How the social context negatively affects effective communication

Corporate communication and the effects of disruptive factors on the flow of communication

Preface

1 Introduction

2.1. What is communication
2.2. Communication models
2.2.2. Four-sided model after Schulz von Thun
2.2.3. Shannon – Weaver model
2.3.1 Communication disruptions
2.3.2 Barriers to communication
2.3.3 Disruptions in direct communication
2.3.4. Summary
2.4.1. Corporate communication
2.4.2. The importance of communication for companies
2.4.3. Basics of corporate communication
2.4.4. Communication strategy and goals:
2.4.5. Integrated corporate communication
2.4.6. Internal corporate communication
2.4.7. Integration of employee communication

3.1. Communication from company XY
3.2.2. Processing and further use of the data collection
3.2.3. Disruptions in information acquisition and transmission
3.3. Evaluation of the questionnaire
3.4. Possible improvements
3.5. Outlook and conclusion

List of literature

Directory of in-house materials

Directory of self-developed material

Preface

“The opposite of bad doesn't have to be good. It can be even worse "(Watzlawick 1969, p. 53)

During the first practical phase I got an insight into the communication of the company XY and with the difficulties and obstacles in the flow of communication caused by the restructuring in the back of my mind, I took precautionary measures against them. In the course of finding a topic and creating a synopsis for project work 1, I felt how important targeted communication is. Be it choosing the right recipient for your concerns, finding the right means of communication and the right words to convey your concerns. So I mainly communicated via What's App voice messages, as this seemed uncomplicated to me. I addressed my concerns to my supervisor's assistant, as she was suggested to me as a contact person or mediator for my boss and, in my opinion, as a former student of the same course, seemed suitable, as she should know what it was going to be the project work. When she unexpectedly left the company and some of the news and information was lost for me, I regretted my choice and my approach. I wanted to make it better and at the same time easier for myself and fell into the traps that communication brings with it.

1 Introduction

Effective and efficient communication between companies is very important for competitiveness. Disturbances in internal communication often occur, especially at interfaces between departments or due to the wrong means of communication being chosen. This means that information can reach the employee incomplete, delayed or changed due to the disrupted flow of communication. This can lead to ambiguities in the implementation of tasks or the design and implementation of projects and damage the company in the long term. If information is lost, an internal error analysis should take place in order to optimize future processes and avoid communication disruptions. The aim of this work is to examine the internal corporate communication of company XY (abbreviated to XY in the course of the work) and the general consideration of disruptive factors in the communication flow and the resulting loss of information using the example of the visit reports at the HOGA 2019. In addition, this should be clarified How communication disorders arise and to what extent they affect the flow of information using the example of the survey at the HOGA 2019 in order to then point out possible countermeasures. In a first step, the necessary terminology is explained and the relevant theoretical approaches are described in the context of the literature-based part of the thesis and the current models are presented. Subsequently, a comparison with the best practice presented in the specialist literature is to be drawn using the guidelines of company XY for internal communication and the design of the questionnaire for the recording of visit reports at the HOGA 2019. In a final step, an error analysis of the communication process to the trade fair is carried out with consideration of the possible disruptive factors and the design, the structure and the questionnaire of the questionnaire are improved.

2.1. What is communication

Although communication is omnipresent in human interactions and the scientific study of the topic extends into the first half of the 20th century, there is no consensus on the definition of communication. Based on the Latin origin “communicatio”, which means communication or conversation, the first definitions understood communication primarily as a direct speech act between people (cf. Röhner and Schütz 2016 p.2). Later definitions also gradually integrated communication via the media, which led to the fact that books, letters and telegrams in particular were initially taken into account, but now it goes without saying that new developments such as e-mails, telephones and digital text and voice messages are also taken into account . In this respect, it can also be explained that the scope of the current definitions has increased significantly over time (ibid. P.4). In this respect, definitions of communication are always to be understood in the context of the respective period of origin, which, above all, could not anticipate technical developments. Various reasons are given as the main reasons for the lack of clarity in communication terms. Merten (1977) writes in an early study of the subject that the difficulty lies in the nature of communication, which on the one hand is so general and omnipresent that the peculiarities are hardly noticed and on the other hand they are fleeting and omnipresent seems to be hardly fixable (cf. ibid. pp.10-11).

