1. What specific communication problem do you believe occurs most frequently in organizations? Why is your identified communication problem occurring so frequently? What would you recommend to combat the communication problem you have identified?
I work remotely for a company based in Sydney, Australia. The company has been around for over ten years, and my virtual team has been a part of the company for three. Our biggest communication problem as an organization is using the wrong medium to convey information. The Sydney office relies on real-time communication such as instant messaging and informal face-to-face discussions. Unfortunately, the 15 hour time difference means that this communication is happening while my team is asleep. Additionally, the only real-time communication that happens between the Sydney office and my team occurs between myself and my manager once every two weeks. Unfortunately, this means that a lot of important information is being missed by my team. To improve on this, I have encouraged my company to rely less on real-time communication for company-wide communication. For example, news of a bonus might be communicated via e-mail rather than instant messaging. Sadly, the company is so far unable to change its ways, and the communication problem has severely impacted the morale of the US team.
2. Think about an instance in which you had to transmit bad news to another person (e.g. firing, unwanted transfer, sickness, etc.). Were you reluctant to share this information? Or not? What can managers do to help subordinates, colleagues, etc., share negative based information as well as positive based issues and ideas?
No one likes to send or receive negative information. A few months ago, I had to lay off three members of my team. It was interesting to see the difference in how I communicated this information to those that were laid off versus how my superiors communicated the information to me. Although I hated letting these people go, I scheduled meetings with them quickly and was direct with what was happening and how it would impact them. Additionally, I met with unaffected team members so that they were aware of the situation. Although it was not pleasant, the team handled it well. I think our open and frequent communication regarding the state of the business kept them from being totally surprised that layoffs were necessary. My bosses on the other hand did not transmit the information to me as well. They started off by scheduling a meeting with me (a rare occurrence) and then misleading me on the nature of the meeting. My advice to them was to be more forthright in their communication with me and to communicate more often, even if not in real-time.
3. After you have listened and read our media story for Lesson 9, what does the story tell us about work team members, friends, and colleagues reaction to information? In other words, what did the research tell us about ‘bad information’ that has to be shared with all our work team? Finally, does the research help managers deal with information within a team?
The effect in the media sounds similar to emotional contagion (p. 261). I might have experienced something similar in the situation above when laying off three of my employees if my team was not virtual. I think in situations where the bad news is drastic (layoffs, illness, etc.), it is important to increase communication rather than ignore the situation. As in the case of the female coworkers, the last thing anyone wants is for them to take risks with their health. In this case, team managers can work to diffuse the situation. For example, although breast cancer is scary, it is treatable. Team managers should encourage more open dialog (process losses be damned!) and help the team through the situation rather than letting it fester.