Successful Employee Communication
The Biggest Challenge
Casey is seated at his desk reviewing his human resource strategic plan when Lily walks in, obviously upset. Her facial expressions show she is upset, and after she enters, she crosses her arms while standing
in front of Casey’s desk. Casey thinks Lily is a very hard worker and does an excellent job managing people as the manager of her marketing department. Lately, she has been having trouble with some of her employees.
“Casey,” she says, “I really need to vent. Can I sit down and talk with you?” Casey offers Lily a seat and she sits down. She tells Casey that Sam, a marketing manager, made snide and underhanded comments
during a meeting this morning. “For example, when I asked the status on one of our projects, Sam said
snidely, ‘Why don’t you ask one of your marketing assistants? They are doing such a great job, after all.’ I suspect he is upset with something I wrote on my blog last week. As you know, I started the blog to continually let employees know of changes in the department and to provide feedback. In last week’s blog, I wrote about what a great job the marketing assistants are doing in my department.”
Lily goes on, “So I pulled him aside after the meeting and asked him about his comment. He said that he was upset that I had given feedback to the marketing assistants because he feels that as their manager, it is his job to do that. He felt I had stepped on his toes and the toes of other marketing managers.”
Casey thinks about the situation and asks Lily if she apologized. Lily responds, “I didn’t feel like I needed
to. I do think the marketing assistants are doing a good job, and I don’t need to apologize for mentioning that. I am just trying to raise morale among them. You know, two marketing assistants have quit in the last three months.”
Casey leans back in his chair and gives some thought as to how to advise Lily. He suggests that Lily speak with Sam directly (not via e-mail) and tell him that her intention was only positive and not meant to be harmful, and see what happens. Lily thinks about that and says she will try to see Sam later today. When she leaves, Casey sits back and thinks about how communication is one of the biggest challenges in any job, but especially in human resources.
9.1 Communication Strategies
1. Explain the concept of emotional intelligence.
2. Describe the four types of communication in the workplace.
3. Explain the various communication styles and identify your own style.
4. Define nonverbal communication and describe the importance of it in an HR setting. Communication, as you see in our opening scenario, is key to a successful career as a human resource manager (HRM) or as a manager. While communication is likely discussed in several of your business classes, it should also be addressed in an HRM book, since much of what we do in HR is based on effective
How many times do miscommunications happen on a daily basis, either in your personal life or at your job? The good news is that we can all get better at communication. The first thing we need to do is learn how we can communicate with our employees. Then we will want to look at our own communication style and compare that with other styles. Have you ever spoken with someone you just didn’t “get”? It is probably because you have different communication styles. We address this in Section 9.1.3 "Communication Styles". Body language is also a key contributor to communication; in fact, as was suggested in the late 1960s by researcher Albert Mehrabian, body language makes up 93 percent of our
communication.  Part of communication is also looking at the way we manage people. Depending on our
style of management, we may use a variety of management styles to communicate things we need done or to give performance feedback. One major way companies communicate with employees is through the use of meetings. Some meetings can be very effective, but as you probably already know, many meetings
aren’t very productive. We will discuss some strategies to help you run a more effective meeting.
Communication and Emotional Intelligence (EI)
One of the most important aspects to good communication is emotional intelligence
(EI). Emotional intelligence is different from IQ. First, EI predicts much of life success, much more than
IQ, in fact.  The great thing about EI is that it can actually improve over time, unlike IQ, which stays the same over a lifetime. According to Daniel Goleman,  a researcher on EI, there are five main aspects or
domains to EI:
1. Knowing your emotions
2. Managing your emotions
3. Motivating yourself
4. Recognizing and understanding other people’s emotions
5. Managing relationships
First, let’s discuss knowing your emotions. If we don’t know how we feel about something, it can be difficult to communicate. It may seem obvious to know what we are feeling from moment to moment, but oftentimes we do not. How we feel impacts our body language as well as our verbal communication. For example, let’s say you just got home from work and had a really crummy day. When you get home, you find that your spouse has not unloaded the dishwasher yet, as you had agreed. Tie this with a crummy day, and you might communicate differently about it than if you had a great day.
On the other hand, if you recognize that you are tired and a bit cranky, your awareness of these emotions allows you to manage them. The third aspect of EI, motivating yourself, goes without saying in a management or human resource role. This is the key not only to career success but also to personal success.
The last two domains of EI revolve around being able to see and understand emotions in other people, which in turn can benefit the relationship. Let’s say, in the situation above, you get home and the dishwasher isn’t unloaded, but you recognize immediately through body language and facial expressions that your spouse is extremely upset by something. Seeing this emotion in someone else may help you decide if you should mention the dishwasher—or not—at this specific time. But what if you didn’t recognize this emotion and raised your voice to your spouse about the unloaded dishwasher? It will probably result in an argument. Using this example, I am sure you can see how this translates into the workplace. Emotional intelligence allows us to work better with people, understand them, and
communicate with them.
HUMAN RESOURCE RECALL
Do you think you are a good communicator? What could you improve?
As you already know, communication in companies is key to having a successful organization. Those companies who communicate well with their employees end up with more loyal and motivated workers. Those that don’t communicate well, though, see increased turnover, absenteeism, dissatisfied customers,
higher product defect rates, lack of focus on business objectives, and lack of innovation.  Proper
communication can result in a sense of belonging and self-worth, leading to less turnover and absenteeism, which is mentioned in the opening scenario.
Four main types of communications occur within a company: upward communication, downward communication, diagonal communication, and horizontal communication. Each type of communication can serve a different purpose in human resources, and many messages may be sent in a variety of ways. Upward communication is when the lower levels of an organization communicate with the upper levels of an organization. Some examples might be an employee satisfaction survey using online survey tools such as SurveyMonkey. These kinds of tools can be used to determine the changes that should occur in a company. Oftentimes human resource departments may develop a survey such as this to find out how satisfied the employees are with things such as benefits. Then the organization can make changes based on the satisfaction level of the employees. Employees might also engage in upward communication in a given work situation. They might tell their manager their plate is full and they can’t take on any new projects. This is considered upward communication, too.
Downward communication is the opposite of upward communication, in that the communication occurs from the upper levels of an organization down to the lower levels of the organization. A manager explaining how to do a task to an employee would be considered downward communication. Development of training programs to communicate safety in the organization might be another example. A change in a pay or bonus structure would be communicated using the downward approach as well.
A diagonal communication approach occurs when interdepartmental communication occurs with people at different levels of the organization. When the human resources assistant speaks with the marketing manager about the hiring of a new employee in marketing, this would be considered diagonal communication.
Horizontal communication occurs when people of the same level in an organization, for example, a
marketing manager and a human resource manager, communicate usually to coordinate work between departments. An accounting manager might share information with a production manager so the production manager knows how much budget they have left.
Within all the communication methods we discussed, there are a variety of approaches. Of course, the most obvious is the informal communication that occurs. An e-mail may be sent or a phone call made. Meetings are another way to communicate information. Companies can also use more formal means to communicate. A blog would be an example. Many companies use blogs to communicate information such as financial numbers, changes to policy, and other “state of the business” information. This type of information is often downward communication. However, blogs are not just for upper management anymore. Companies are using microblogs more and more to ensure that people in various departments stay connected with each other, especially when tasks tend to be very interdependent.
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