“The problem with communication … is the illusion that it has been accomplished” George Bernard Shaw.
The talent an organization hires contributes majorly towards its success. Maintaining, building and developing the skills of its people its one of the major responsibilities of the firm. Enabling to employees to develop communication and interpersonal skills effects the way organizations day-to-day operations.
Interactive Business Skills
The traditional organization used to follow the approach of non-interactive skills, in which the communication is done from the manager to the subordinate, usually is in form of orders. However, HR trainees and experts have readily agreed that promoting and developing interactive skills are important for healthy personal development. According to Hamilten (2005), interactive skills are also knows as “reflective or empathetic skills” and are crucial for building and maintaining rapport. In sum, an interactive business skill is a form of communication which involves more than one person.
Even after the realization of HR experts and trainees, managers are reluctant to promote the use of interactive business skills in their communication lines. They believe that it would make the information “jumbled up” or the lines of communication will no longer state their orders clearly. The top management needs to understand that interactive communication does not (in an organizational environment) comes naturally, and like all others this skill also requires continuous management and control.
Alessandra and Hunsaker, mention that managers are usually analyzing and evaluating their subordinates on the basis of their productivity levels. They believe that non-interactive or aggressive behavior by the manager might lower the overall productivity. The interactive management requires the manager to play “the role of a counselor, consultant, and problem solver.” This they state will help in instilling trust between an employee and manager resulting in a “a win-win relationship”. When treated as production tools employees will rebel, whether it is passively or aggressively, disabling the organization in reaching its objectives. The trust, care, respect, and gratitude shown towards them will help all the participants of the firm.
Four principles of interactive management and skills development are proposed by Alessandra and Hunsaker, the first of which is to develop the management policies and communication process on the basis of “trust-bond” relationship. The second principle will follow, that is compliance by the subordinates is now because they understand the manager, rather than feeling obligated towards him. The managers should enable people to make their own decisions, and should not solve their problems, which are the third and the fourth principle in achieving interactive communication and management. The managers, however, are meant to guide and help their subordinates if they require their input.
Grapevine is described as, “the informal transmission of information, gossip or rumor from person to person”. The author also emphasized that since it is informal, unwritten, or undocumented it is prone to “change and interpretation.” Due to the fickle nature, grapevine cannot be the only type of communication in the organization. Thus, the need of formal documented communication and the chain of command remains. It is believed that grapevine communication represents a healthy and motivated workforce, and since it is informal the communication lines are not drawn by the management. Information, gossip, or rumor can travel from one to another, vertically or horizontally, upward or downward.
William A. Delaney said “grapevine exits, always has and always will, and you can’t stop it.” The managers need to devise ways and plans to deal with grapevine communication because no matter what they do some form of rumor and gossip will always remain inside their organization. Managers have three options when it comes to grapevine, they can ignore it, become an active member of the process, or take part only when it involves them directly. If they feel the need, they should take some part in this informal structure to control the limits to which it is expanded. Discussing politics, especially office politics should not be allowed or considered healthy for the productivity of the organization.
Grapevine does have some positive aspects to it; the first one is that it is a much faster way of communicating and transferring information. The top management can also use it to assess and deal with the concerns, problems, and ideas of their employees. It can also be used to communicate in emergencies. The other side of the coin does represent some serious issues that the management might face due to these informal talks. The biggest and major disadvantage could be the decline in the levels of production. Employees should not be allowed to gossip or roam about at the time dedicated to work.
Grapevine communication can also be about changes in policies, compensation packages, benefits, or promotions and demotions. This would give rise to the issue, which is relatively difficult to deal with, that is the growing or lowering expectations of the employees. Ultimately, however, the effectiveness of informal communication is poor and unstable. Therefore, formal channels will stay in their place. Grapevine can be used to enhance and support these formal structures but it cannot be the sole way to communicate information.
The top management is usually responsible to come up with the compensation packages of the employees. The organization is responsible to provide financial as well as emotional security to its employees. Hampered emotional state, or troubles in personal life can affect the productivity levels of an employee. To deal with such problems, managers should promote counseling. The counseling sessions are paid for by the employer and these refer to as “Employee Assistance Program.”
EAP can be used to alleviate problems such as stress, sexual harassment, low levels of productivity, personal troubles, depression, excessive workload, and even undisciplined behavior. According to McLeod and Henderson, employers are hiring most people on “short-term contracts, working part time and with less job security.” This poses even more problems to deal with when it comes to emotions and stress. Managers are reluctant to invest huge amounts in building a workforce which is temporary.
