and embracing direct chains of command have been considered as having minimal confusion because the person in charge is well known and responsible. This, however, has been assumed as encouraging autocracy and dictatorship. A flat type of organizational structure where the top management interacts and communicates with virtually every worker would, on the other hand, be viewed as embracing and promoting democracy and free flow of ideas (Adubato, n.d.). However, in the consideration of which type of organizational structure achieves the best results as relates to communication needs, other factors need to be embraced too. In fact, the analysis may be more complex than it appears. The other necessary factors include the size of the organization and the task involved. The recommendations follow in this discussion. The utilization of the right structure may depend on the type of organization, the nature of information, and the time the message is being transmitted. For instance, a military-like situation will require a strict hierarchy and a tight chain of command at wartime. The knowledge of the particular person involved in the decision-making and issuance of directions and commands must be known in these situations to avoid damages and maximize efficiency. In such times, there will be limited time for debating and discussing. Therefore, managers must consider the weight of the matter, nature or the situation of operation, the time and effectiveness. Small to medium-sized organizations would work well with an open-door policy where the top management would be free to meet any employee. However, application of this in large organizations would result in information overload, therefore, increasing the possibility of a loss of productivity and missed opportunities. In addition, the organizational structure that encourages hierarchical channels would help managers of large firms to be able to control information and would best determine which information needs to be attended to within a short period of time. However, obsession with limiting the information that gets to the top organ may present the disadvantage of the people feeling that they can’t access the top organ. Organizational charts can be used to describe the reporting structure. Organizational charts have already been touted as highly effective tools for workforce modeling and scenario planning (Sacks, n.d.). An organizational structure that encourages the use of organizational charts is best suited to provide the managers with real-time information essential for making timely decisions. A more formal structure that is stipulated in the organizational charts may limit visualization and flexibility, although it describes best who is concerned with what. The organizational structure must encourage dynamism, visualization outside the box and encourage flexibility (Adubato, n.d.).

If utilized and embraced well in an organizational structure, organizational communication can be utilized to ease or deal with the complexity brought about by globalization, competition, innovation and technological changes. Organizations must seek to thrive in communication, and then utilize these communication channels to thrive in dealing with the aforementioned complexity (Mehralizadeh, Shahi, & Sharify, 2008). There is a general feeling that communication is the root of all organizational problems. Communication plays an important role in the maintaining of all relationships within an organization, regardless of its type. The organizational structure must be in such a way that communication is adequate and effective to avoid personal conflict and organizational problems. The use of technology and up-to-date technology has been touted as one way through which organizations can enhance their communication. Several factors should be embraced in the organizational structure or culture that embraces communication effectiveness. These include the feedback channels, skills of communicators, among others. Research has found evidence that communication is influenced by organizational structure and technology (Mehralizadeh, Shahi, & Sharify, 2008).

The formal establishment of procedures and lines of management in decision-making is given priority within these organizations. The making of decisions within these organizations is by the management who rarely consult with their subordinates and who use sophisticated control systems. Emphasis is laid on the open system of operation and the making of a decision in organic organizations. There are three basic dimensions or characteristics of organizations that may help in the understanding of the organizational structure. These are centralization, formalization, and the complexity of the organization. Centralization is where tight coordination and control of an organization is achieved by few people in the upper levels of management. A decentralized organization has its decision-making distributed throughout the organization. The codification of the behaviors and job requirements into policies, customs, rules, and regulations is termed formalization. The degree of internal variation of an organization’s roles and activities reflects the complexity of the organization. Two types of complexity include vertical as well as horizontal. The relation between the vertical complexity and communication has revealed that communication quality decreases with the increase of the organization size. The quality and quantity of communication will decrease with the rise of the levels of hierarchy, and the distance that the message must pass increases with the rise in the aforementioned levels. The success of management of the tall organization was positively related to sharing of information with subordinates, but the latter was negatively related to the success of management in flat organizations. The flow of oral communication increases with the rise of occupational specialties, and this depicts a relationship between horizontal complexity and communication. More complex organizations have higher volumes of communication. Some study has found a negative correlation between the frequency of total communication of subordinates and the horizontal complexity of organizations.

Organization structures in modern environments are being transformed by communication technology and in general technology. Technology has been utilized to reduce the cost of communication and coordination. In addition, technology has allowed the formulation of organizational structures that allow decentralization of decision making, as well as allow decision making to be delegated to better informed and better controlled lower-level managers. The power of technology to increase the capacity of information processing by managers may lead to the centralization of decision-making. IT has been found to possess the ability to flatten organizational hierarchies due to its capability to automate some of the middle management functions. Some of the hierarchies can therefore be eliminated, and hence increasing the speed of the flow of communication. Other scholars have theorized that the reduction of delays and distortions of information flow through the hierarchy through the use of information technology can lead to the deepening of the hierarchies. Such reduction leads to an extension of the reach of top management. Information technology increases options for the organization as relates to communication.