Röhner and Schütz (2016), on the other hand, see sub-complex communication metaphors for illustration, the expansion of the concept of communication to more and more modern phenomena, and the inclusion of not directly observable components of communication in the terms as problem factors. Another aspect is the expansion of the concept of communication to include various forms of human information transfer. While it was initially mainly face-to-face dialogues, as described, the influence of various scientific disciplines also resulted in the one-sided reception of advertising messages and “below the line marketing” (Esch et al. 2009, pp. 85-89), which consequently led to the generalized statement that “one cannot not communicate” (Watzlawick 2011). This is shown by Boneberg (2013), for example, that communication is “a general collective term for all processes in which certain information is sent (signaled) and received, even if it is not reciprocal” (ibid . P.238).

Kulbe sees it differently (2009 p.84), who describes communication as “a reciprocal process, an interaction in which living beings transmit messages (words, sounds, gestures)” and in contrast to Boneberg sees communication as a two-way process. The aspect of both one-way and two-way communication in the form of words as well as signs, which is meaningful for the present work, can be found in the somewhat more extensive definition by Boneberg (2013, p.238). This defines communication as “(...) exchange of information (...) through the expression and perception (transaction) of signs of all kinds. These signs can be systematically a biophysical level, for example physical touch and affects such as laughing and crying, a motor such as Posture, facial expressions, gestures, a phonetic level using noise and language and a technical level using media. "

Communication is always subject to interpretation. Which information is perceived as relevant is always subject to a complex selective perception, which means that the same information is received, processed and evaluated differently by different recipients. In addition, several pieces of information are always transmitted at the same time, all of which are evaluated and processed in parallel and all run against the background of a process that is not directly influenced by those involved (see Kuster et al. 2018, p. 318).

2.2. Communication models

As a social act, communication is most likely as old as humanity itself. It is assumed that even before verbal language appeared, and in the absence of the physiological prerequisites for producing words and differentiable sounds, early humans communicated using a sign language (cf. Tomasello 2009, pp.20-22). This makes it clear that communication is much more than just spoken. However, as already mentioned, communication as a scientific term appears late in sociological linguistics and it is not until the 20th century that the first attempts at explanation and communication models emerge (cf. Rommerskirchen, 2017, p.111). Organization theory limits the term communication - it defines communication as the exchange of information for the purpose of task-related understanding (cf. Theuner and Riedel, 1995, p.33). It is assumed that the majority of communication, takes place under the linguistic surface, i.e. on the unconscious level. This means that only a small part of the communication actually takes place consciously. This theory could be proven after a study by the anthropologist Albert Mehrabian. 7 percent are verbal, 38 percent vocal and 55 percent facial communication and gestures (cf. Mehrabian 1972, pp. 64-68). This means that 93 percent of the meaning and content of a message make up non-verbal communication. Thus, it is not only decisive what is said, but also how something is said: The tone, the external appearance and rank of the communicator and the recipient, facial expressions and gestures support the message or can even turn it into the opposite .

Even the choice of communication channel is subconsciously influenced by our personality. It has been shown that people with low self-esteem prefer email contact when there are potentially threatening communication events, such as an assessment interview. People with high self-esteem, on the other hand, prefer face-to-face communication (cf. Joinson 2004, pp.479-484).

2.2.2. Four-sided model after Schulz von Thun

The four-sided model assumes that a message is always more than an averaging that merely transmits information. It is based on a type of sender-receiver model in which the sender sends a coded message to the recipient via the voice channel and the recipient decrypts the message. Even if the sender and recipient speak the same language, problems can arise in the subsequent feedback that have arisen due to interference in the transmission. Von Thun uses his model to show that a message conveys various messages that can be illustrated using four dimensions. Factual information relates to the subject of communication, a relationship reference describes the relationship between sender and recipient, self-disclosure describes aspects that you reveal about yourself and the appeal describes what you want to achieve. This relationship is illustrated in a communication square.

