Improving Staff Relations Through Communication

Subject: Employee Management
Pages: 15
Words: 3960
Reading time:
16 min
Study level: PhD


Employees or human resources are the greatest assets of a company or firm (Yaroshevsky-Glanville, 2004). The human resources manager (HR) is a person who balances the relationship between the employee and the administration. The Human Resources strategic plan is based on the competency of the HR manager who uses the business plan as a template. Intelligent and efficient conversion of strategy into action produces the maximum employee contribution and commitment (Yaroshevsky-Glanville, 2004). Attracting and retaining employees is a major responsibility of the HR manager (Sinclair, 2005). The attributes of benefit systems that work effectively to influence the behavior of employees are “employee participation, system quality, communication quality, and benefit importance” (Sinclair, 2005). The employees get to understand and use the benefits of packages through effective communication. Communication system quality depends on three factors: accuracy of information, clarity and comprehensibility conveyed in a timely manner. Research has indicated the efficacy of several human resource practices; however adopting these empirically supported practices has not materialized (Muchinsky, 2004). Several researchers have given their opinions as to why this could have happened (McKelvey, 2006; Shapiro, Kirkman, & Courtney, 2007). The disparity between the research findings and practitioner’s notions is believed to be one reason. The greatest differences were seen in the recruitment and selection area of the HR responsibilities. Rousseau has opined that one forgets the scientific evidence in favor of general knowledge and skill development (2006).

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Search strategy

Multiple electronic databases were searched for information regarding the communication requirements in the HR department from Ebscohost, Cinahl Plus and. Psychinfo and Medline. Scholarly, peer-reviewed journals were selected with publishing dates within the recent five years. Empirical research articles which had studies conducted in subjects concerning human resources or employees were mainly chosen with a focus on the health care organizations. The words used were employee commitment, job performance, research methods for evaluation of HR programs, employee recruitment, strategies to improve employee performance, research and practice in HR, communication strategies, strategic HR, performance of workforce, work and HR and management diversity. 14 relevant articles have been selected for discussion in this paper.

Overview of Literature

The literature that was selected included many aspects of communications between staff of various organizations but focusing on the health care industry. Controlling and coordination of people have attained a global perspective enlarging the problem of linguistic diversity (Tange and Lauring, 2009). The role of language as a facilitator for social communications is evident. Tange and Lauring (2009) claim that this is not true: they believe that social identity and power are more significant. Doucet et al (2008) believe that workplace conflicts arise out of poor inter-relationship between the employees and that this depends on the leadership qualities of the manager (2008). Wiili-Peltola (2007) and her colleagues tried to identify the employees’ experience regarding organizational justice. This study was a large one involving 8971 employees from 14 hospitals. The results were impressive and generalization was possible. Braithwaite et al (2007) explored further to understand the communication breakdowns which led to things going wrong and how trust is involved. Calnan and Rowe (2006) went deeper into exploring the nature of trust that is exhibited in the UK Health Care Services and the rationale for it. White (2009) did a study on the role of information in crisis communication. Toncar et al (2007) investigated the use of exalted personalities for soliciting contributions following natural calamities like Hurricane Katrina. Sambrook’s (2009) study is slightly different in that she used anonymous student questionnaires and a focus group for her empirical research. Verhoeven’s study (2008) attempted to provide a theoretical basis for understanding the effects of communication management or public relations on the social cohesion of individuals or groups or societies. Bambacas and Patrickson (2006) studied the extent to which organizations select their employees for managerial work using the criterion of communication skills. In another study, Bambacas and Patrickson (2008) performed a number of in-depth interviews with 32 senior HR managers to explore their expectations of the interpersonal communication skills of senior supervisory managers in large organizations. Klopper-Kes et al (2009) attempted to find a perspective into the complex relationship between physicians and hospital managers by applying the image theory of Alexander et al in the Dutch Hospital context in a qualitative study. Storr (2004) investigated the relationship between leadership and integrity through a critical analysis of literature. Fujimoto et al (2007) examined the relational and task dimensions of online communication and discussed the associated emotional experience.

