Internal and External Communication
Definition of Communication (USCAnnenberg, Video, 21 July 2003):
Communication has been come a central point in most organizations today especially as the world is fast going global. Communication in a lay man’s way will be simply the sending and receiving of information. Communication in an organization is more simply than sending and receiving of information. Communication plays a vital role in an organization because a poor quality communication system may lead to failure in the organization’s operations. The communication system in an organization can be defined as;
The process of transmitting a message (information, opinions, ideas etc) by the sender (who can be at any level of the organizational hierarchy) to the receiver (at any level of the organizational hierarchy) using any communication medium (such telephones, writing, text messages, gestures etc). The question is, how will information flow in the organizational hierarchy?
The above diagram is a simple illustration on the communication process. The diagram has not taken into consideration any factor that may affect the communication process nor illustrated any medium used. It is used to show us that communication entails the sending and reception of information. The communicated information should be understood and interpreted by the receiver, and the feedback communicated to the sender.
We have many forms of communication; it is important to understand that all forms of communication can be classified into two categories called internal and external communication. The diagram below will give us a clear illustration of what these types of communications are.
An Explanation on Internal and External Communication:
The communication system installed in a business organization
Source: Subscribe, Communication theory, [online]
It is pertinent to know that internal or external communication is done through three main methods of transmissions. They are as follows;
- Oral transmission is a situation where the communication is simply done by words of mouth. This can be done in occasions of personal meetings, telephones, consultation etc
- Written transmission is a situation where the information is put down in writing. Examples of such information include letter writing, reports, books etc
- Visual transmission of a message is mostly used in illustrations such as pictures, diagrams and such method transmits very limited amount of messages.
External Communication (qfinance.com, n.d [online]):
External Communication is any communication done by the organization with any outside entity, individuals, groups unions, etc Every organization needs external communication for its functioning. Organizations need to communicate with the public to create awareness of their existence and their products or services. They also need to maintain a relationship with their customers in order to place themselves in serving them effectively and efficiently. They also interact with the government in meeting their tax requirements. It should be noted that organizations need the external bodies (include; customers, suppliers, other institutions, government, public) in order to success. This was the point where external communication became a call for consent. An indirect method of external communication is a social network platforms created by most organizations especially large organizations to interact with the public, after which information extracted from this source is filtered to obtain that which can bring a contribution to the organization.
Internal Communication (cliffsnotes.com, n.d [online]):
Internal communication as shown in the above diagram is a form of communication with different methods of transmitting information. As the term internal sounds; it is any form of communication used within the organization to transmit information between the employees. This type of communication can be divided into formal and informal staff communication.
It is illustrated that formal communication channels include; upward, downward, horizontal and diagonal. These are all lines of communication practiced by our organizations today. The upward channel of communication can also be called vertical upward communication. It is a means of communication that is used to pass on information to the managers. Such information will cover items such as; how work is progressing, report writing and the reactions and feelings of subordinates. The downward channel of communication can also be known as a vertical downward communication process where information is transmitted from the top management to the subordinates. Information through this means often includes instructions, policies and procedures, etcThe horizontal communication is often practiced within departments or peers, most often to ease the communication of the upward and downward process of communication. Lastly, we have the diagonal channel of communication that is a practice of the vertical upward and downward and horizontal lines of communication. It is the most efficient and rapid form of communication in an organization.
Informal communication is an unofficial process of communication used in organizations. Primarily, the informal communication network exists to satisfy the needs of its members – the needs for companionship, to influence others and provide work-related information that is not provided by the formal communication channels. Informal communication is often referred to as grapevine. There is always a possibility that information from such source contains incorrect, malicious messages. Nevertheless, such information tends to be faster and widely spread. It is often difficult to avoid such line of communication both at the workplace and in our communities. However, grapevine still has a place in an organization and is often used by some top management today.
A Comparison between the Horizontal and Grapevine Methods of Communication
With a clear view of what the different methods and channels of communication are, a great comparison of the horizontal (formal communication) and grapevine (informal communication) is essential for a perfect understanding on how these two methods work.
As already mentioned above, the diagonal communication channel is the official channel of communication in an organization, and it entails all formal channels of communication. This form of communication is very interesting, efficient and effective. The diagonal communication process flows from the top management to the subordinates or functional managers, and the subordinates or functional managers can easily transmit feedbacks to the top management. The functional managers can also transmit information at all level of the organization hierarchy through the diagonal communication process. The grapevine channel of communication is an unofficial channel of communication in an organization. This channel of communication arose through the network of social relationship that existed within organizations. It could be termed “gossips”.
The diagonal communication channel is rapid just like the grapevine communication. It entails an active participation of all the levels of the organization hierarchy. The grapevine can also be done at all levels of the organization. The diagonal and grapevine forms of communication can be very dangerous because the original information may not reach the receiver, especially if it is done with words of mouth. That is why their usage is limited in most organizations.
Effective Internal Communication (Subscribe, n.d [online]):
Effective communication by the encoder (sender) does not only require a successful reception of the information by the decoder (receiver) but also requires that the transmitted information is understood and could be interpreted.
The top management and leaders are responsible for ensuring that an effective communication system is installed in an organization. Three important reasons for ensuring effective workforce in a business unit, team and the entire workforce are;
- An effective communication system completes the management process of planning, organizing, directing, leading and controlling in achieving the organizational goal.
- Individuals understand what is required of them, and they feel integrated into the organization both socially and work-wise.
- Good relations with external contacts are maintained, for example suppliers, customers, bankers, unions and the local community.
There are many factors that affect the smooth transmission of information. The principle factor is noise. It is obvious that communication cannot be effective in any noisy environment. Managers must be aware that there are many barriers influencing effective communication process. Other communication barriers include; different perception, language differences, lack of emotional intelligence, (ceoforum, n.d [online]).
Managers Roles in Facilitating Effective Communication (Julie Reed and Christopher Koliba, chap 2, 2003)
- Secondly, leaders must play three important roles in the communication system
- Leaders must build a good communication system, which is; acting as an infrastructure builder, (good understanding of the barriers and how to overcome them).
- They must be strategic.
- Lastly, they must ensure a good communication system; Leaders must be good communicators and coordinators.
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Julie Reed and Christopher Koliba, Chapter 2, 13 May 2003, Facilitating Reflection, [e-book], available through A Manual for Leaders and Educators, website:
CEOFURUMGROUP – sharing ideas and experience, n.d, Effective communication, [online], available at: < http://www.ceoforum.com.au/article-detail.cfm?cid=8412&t=/Paul-Taaffe--Hill-and-Knowlton/Communicate-or-perish/ > [Accessed 06 March 2014]
USCAnnenberg, Video - 21 July 2003, USCAnnenberg School of Communication, [online], available at: < http://annenberg.usc.edu/CMGTNews/What%20is%20CMGT.aspx > [Accessed 06 March 2014]
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MSG – Learn, connect & share, © 2013, MSG – Management Study Guide, [online], available at: < http://managementstudyguide.com > [Accessed 06 March 2014]