Business Communication & Negotiation

Business Communication

Abstract:

An analysis of two situations is presented below, wherein modes of communication and negotiation are examined in the light of theories of communication that have been advanced. Implementation strategies for improvement of communication technique are also recommended.

Introduction:

The organizational network in the present day incorporates a variety of cultural and multinational employees, as a result of the globalization of trade and business communications in the world. In different cultures, varying levels of importance are attached to religious and cultural observances and a knowledge of the manner in which business is conducted with effective communication may be seen to contribute significantly towards the success of the organization, especially in the case of multinational firms (Harvey and Griffin, 2002). It is only when a manager is culturally intelligent that he will be able to effectively communicate with his employees and peers to more effectively promote the interests of his organization. (Earley and Masakowski, 2004). Poor communication impacts adversely upon business, as was the case with Ford Motor Company that had to delay its entry into China for 18 months due to miscommunication (Harvey and Griffith, 2002). Effective communication entails the transfer of information from one source to another with minimization of the intervening misunderstandings and distortions. Communication is a complex process wherein an individual tries to communicate what is deep within his own mind to another person or persons. In order to achieve this, he communicates with them through speech, signs and gestures or even by a mere look. Through all these means, a message is communicated from one person to the other. How effectively and accurately that message is conveyed will depend to a great extent upon the nature of the communication and the manner in which it is made.

Event A:

A Consultant is called in to tackle a project in a medium sized Company, where better cost controls have to be introduced in the manufacturing process through reduction of overheads. The Consultant is to examine how best this can be achieved and provide a plan with recommendations on how to solve the problem and where to cut costs. The Client states that he has half an hour for this meeting and that the Consultant is expected to produce the results of his analysis as quickly as possible.

Event  B:

A new employee from Saudi Arabia is inducted into an American Company, and immediately upon arrival, his superior introduces him around and then gives him a list of tasks to be accomplished within a particular time frame. The employee is tense and strained and appears to be a bumbling idiot who is stiff and formal.

Analysis of Event A and B:

In the case of the first event, Shannon and Weaver’s theory of communication proves particularly relevant in its application. Shannon was an employee at the bell Company and discovered that the quality of a message relayed over the telephone was affected by the level of distortion and Weaver built on this to state that in a similar manner, people were unable to communicate effectively with each other due to distortion of the message. In effect, the message that one person wishes to communicate is muffled or blocked due to the “distraction” or “noise” caused by external elements[www.stevefournire01.tripod.com].  Therefore the degree of distraction affected the degree of perception of the message.  This may be represented as follows:

Shannon proposed a mathematical model for communications, wherein he attributed the quality of reception of the message to the quality of the decoder (receiver) that is responsible for effectively transmitting the message to the receiver.(www.cm.bell-labs.com). In the first instance, the nature of the communication is a two way, face to face channel of communication, where there is instant feedback and non verbal signals can also be read (Lehman and Dufrene 6). At the outset, the client’s attitude in providing an exact duration for the meeting and specifying a limited time frame for accomplishment of the task is in itself an indication of another sub text message that is being conveyed. During the message of communication, there are physical and mental distractions that function as barriers to communication, including the difficulties in effective communication between people from different backgrounds and different age groups. (Lehman and Dufrene 9). But in this instance, there is the additional communication barrier that may be identified in the characteristics of the sender, i.e, the client. His unwillingness to give much time to the problem may indicate that he is not really interested in solving it since he does not attribute much importance to it. Moreover, he is giving unclear, non specific messages to the Consultant by stating that it has to be done as soon as possible, which when combined with non verbal cues like a display of impatience and/or tension, may indicate that the client is only calling the Consultant due to pressure from someone else. His lack of sympathy for the Consultant indicates further that he wants the Consultant out as soon as possible, which provides a further indication about an unwillingness to confront and solve the problem that exists in the firm.

In the case of Event B, where a new employee has joined the firm, we may find Heider’s Theory of attribution more relevant and applicable. Austrian born Franz Heider taught psychology at the University of Kansas and according to him, attribution was the process of drawing inferences.[www.cjconline.ca]. There are three stages in the process. When one person sees another person involved in an action of some sort, he draws inferences about the second person’s behavior based on three aspects:

  • His perception of what the action meant
  • His own explanation of why the action was performed
  • His judgment about the person based on the action.

According to Heider, we judge others all the time. We observe their actions and then apply our own prejudices in order to judge the motives of the person in doing the action and we tend to form opinions about people based on our own judgment of their actions.