The lack of transparency of speech intentions is the main problem in communication processes, which is why communication trainers often fall back on Schulz von Thun's four-sided model, since it provides a clear and plausible explanation for everyday life (Antos 1996, p. 123) Provides an interpretation of the speaker's possible intentions. It is therefore always communicated consciously or unconsciously on all four sides of the model, which can lead to misunderstandings in a communication process from the complex variety of information sent. For Schulz von Thun, messages contain explicit and implicit messages (cf. Schulz von Thun 1981, pp. 33-35). Implicit messages can be deciphered on the basis of behavior, e.g. through certain facial expressions or signing gestures, explicit messages are usually expressly formulated and conveyed verbally and take place on certain communication levels (ibid.). Messages can be viewed as congruent and incongruent. Messages are congruent if they are harmonious in themselves, i.e. if all signals are compatible on all levels. One speaks of incongruent messages when verbal and non-verbal signals are contradicting one another (ibid. P.35).

Particularly in the professional context relevant to this work, the aspects of factual information and appeal should play the main roles and the levels of self-disclosure and reference should not be in the foreground. Using the example of the questionnaire, these two factors are important for the design and the guidance of the respondents on site.

2.2.3. Shannon – Weaver model

The Shannon – Weaver model was developed by Warren Weaver and Clade Shannon in the early 1940s and is one of the classic communication models. Various concepts such as sender, receiver, information, channel and signal are integrated in it. This model, which was actually developed as part of a work to improve transmission technology in the US Army, later also became popular in the social sciences and established the communication sciences here (cf. Ternes 2008, pp.31-32). The basic idea of ​​the model is that a message encoded by a sender arrives at a recipient via a channel influenced by interference factors, which then has to be decrypted again by the recipient.

In the model, which is often illustrated as a telephone conversation, an information source, e.g. a person, sends information with the aim of bringing the recipient to an action or a conviction. This information is encrypted by means of a transmitter and, regardless of the actual information content, encoded by facial expressions or gestures, for example, via the channel, the medium is sent to the recipient, who decrypts it. Ideally, the information is decoded by the recipient in the same way as the encryption. Communication is successful if the information sent and the information decrypted are identical. Problems in the form of malfunctions can occur here. In the case of the technical model, physical problems with transmission (noise, volume) should be mentioned here, in a social context incorrectly understood sarcasm or incorrectly interpreted facial expressions would be examples.

2.3.1 Communication disruptions

The reasons for communication disorders can be varied. If communication is characterized by a lack of clarity and honesty, if there is no dialogue at eye level or with mutual respect, this can disrupt communication and have negative consequences, such as worsening the working atmosphere, employee satisfaction and work results (cf. Bruhn 2014, p.1199). Different character traits, values, social and cultural formation, as well as a subjective perception of the situation can cause interaction disorders such as antipathies or behavioral insecurity, which negatively influence the outcome of communication (cf. Hilke 1989, pp. 26-27). As already described, communication between individuals serves to exchange information to define the situation and to mutually perceive the perspectives of the interaction partners. Communication disruptions can often be traced back to asymmetrical information exchange (cf. Seidel 2007, p.35). In the sender-receiver model, communication processes and communication problems are seen as information flow or information loss in a transmission channel (cf. Shannon and Weaver 1949). or an interaction between two individuals. Communication disruptions can therefore also be characterized by problems in the transmission channel. Basically, it can be assumed that both interaction partners should be interested in effective information transfer and communication and should optimize their communication behavior accordingly. However, suboptimal communication processes such as paradoxes emerge in many interaction relationships (Watzlawick et al. 2017, pp. 207-208).

2.3.2 Barriers to communication

Thayer also formulated (Thayer 1968 quoted from Mohr, p.192) possible obstacles, so-called barriers in communication. He divides these into seven categories:

The category of “meaning barriers” includes problems that arise due to a lack of knowledge of the meaning and significance when sending and receiving a message, ie when it is not recognized what urgency and priority an information has. Furthermore, Thayer categorizes “organizational barriers”, ie problems that can arise due to the physical distance between the members of an organization, their specialized position, as well as their influence and status. "Economic, geography, and temporal barriers", i.e. barriers that e.g.Occurring due to different time zones and business hours can delay communication, but also economic or local restrictions that occur can prevent or slow down communication.

