Process of Communication as Process of Power in an Organization
In today’s world, an organization is like a small country. It has its rules, its regimes, its power structure, its population, and its environment. It has its own kind of structures and systems. If we study an organization, we will find an entire culture, social and political setup that amazes one. The topic of our discussion is the extent to which formal and informal communication processes can influence be influenced by the processes of power in an organization.
Thus we need to determine a proper relationship between the processes of communication and the processes of power in an organization, the relationship should tell us how are they linked, how does each influence the other and how they effect the organization and its people. But before we do that we first need to have a proper understanding of the processes of communication, both formal and informal, and the processes of power in an organization.
For any organization, the processes of communication are vital to determine and effectuate the proper flow of data and information within the organization so that the employees in the organization are well-informed of their tasks and duties as well as of the workings of the entire organization. But in
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These processes of communication have the major uses of transferring knowledge and information within the organization, transferring roles, duties and job specifications to each employee, inform the organization of the decision and the strategic path of the organization as set by the top management, to keep each department in the organization in contact and knowledgeable of the other departments in the organization and to keep the employees in contact with one another.
The sources of information are like the nervous system of the organization, for without them the organization cannot control its departments and employees and keep them in touch with one another and the mind of the organization (top level management). If we study the processes of communication that are being used within an organization, we are able to identify two major categories of processes: the formal and the informal. The formal processes of information include all the “official” methods of communication. The “official” word in crucial here because it means all the recorded communication in he organization.
This includes both written and verbal kinds of communications, such as memos, letters, meetings, speeches, discussions etc. Then after the formal processes of communication, there are the informal processes of communication. These are the “unofficial” methods of communication, the methods that are not recorded in any record files, yet are present in every organization, and play a major role in the power structure, culture and employee willingness to work. The informal processes can have any method; it is simply any communication that takes place between the employees of the organization at any time.
Informal communication has no hierarchy levels, no specific topic, and no fixed number of participants. It can be employees discussing a football match, chatting as friends and even discussing the future of the company among themselves. Now let us try to understand what is meant by power in an organization. Power is a form of control in an organization. By control here we mean that the ability to get others respond to you, to get the desired outcome from other individuals and to get them to work and perform according to your wishes.
Power can even be derived as support; in this scenario power doesn’t only means to get others to work according to one’s wishes, but to make a relationship with them, such that they tend to listen to you and our opinions to the extent that you can influence their perceptions, their behaviors and even their thoughts and opinions. Thus the real meaning of power in an organization is not only to get other employees to respond to you and to work according to your directions, but also to influence them to alter their thoughts and decisions.
So how does this sort of power come to individuals in an organization? Well, the interesting finding is that position, seniority and age have little to do with the power acquired by an individual. Yes, the individuals will respond positively to their boss, or to a senior employee, but in today’s dynamic organization and with the intricacies of human mind and behavior, the organization doesn’t want only that from its employees. To get the 100% desired effort and performance from the employees, it is no longer in the hands of just ordering the employees, to just give them tasks and let them do the job.
Today we need employees that are wholeheartedly working for the organization, who tend to work and put their top effort for the welfare of their organization. Simply ordering them can’t get the job done as it should be. For this the organization needs managers and supervisors with power, the sort of power that is not stamped by position or seniority, but the power that can get the employees to work for and put their heat and soul after their supervisor. It is that sort of power, which can take a manager, and make him a leader. So how does one manager gets that power.
Well, there are many sources and factors residing behind the answer to that question, such as personality, work ethics, behavior, interpersonal dealing, relationship development skills etc. but our discussion is to show about how the methods of communication that are used in the organization can affect the power structure in the organization. For this purpose let us see the role of communication in the organization from the perspective of power. When communication takes place between people in the organization, whether official or unofficial, there are always certain individuals who take charge of the communication.
Be it communication during board meetings, during brainstorming session, or just random talks between employees during break time, one can always observe how some individuals take charge of the communication. These individuals leave a certain kind of influence or impact on the other people in the organization. In order to understand the kind of impact a dominant converser can have on the other members in the conversational group, one need to understand the concept of role playing.
During any form of interaction, particularly conversation, there are two major kinds of roles, one being the leader and others being the followers. As a person continuously tends to dominate the conversations and the communications within a particular setting, the factor of role playing begins to employ itself to the setting and the participants of the setting. The people tend to settle themselves in their particulars roles, whether of the influencer or the follower. They tend to associate more and more to their roles.