Another reason of unwillingness comes from the employee’s exploitation of the concept of counseling. They also sometimes perceive the counselor to be at the side of the employer rather than a helper. They usually end up using this generous offer of the employer as a tool to gain sick leaves and absences. Also, the so called “stress of workplace” is now “widely used on sickness certificates and has formed basis of legal claims against employers”. It is normal human behavior to take advantage of everything, especially if it is for “free.” Managers need to understand that counseling and counselors can help alleviate their burden by dealing separately with the problems of an employee. The performance of the employee should be continuously monitored to determine the effectiveness of counseling. Although, the counselor is sworn to privacy, a company policy should enable the manager to access the information regarding the emotional state (not all details) of the employee.
Aggressiveness, Assertiveness and Passiveness
The concept of aggressiveness, assertiveness, and passiveness are often confused and people, especially managers use them interchangeably. The difference between the three words, or managing concepts, should be understood by each and every single department, unit and individual of the organization. The human talent and resource is responsible for the development of the norms and cultural values of an organization. It is true that the top management designs the “formal culture,” but the “informal culture” is developed by contribution of all individuals. Managers are not traditional leaders. They should possess charisma; subordinates should follow their lead with passion.
According to Powers, a passive person lacks the understanding and respect of his “own needs,” he also exhibits an “indirect behavior,” which at the end leads to the inability of gaining respect and individual rights. She defines assertive behavior as, “confidence, respect, and honesty.” An individual possessing assertive skills respects not only his own view and idea but also the concerns of others involved. They are the true charismatic managers, who have the quality of persuade others without being hostile. Aggressiveness is described by Harper, it is an attitude or trait that is used to make the person feel better or good about them. It is usually done by forcing “your point of view across on the other person,” which might lead to damaging their self image and thoughts.
In other words, world for an aggressive person revolves around himself, for an assertive person it revolves around him and his colleagues, but for a passive person his own self is the least important. In yet another way, it can be said that an aggressive behavior is a win-lose situation, winning for the aggressive person and losing for the victim. Passive is the total opposite of aggressive, whereas, assertiveness is a win-win for both.
There are a few reason as to why assertiveness is too hard to use in a real world, one of them is due to the differences among the people working in one organization. The HR department should assist its employees in adapting to an assertive behavior by continuously offering training programs and development opportunities. The confusion between the three attitudes is another reason of the inability to use assertive behavior. However, the most common one is because managers feel that they need to push and force their employees to work and be productive. Especially the traditional managerial style promotes the aggressive behavior. However by using the assertive behavior, the mangers promote the interactive management skills, as mentioned earlier. It makes the employees feel important and heard by their superiors. The main pool of the organizational talent lies at the bottom of the organizational pyramid. By promoting and managing assertive and interactive management, the organization enables itself to gain new concepts and ideas generated below.
There is a huge pool of jobs available for talented, skilled, and educated individuals. Employees should be looked at as investments, managers and employers should invest in building, developing, and maintaining their workforce through various means. Having a good and developed human resource is a considered a competitive advantage in today’s world. A company, after investing in an employee, cannot afford to lose them. Using interactive business skills, assertive management styles, training and development of employees, and providing financial and emotional security are a few ways to hold onto the valuable asset called the Human Resource of the Organization.
Alessandra, Tony., and Phillip L. Hunsaker. The New Art Of Managing People: Person-to-person Skills, Guidelines, And Techniques Every Manager Needs To Guide, Direct, And Motivate The Team. New York: Free Press, 2008.
Epoq Group. “Counseling at Work.” 2009. Web.
Hamilten, Gloria. “Interactive Skills.” EzineArticles, 2009. Web.
Harper, Kate. “Going For A Win-Win Result – A Guide To Being Assertive.” 2006. Web.
Kinder, Andrew. “Workplace Counseling: a poor relation?,” Counseling at Work. 2005, pp. 22-24.
McLeod, John. and Max Henderson. “Does workplace counseling work?.” British Journal of Psychiatry British. 2003, pp. 103-104
Mishra, Jitendra. “Managing the Grapevine.” Public Personnel Management; Vol. 19 Issue 2, 1990, pp. 213-228.
Powers, Lisa. “Assertiveness vs. Aggressiveness: Is There REALLY a Difference?, Company Business Magazine: Human Resource. 2008, pp. 14-15.