Embracing Different Types of Communication Channels in the Organizational Structure

Generally, the type of communication that an organization will be determined by the type of information mainly expected, as well as how the organization is structured. The organizational structure that embraces formal communication channels features downward, horizontal or upward communication. The different types vary in the speed of transmission of the message, and the effectiveness. An organization may choose to either adopt the workers to the downward flow of communication, where the top management offers the direction or gives orders to the lower-ranked staff. The lowest staff will receive the message as directions from the top. This type of organizational communication will feature such as job instructions, procedures, and feedbacks. The communication in the downward system is faster and largely depends on both the receiver and the one giving the message.

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It will be difficult for an organization to adopt one type of communication channel. This is because of the nature of all the communication in the organization: they cannot fit in one form of communication. Whereas managers and top management retain an important position in the initiation of communication, the subordinates equally hold an important part because some messages will automatically originate from them and must be communicated to their superiors. Thus it is common for an organization to adopt both downward and upward communication strategies. Therefore, the organization must be willing to tailor an organizational structure that embraces different types of communication channels. In fact, as it will be seen later on in this paper, the adoption of an organizational structure that is diverse as such to embrace both formal and informal types of communication is recommended. In addition, no one particular type of organizational communication channel is not without defects. Embracing one type of communication channel will mean that the organization sacrifices the advantages presented by the alternative. All channels have their own advantages and disadvantages. In fact, some advantages of one particular channel may act as to counter the disadvantages of the other and vice versa, and this indicates the importance of adopting a communication channel that embraces all types of channels. However, there are challenges as well as disadvantages of adopting all the channels. There is a need for clarity on who should do what and when, as relates to organizational communication. Upward form of communication will be important in transmitting certain types of information such as reporting on job performance, problems related to the job, the perception of employees on the rules and regulations established, as well as the success of procedures and tasks, among others. The advantage of an organizational culture that embraces an upward channel of communication is that the workers will feel motivated because they initiate discussions and agendas. In fact, the subordinates feel like they own the decisions made because ideas originate from them and they feel involved. Horizontal communication allows people in the same level of organization to communicate directly. It is better suited for problem-solving, sharing information freely and across workgroups, and coordination of tasks and projects between or among departments. This type of channel may be applauded for being effective, but at the same time may be time-consuming.

Informal communication does not embrace any formal channels or systems of communication. It is better placed to cater to the social and personal interests of employees rather than the formal requirements of an organization. The advantage of this channel of communication is that it is able to provide a relaxed and comfortable climate.

One particular thing that emerges from the discussion on the various channels of communication is that there are advantages or strengths of each of them. The organizational structure must seek to gather all the advantages presented in order to survive the challenging business environment, especially as relates to effective communication. Deeper discussion and consideration would reveal challenges that are involved in each of the channels. Desirable characteristics and advantages of each channel provide a good platform for consideration for combining or merging the channels in one organizational structure. Yet the undesirable characteristics and disadvantages provide the platform for careful analysis before integrating each one of them into the organizational structure. Integration of formal and informal types will ensure that the organization does not struggle to achieve particular purposes in the area of communication.

Conclusion

The organizational structure affects organizational communication. In particular, the channels of communication embraced in the organizational structure must facilitate efficient and quicker communication. It is recommended that the organizational structure embrace diverse channels of communication. This is to provide for the advantages and disadvantages presented by each channel of communication. Careful attention must be paid to the integration of the various channels. Technology has been found to also influence communication. In particular, technology has been embraced in organizations and has changed the way organizational structures are formulated. Therefore the impact of technology on information flow and communication cannot be ignored. An increase or decrease in hierarchical structures impacts the flow of information and communication. There is a need for management to consider different channels of communication, as well as the different types of organizational structures and how to integrate them. Different communication channels are fitted for various purposes. Managers of organizations need to analyze what they really want and what they don’t desire to see in the organization, so as to come up with an appropriate organizational structure. More importantly, a more participatory organizational communication strategy will be suitable for an organization where everybody is involved. Some advantages are gained by having a closed system of management where the flow of information is limited or controlled. However, such controls must mean letting the top management have no access to the decisions and opinions from below.

References

Adubato, S. (n.d.). Organizational structure impacts communication style. Caucus. 2010. Web.

Devi, V. (1994). Impact of organizational structure on effective communication flow: The case of Sharp-Roxy Corporation. Web.

Mehralizadeh, Y., Sakineh, S., & Ali, S. (2008). Effectiveness of organizational communication (organizational structure and technology). Social Science Electronic Publishing Inc. Web.

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Sacks, M. (n.d.). Improving Organizational Planning and Communication. 2010. Web.

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