Thus in this way a pattern begins to emerge in the group, with the followers begins to associate more and more to the leader, to the extent that the begin to adapt themselves to the version as such approved by the leader. The human concept of group association also comes into play at this stage, and the members begin to act in the manner that would tend to make them more relatable and imitable to the leader. This then transforms into following the leader and affirming to the decisions, actions and behavior of the leader.
The other members of the group begin to conform to the decisions of the leader, and even begin to follow the leaders as such that they tend to comply with the advices and suggestions of the leader. Thus we see a sort of power emerging within the organization, a power that is not based on a sort of organizational authority, role or position, but is solely based on the actions of the individual who desires to attain it. This is the power that an individual can attain and enjoy in the organization based on the processes of communication.
Thus in this manner the process of communication becomes the process of power. Another sort of power attainment devise can be the theory of network analysis . This theory states that the relationships of a human being influence his behavior and perceptions. If we try to implement this theory to the environment of an organization, we see a clear trend, especially in informal communication, that as a sort of relationship develops among the employees through regular communication, the employees’ behavior tend to become more and more similar to that of the other members of the group.
It should be clarified here that the power we are discussing here does not depend only on the processes of communication. It depends on the individuals as much as it does on the communication levels. For such sort of power to develop, any sort of communication, informal or formal, can suffice. Its effectiveness depends critically on the actions and responses on the people in the organization. In order to understand this, let us consider first the case of a formal communication, such as a board meeting.
In such a setting, there are individuals with varying levels of authority in the organization, and the meeting has a specific agenda developed that needs to be discussed. During the conversation, various individuals of all levels and roles try to participate in the conversation and give their inputs to the discussion at hand. We see certain individuals tend to take control of the conversation, through increased enthusiasm, more input and more forceful suggestions. When an individual attempts this, a reaction also develops in the other members of the conversation.
While some respond in a positive manner, others develop a more hostile approach and tend to counter the arguments given by the individual trying to gain power of the meeting. A lot of factors come into play on which the success depends of the attempt to take power of the meeting. Some include personality of the individual, culture of the organization (friendly or hostile), relationship of the speaker with the other members present in the meeting etc. if the attempt gets a positive response, then we see a power shift from the other members to the individual. Thus once again communication process transfers itself to power process.
If this process is repeated on other occasions on a regular basis, then the theory of role setting begins to act, and the individual attains a power in amore of a permanent fashion. On the other hand, if the attempts are unsuccessful, then the human tendency to get envious engulfs the individual and stops him from attempting to switch the power icon towards him. Now the focus of our essay comes towards the main issue that needs to be addressed: which process of communication is more effective as process of power and what should a typical manager need to do to attain this kind of power within the organization.
For these two questions are not only linked with one another but are also linked with the successful career of a manager in any organization. To address the question that which communication process is a better medium for the processes of power, there are many theories. Different management professors and successful managers argue for and against both processes of communication, declaring their one to be superior. Let us first consider these arguments made for and against the formal and informal processes of communication.
For formal communication, the major advantage it presents as a process of power is its effectiveness and importance for the organization. Proponents of organizational behavior declare that grapevine, or informal communication can never become as important as formal communication. Formal communications are always meant to make decisions, to work towards the benefit of the organization, thus in such an environment, people are more responsive to what their colleagues are saying. This presents an excellent opportunity for managers to attain the power they seek.
Any communication is absorbed more positively and in lesser time in formal communication. Another crucial advantage that formal communication presents is particularly to middle level and top level management, that is, since in formal communication position plays a bigger role than in informal communication, they can more effectively influence the other members of the organization. Especially for middle level managers, this becomes a top opportunity to display their positive influence on the other members in from of the top management, which occurs rarely in informal communication.
The major disadvantage of formal communication as a process of power is that most employees at such an occasion feel obliged to communicate more and more, in order to impress the others. This makes it difficult for one individual to exert its influence on others. Also at such kinds of communication the position of the individual plays a more strong role than in informal communication, this makes it harder for employees with higher positions to accept the influence of employees with lower positions.
Lastly, as formal communication is seen as a one time and impartial process of communication by the employees, so they don’t tend to accept the influence of one individual that is achieved through such communication in their general work role. Thus the influence is not as strong as one that is developed through informal communication. This weakens the extent of formal communication as process of power. For informal communication, even through the organization tends to overlook this type of communication often, and consider it just grapevine; there is vast potential for the development of processes of power and loyalty among employees.