Obstacles due to the relationship or general working atmosphere, as well as due to different values ​​and the resulting attitudes and prejudices of the communication participants belong to "interpersonal barriers".

Furthermore, Thayer calls “individual barriers”, individual obstacles that result from the individual abilities and physical and linguistic restrictions of the respective communication participants. Some messages are better to be sent face-to-face than over the phone. Problems that arise from the question of how a message is best to be conveyed, i.e. which is the appropriate means of communication, belong to "channel and media barriers". The last to be mentioned are communication problems that arise when there is an excess of information, the “technological barriers”. They occur when the mass of information exceeds the processing capabilities of the recipient.

2.3.3 Disruptions in direct communication

The 4 most frequent causes of the disturbances of the four-sided model of direct communication (see Seidel 2007, p.100) are:

“Paradoxical communication”, which is characterized by contradicting definitions, information and calls for action. It can arise when the form of communication is inconsistent or information is ambiguous. Paradoxes can be useful and constructive, e.g. when confusion caused by irony breaks up established communication patterns (cf. Watzlawick et al. 2017, p.216). However, this ironic message must first be recognized as such and decoded. Paradoxical forms of communication are problematic if they are constructed as relationship traps: In double-binds, two or more people are in an existential relationship, the relationship being shaped by contradicting relational messages. Studies on the consequences of the loss of solidarity in management systems predict double-bind situations that will occur more frequently in companies in the future.

Another disruptive factor are “attribution errors” (Seidel 2007, p.102) or distortions of correspondence. They arise through the attribution of certain characteristics of people as the cause of action, but not the situational action and communication intention. The tendency that an observer underestimates the influence of the situation and overestimates the influence of the personal disposition when assessing the behavior and communication of a person (cf. Ross 1977, p.174-177) is a "fundamental attribution error" ( ibid. p.174). This is also understood as an actor-observer error and explained with an adverse perception perspective. The actors see requirements and characteristics of the situation in a given context - the own person steps out of the perceptual focus, while with observers it is the other way round, in that the observed person is the focus of perception (cf. Jones and Nisbett 1972, p. 79-84).

Furthermore, “role conflicts” can have a negative impact on communication. They arise from expectations of a social space, so-called role segments. They are expressed against a role owner by the reference persons, e.g. colleagues and superiors, in his field of action. Mutually incompatible expectations of the reference persons or groups can lead to role conflicts (Seidel 2007, p.105). The contradicting or competing role expectations towards an individual, which result from the membership of this individual in several different groups, make it difficult for the individual to behave appropriately for the individual role expectations (cf. Arnold et al. 1993, p. 1934).

The last disruption factor to be mentioned is the “cognitive dissonance”, which arises when two simultaneously existing impressions or findings contradict or exclude each other. Experiencing this discrepancy or dissonance leads to the person concerned trying to resolve this inner conflict by withdrawing from the situation and seeking an environment in which the dissonance is reduced or information is sought selectively which cancel out the dissonance (cf. Maier 2019). In everyday company life, this coping strategy is often revealed through selective information perception.

2.3.4. Summary

In summary, it can be said that communication disorders occur because communication never only takes place at the factual level and the recipient and sender do not only communicate objectively. As Seidel (2007) summarizes, communication is largely determined by the dynamics of the social structure and role segments and the personality of the communication participants. Also, as Thayer makes clear, the reasons can not only lie with the individual, but also with the organizational structure, the technology or the scope of information. If information is lost during the communication transfer or if it is transferred changed, disturbances in the communication flow occur.

2.4.1. Corporate communication

The term corporate communication has established itself for the communication of information in a business context by a company to its stakeholders and shareholders and the targeted presentation to the outside world. Corporate communication includes “(...) all controlled communication processes with which a contribution is made to the definition and fulfillment of tasks in profit-oriented business units and which contribute in particular to the internal and external coordination of actions, as well as a declaration of interests between companies and their reference groups (stakeholders). (...) Systematically distinguishable sub-areas of corporate communication (...) are internal communication, market communication and public relations (...). "(Zerfaß 2014, p. 23)

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