Term Paper: Communications in a Business Setting

Pages: 10 (3226 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Communication  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Cooper noted that formal training programs are helpful, but cited another researcher (Hall, 19976) who argued that most "real" training happens during peer-assisted, self-directed learning through such activities as project teams, task forces, electronic relationships, personal networks, customer relationships, and relationships with co-workers. But there was a caveat:

The organization will need to provide supervisory and technological support as well as an organizational culture that promotes learning and risk-taking.

Other possibilities

1. Annette Shelby investigated the quality of communication and determined that perceptions about it depended on variance, or lack thereof, between receiver expectations and outcomes. She developed six testable propositions regarding that, including the mechanical ways in which receivers process information. One of those described the optimal scenario: Under conditions of perceived high aesthetic quality, receivers process cues peripherally, with a result of high efficiency and enhanced effectiveness.

2. Jeanne D. Maes, et al., identified the core competencies that managers consider when selecting college graduates for entry-level jobs. The importance and usage frequency of specific oral communication skills used in entry-level jobs was examined. The researchers consistently identified oral communication as the most important competency in evaluating entry-level candidates. The four oral communication skills identified as most important for entry-level jobs are following instructions, listening, conversing, and giving feedback, all of which have some impact in the situation of Abbie Logan.

3. In a study called "Negative messages as strategic communication: a case study of a New Zealand company's annual executive letter," Winifred Crombie and Helen Samujh, both faculty members at the University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand, investigated the common wisdom that all corporate communications should be positive, and found there was much to be gained, at times, from negative communications.

4. Timothy Sellnow investigated the use of ambiguity in crisis situations, and wrote:

We contend that ambiguity, when viewed in the context of a crisis situation, enables organizations to strategically communicate seemingly contradictory messages to distinct audiences. Putnam (1981) explains that "organizations are able to manage equivocally by imposing meanings on events; meanings that reduce, maintain, or increase equivocality."

5. In a study of the role of women in public relations, Krider and Ross discovered that language shaped reality. Verbal and nonverbal messages reminded women they are women; language women used to describe their own realities differed from that used by men.

6. "The relationship of drinking and hangovers to workplace problems: an empirical study," Genevieve M. Ames, Joel W. Grube, and Roland S. Moore indicates that employees who drank at work or just before work were significantly more likely to report that they had argued with a supervisor. Overall, they determined that work-related problems consisted of five factors, two of which -- the first and last -- may be intimately tied to communications problems. The five factors are: (1) conflicts with supervisors, (2) medical problems/injuries, (3) absences, (4) sleeping on the job, and (5) problems with job tasks/co-workers.

7. "Brief Cognitive Behavioral Interventions in Mild Traumatic Brain Injury," by Lori Jean Miller, Department of Psychiatry, University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, Tucson, Arizona, and Wiley Mittenberg, Center for Psychological Studies, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is interesting in that it defines behavioral factors that might follow a head injury, whether from an accidents, sports participation and so on. Among the factors are: memory impairment, a decline in intellectual functioning, impairment of planning abilities, and impairment of other higher cognitive functions. Additional symptoms that may follow traumatic brain injury include headache, dizziness, poor concentration, irritability, anxiety, depression, blurred vision, and fatigue. In addition, they point out that psychological factors may also follow on the initial injury, or during the period of coping with the other effects, a period which can last up to three months. Any of these symptoms persisting beyond that time would be considered brain disorders.


The authors cited here neither agree nor disagree with each other, as no two have investigated the specific issue of the ethics of strategic ambiguity. In fact, most support the others' findings, if from slightly different perspectives. And two of the studies cited, those concerning workplace drinking and cognitive problems caused by head injury, are included to offer some insight into other possible causes of what is apparently Abbie Logan's problem.

While ambiguity might be a problem in that environment, the ethics of strategic ambiguity probably are not being violated. There is no indication that anyone is, in fact, being strategically ambiguous, unless it is the management in the corporation's habit to always be vague so that Logan's problem in understanding might be a lack of understanding the company's culture and expectations. It was noted that she had been there only a short time. On the other hand, there is a vague suspicion possible that Logan is being strategically ambiguous to keep the five managers who report to her off base. But if so, she would be well advised to note that it may be causing her harm rather than strengthening her position or leaving options open. And it apparently is detrimental to the flow of work in a fast-paced environment.