The practicality of grapevine alone demonstrates us this fact, that when employees interact in a free, and interpersonal level with one another, the bonds that are then developed are as strong more strong than any other kind of relationship that develops in an organization. This is the most important benefit of informal communication, that it helps employees to develop a sort of more powerful and binding relationship among themselves. Employees trust each other more, and tend to work as a group. This can help an employee to gain a certain kind of power in the organization through his/her fellow workers.
This kind of power, even though not recognized throughout the entire organization, yet can be potentially powerful among certain departments. Thus informal communication is a more effective process of power than other processes of communication. Another kind of benefit that informal communication gives to power attraction is that it is not dependent on any kind of position of the individual in the organization. Also this kind of power process in stronger than from any kind of formal communication, and is also more on long term basis.
Lastly, the informal communication has the most benefit for individuals that already possess position authority but lack the charismatic authority. They can use the informal communication network to get friendly with the employees that the individual supervise. Overtime, a relationship could be developed based on not only the position authority of the individual, but also based on the charismatic authority of the individual, and the combined force can make the individual a more likeable and influential leader.
The major disadvantage of informal communication is that it is not officially recognized in the organization. This is to the extent that even grapevine was not recognized and considered as a potential organization factor until recently. Only nowadays major organizations realize the power of informal grapevine and try to use it for the benefit for the organization. Thus for organizations where informal communization is not taken highly, it is very difficult for the company to realize the power of an individual achieved through grapevine, it is even condemned sometimes.
Also as there are man small informal groups in an organization, thus it is very difficult to exert one’s power over a large number of employees through this means. Lastly, the informal communication essentially develops a charismatic authority, which is influential, but it helps little in developing the position authority, as top management, even though encourages such kind of authority due to this significance, yet seldom comes to know about such cases.
Thus we can determine that both processes of communication are vital as processes of power in the organization. It is very difficult to assess them and compare their influence as both have distinct advantages and disadvantages, and to get the desired authority and power in an organization, a manager needs to use both the processes effectively. Now coming to the last part of our argument; what are the learning that a manager can use to increase his authority in the organization through the learning of this essay.
To become a successful leader a manager must initially realize that it is the people, not the products and services, technology or finances of the organization, that make the organization successful. As established in the attraction-selection-attrition framework , the organizational behavior of any company is determined by the attributes of the employees, thus the employees play a huge role in determining the overall culture and temperament of the organization, and this determines the future outlook of the organization.
Thus if the manager can successfully lead the people, then through them he can lead the entire organization to any height possible. Secondly, the manager has to realize that to connect with the employees, there is no better way than to communicate effectively with them, as was discussed in the critical approach to organization that stresses on communication not only as a medium of transfer of information, but as a medium through which social reality is established for the organization.
Thus to establish one’s authority, first a relationship of trust should be developed in the employees, and made strong with the development of emotions of respect and awe in the employees for the manager. This could be effectively achieved trough communication. To communicate effectively, a manager needs to take into consideration both the formal and informal processes of communication. He has to use both processes effectively to attain the desired results of authority and power. The aim during any communication should be to exert a proper influence on the other employees.
For formal communication, the proper influence is exerted through positive input from the manager in the meetings, with taking due responsibility and implying to the other employees that the manager is an individual that can be listened to and trusted to. It is also an excellent opportunity to let the top management know what potential and leadership qualities you possess. For informal communication, the key is to develop a friendly and trusting environment with the employees, especially with those who work below you. The manager needs to remove the boundary of hesitancy between himself and his subordinates.
The communication should be friendly, easy going and to some extent humorous so that the employees may feel that the manager is also one of them, they will begin to trust the manager. Slowly, the manager can use the communication network to establish a strong bond between himself and his subordinates, so that the subordinates begin to work according to his instructions not only because they have to, but because they want to. It is at that stage when the employees begin to believe in the goals and vision of the manager and work of their own accord to the achievement of these goals, then a leader is developed.
A manager needs to take care of the fact that the goal of power is to attain and use it for the betterment of the organization, because the role of leader is only effective when the individual is believed to be exemplary by the followers. For a manager, who already has some degree of authority via position, to attain charismatic authority among the employees, he needs to display exemplary characteristics, such that he acquires a position of respect and inspiration for the employees.
Only then the employees assume the role of leader and power for the manager, and tend to follow his vision and goals. Thus with these guidelines and the proper usage of both the formal and informal communication networks in the organization, the manager can successfully achieve authority and power in the organization, and use it effectively to derive more efficient and sincere efforts from the employees for the betterment of the organization and the achieving of the organizational goals. Bibliography: 1. Spring 2001 Theory Workbook (2001), ORGANIZATIONAL CONTEXT .
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