The study of business communications has two parts. The first part involves research into the effectiveness of lines of communication within an organization as a whole. The second part looks at individuals and their interpersonal communication skills.
Organizational communication: the study of communication across an organization.1
Interpersonal communication: the study of how individual members within an organization communicate with each other.
Organizational communication research looks at topics such as:
- How an organization’s vision and mission is communicated.2
- The direction of communications between managers, personnel and staff (for example, is it one-way or two-ways?).
- The type of units within the organization (for example, functional cells and focused work-groups).
- How these independent units communicate with each other and within themselves.
- How much individuals or work units are able to contribute to strategic planning.
Interpersonal communications address how individual members within an organization communicate with each other. It looks at things such as:
- Whether subordinates are comfortable asking for, listening to and acting on information.3
- Whether subordinates share information with their managers.
- How non-routine and negative information is communicated.4
- How formal or informal communication is.
- The communication skills that individual mangers and subordinates have or need.5
Both the level of communication from an organizational perspective and the quality of interpersonal communications are important for the organization.
1. See, for example: Miller, Katherine (2006). Organizational communication: approaches and process. Thomson/Wadsworth: Belmont, CA.
2. See, for example: Hamm, John. The Five Messages that Leaders Must Manage. Harvard Business Review. May 2006: Vol 85, Issue 5, p. 114 - 123.
3. See, for example: Perlow, Leslie, and Stephen Williams.Is Silence Killing Your Company Harvard Business Review. May 2003: Vol 81 Issue 5, p. 52 - 58.
4. See, for example: Weeks, Holly. Taking the Stress out of Stressful Conversations. Harvard Business Review. July/Aug 2001: Vol 79 Issue 7, p. 112 - 119. See, also: Edmondson, Amy C., and Diana McLain Smith. Too Hot To Handle? How to Manage Relationship Conflct. California Management Review. Fall 2006: Vol 49, Issue 1, p. 6 - 31.
5. See, for example: Tannen, Deborah. The Power of Talk: Who Gets Heard and Why. Harvard Business Review. Sept/Oct 1995, Vol 73, Issue 5, p. 138 - 148.
See also: Denning, Stephen. Telling Tales. Harvard Business Review. May 2004: Vol 82, Issue 5, p. 122 - 129.