It also appears that Logan has taken every possible step to cope with what has been perceived as her problem, by taking notes of meetings and by repeating what has been said to her. The fact that her supervisors have noted that despite her giving signs that she understands (verbal and nonverbal), when all is said and done, she gets it wrong.

However, there is one telltale phrase in the case description: She frequently nods and utters a "yes" or "uh-huh" during conversations "which, in itself, is distracting," according to the author of the case study. This might indicate one of two things. As Shelby's research noted, Logan could be inadvertently violating the expectations of the company in the way in which she communicates, from the apparently unacceptable interjections to the content of messages she delivers in turn.

From the descriptions in the case history, especially the references to Logan's asking for the same information only hours after it has been communicated in a meeting or conversation, and, in fact, often does so on the heels of a completed communication. This is hardly representative of strategically ambiguous behavior, but rather, perhaps, some mental/emotional issue such as drinking, or a cognitive problem, either temporary or of longer duration.

Failing discoveries along those lines, it would seem that the best place to look for a solution would be in the realm of teaching better listening skills.

Ineffective listening was seen as failing to follow directions, not responding to a message verbally or nonverbally, talking to another, and forgetting previous messages in one study, and could be the reason for Logan's communications failures. Hearing, as those authors point out, does not necessarily equate to listening. Finally, it could be that Logan is experiencing the same sort of circumstances as new MBA, as she has been with the firm only a short time. In that case, attention to the findings of Reinsch and Shelby or Maes, Weldy and Icenogle might be wise.


Ames, Genevieve M., Joel W. Grube, and Roland S. Moore. 'The relationship of drinking and hangovers to workplace problems: an empirical study." Journal of Studies on Alcohol 58, no. 1 (1997): 37+.

Cooper, Lynn O. "Listening competency in the workplace: a model for training." Business Communication Quarterly 60, no. 4 (1997): 75+.

Crombie, Winifred, and Helen Samujh. "Negative messages as strategic communication: a case study of a New Zealand company's annual executive letter." The Journal of Business Communication 36, no. 3 (1999): 229.

Krider, Diane S., and Peter G. Ross. "The experiences of women in a public relations firm: a phenomenological explication." The Journal of Business Communication 34, no. 4 (1997): 437+.

Maes, Jeanne D., Teresa G. Weldy, and Marjorie L. Icenogle. "A managerial perspective: oral communication competency is most important for business students in the workplace." The Journal of Business Communication 34, no. 1 (1997): 67+.

Miller, Lori Jean, and Wiley Mittenberg. "Brief Cognitive Behavioral Interventions in Mild Traumatic Brain Injury." Applied Neuropsychology 5, no. 4 (1998): 172-183.

Paul, Jim, and Christy A. Strbiak. "The ethics of strategic ambiguity." The Journal of Business Communication 34, no. 2 (1997): 149+.

Reinsch, Lamar, and Annette N. Shelby. "Communication challenges and needs: perceptions of MBA students." Business Communication Quarterly 59, no. 1 (1996): 36+.

Sellnow, Timothy L., and Robert R. Ulmer. "Ambiguous argument as advocacy in organizational crisis communication." Argumentation and Advocacy 31, no. 3 (1995): 138+.

Shelby, Annette N. "Communication quality revisited: exploring the link with persuasive effects." The Journal of Business Communication 35, no. 3 (1998): 387+.

Paul, Jim, and Christy A. Strbiak. "The ethics of strategic ambiguity." The Journal of Business Communication 34, no. 2 (1997): 149+.

Reinsch, Lamar, and Annette N. Shelby. "Communication challenges and needs: perceptions of MBA students." Business Communication Quarterly 59, no. 1 (1996): 36+.

Cooper, Lynn O. "Listening competency in the workplace: a model for training." Business Communication Quarterly 60, no.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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