Charles Berger’s Planning Theory will also be applicable in this situation. According to Charles Berger , the initial step in a relationship that generates the maximum amount of anxiety in a person[www.afirstlook.com]. His Theory focuses on the aspect of anxiety reduction by using communication in order to remove the element of the unknown and create an understanding of the person. A person is motivated to improve communication in order to eliminate the uncertainty of a new relationship.

In the situation of the Arab employee, the initial anxiety that he felt was not overcome through a gradual inception into the corporate environment of the Company. The Arab culture is different from American culture and different understanding is attributed to non verbal signals such as shaking hands and looking a person directly in the eye. When inducting a new employee from Saudi Arabia into the organization, it cannot be done brusquely and in a cut and dry manner. Arabs attribute a great deal of significance to personal relationships and the niceties need to be observed in order to make him feel comfortable. Therefore, the employee must first be made to feel comfortable on a personal level with a discussion of sundry subjects such as his likes and dislikes, for example, before his duties are spelt out for him. The Arabian manner of doing business is different from the Americans and does not focus on deadlines – the employee is likely to revolt if pressured into deadlines. (Bonvillian and Nowlin, 1994).

Recommendations and Conclusions:

In the first instance, the Consultant may be anxious to secure the business with the client, but he would do better to ensure that more effective communication takes place by understanding the non verbal cues, so that he can maintain an amicable and effective working relationship during his contract period. It is therefore important for the Consultant to determine not just the problem, but also the specifics of how to proceed with it, which will help to identify potential problems early on (Block 89). It is important to overcome the Client’s clear resistance to the proposal and honestly determine why the problem exists and how best it can be tackled in a practical sense. The Consultant must also be clear about what exactly is required and must not remain content with ambiguities. If the message from the Client is distorted, the Consultant cannot effectively solve the problem and will first need to address the Client’s initial resistance by determining the exact causes for it.

In the second instance, it is very important to exercise cultural intelligence in effective communication. The preconceptions that Americans and Arabs have about each other are likely to affect the nature of the communication between them and therefore cultural understanding is extremely important in effective communication. In order to ensure that the Arab employee functions well in the American context, there must be an understanding from the Arab employee about the ways in which Americans communicate and the manner in which they function in business, on a deadline basis. If he is unable to effectively communicate with his supervisor and feels that his supervisor is discourteous or demanding, he may be too tense to work well and contribute to the productivity of the organization. Similarly, when an American manager understands the Arab cultural context, he will be able to understand that what he construes as procrastination from his Arab employee m ay in fact only be the sign of a culture that moves with more personal involvement in business comunications.

Conclusion:

The reality is that the manner in which work gets done in a business and the success that it enjoys is often dependent upon the employees of the organization and the manner in which they work together, are motivated and cooperate in the achievement of a common goal. According to Block (1999), change in the human systems has “more to do with the consent of the governed than the will and ability of those who govern.” (p 264). Therefore in order for a manager to be really effective, he must understand the process of communication and be attuned to verbal and non verbal cues in order to understand the actual message that is being conveyed, without the distortions that accompany it.

                                               References cited:

*     “Berger’s Planning Theory” [Online] Available at:

www.afirstlook.com/manual5/ed5man10.pdf; accessed 09/26/2005; Internet

*     Block, P, 1999. “Flawless Consulting, Second Edition, A Guide to getting your expertise

used.”  San Fransisco: Jossey Bass/Pfeiffer

*     Bonvillian, Gary and Nowlin, Gary A, 1994. “Cultural awareness: an essential element of

doing business abroad.” Business Horizons. [Online]Retrieved 09/14/2005 from URL:

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1038/is_n6_v37/ai_15911066

*       Earley, Christopher and Masakowski, Elaine, 2004. “Cultural Intelligence”. Harvard

Business Review;  82(10),  p139-146,

*      Harvey, Michael G and Griffith, David A, 2002. “Developing effective intercultural

relationships: The importance of  communication strategies.” Thunderbird

International Business Review, 44(4), ABI/INFORM global, pp 455

*    “Heider’s Theory of attribution” [Online] Available at:

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09/26/2005; Internet

*     Lehman, Carol M, Dufrene, Debbie D, 2001. “Business Communication: Anniversary

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http://www.accel-team.com/communications/busComms_00.html; accessed

09/27/2005; Internet.

*   “Shannon and Weaver’s Communication Theory”: [Online] Available at:

http://stevefournier01.tripod.com/hist/hist-6.html; accessed 09/28/2005; Internet

*     “The Significance of Shannon’s work”: [Online] Available at:

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Internet

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