Critique of Methodology

The research by Tange and Lauring is an exploratory study focusing on qualitative research interviews which were a part of a larger study conducted earlier. (2009). Seven areas of labor-power, social working environment, image, ethnic rivalry, market intelligence, international understanding and knowledge synergies were selected for discussion (Tange and Lauring, 2009). The approach adopted was a hermeneutic one (Svane, 2006). The population sampling was from 14 internationally oriented, knowledge-intensive organizations in Denmark. Intercultural communities formed the sample (Tange and Lauring, 2009). They were spread out geographically. The firms included were of different kinds: private, public-private, foreign subsidiaries and Danish-owned companies (Tange and Lauring, 2009). The size of the firms varied from those having less than ten workers while the largest had 5000 employees. Most of the employees used English as the corporate language but only 1 % were native English speakers (Tange and Lauring, 2009). Data collection was done by semi-structured research interviews. Key informants were identified and included 43 Danish and 39 of other nationalities (Tange and Lauring, 2009). Data analysis was done at the collection site itself. Themes were gathered as they appeared in the analysis. Hand coding was done (Tange and Lauring, 2009). Ethics issues were not mentioned in the paper (Tange and Lauring, 2009). The themes were all related to multilingualism: cross-cultural communication, language usage, cross-cultural knowledge sharing, and the developmental potential of cross-cultural interaction (Tange and Lauring, 2009). Scope for more research was indicated. These relationships may be studied in incorporations of different sizes or in different industries. Compliance with change could be studied in a corporation where low compliance prevails especially in the context of leadership. The mechanism that operates between the leadership and the conflicts may be better understood through further research. Two communicative barriers were identified: language clustering and thin communication (Tange and Lauring, 2009).

Doucet et al (2008) conducted a cross-sectional study to explore the relationship of the manager’s leadership styles on the nature and extent of conflicts in the workplace. This kind of study is usually used in an epidemiological observation. 1031 participants who were employees of a hospital in Canada returned the questionnaires (Doucet et al, 2008). The hospital was selected as it was in the process of restructuring so as to get a bigger picture of conflictual context. The participants comprised 57 % health care professionals, 18 % of administrative support and 25% of auxiliary workers and unskilled workers. More women responded (68%). The older employees above 55 years came to 41.5%; older people constituted nearly half of the employees (Doucet et al, 2008). Half of the employees had more than 20 years of service. Doucet’s study had some organizational problems. The participants returned their responses at various times so the collection was a little hassled. The measurement of the different concepts varied for different items. The response of the answered questionnaires signified consent as it was a voluntary act (2008). Measures were also taken to maintain confidentiality. The participation was without prejudice as the answers were anonymous (Doucet et al, 2008). Limitations were present in that the study was conducted in one hospital so generalizing the results to other organizations was not feasible. Another limitation was that the cross-sectional design did not allow the confirmation of the causality. The same employee assessed the variables providing space for bias; some relationships could become thereby magnified.

Wiili-Peltola and colleagues have done a combined qualitative and quantitative exploratory study to investigate the concept of organizational justice in management (2007). The study explored the managerial challenges faced by the employees in their experience of organizational justice in hospitals (Wiili-Peltola, 2007). The qualitative study was for content analysis and generation of different concepts. Coding was done and 5 different themes became obvious. The quantitative study focused on the extent to which the qualitative categories coincided with the responses in the questionnaire in the interactional and procedural scales of Moorman. The participants were 8971 employees from 14 hospitals out of the 11533 present; they returned the questionnaires completed (Wiili Peltola, 2007). Data collection was done by collecting the questionnaires from 8971 employees. The five integrative themes were attitude towards personnel, personal policy procedures, qualitative attributes of management, decision-making practices and implementation of changes in the organization. The most significant theme was the attitude towards personnel (Wiili-Peltola, 2007). Drawbacks concerning a failure of the interpersonal process were evident. Insufficiencies of management and perception of unfair support were the main issues. Deficiencies in the interpersonal processes and leadership praxis were obvious. Eight categories within this framework were concerned with avoidance and indifference on the part of management (Wiili-Peltola, 2007). The employees wanted to be recognized, respected and treated equally. The second frame, personal policy procedures, had 4 categories that were concerned with challenges of management. The third frame was involved with bad managerial skills giving the employees the experience of unfairness. Poor involvement in the administration gave the employees a feeling of uncertainty by the fourth frame. Changes were so speedy as to be unmanageable by the employees in the fifth frame. This also produced uncertainty

(Wiili-Peltola, 2007). The quantitative analysis indicated the extent to which the categories were associated with the interactional and procedural justice scales by Moorman (1991). The ethics issues were not spoken of but the participants’ willingness was evident from their returning of the questionnaires. The points of discontent in the management process became obvious from the study. “Safeguarding employees’ equal treatment and well-being, lack of professional respect, unsatisfactory qualities and incompetence in administration, and limited participation in decision-making” were the significant factors. These were associated with perceived unfair management practice connecting the qualitative data and the quantitative justice-related data (Willi-Petola, 2007). The findings showed that there were many facets to the phenomenology of justice and that cognitive individual processing was involved. This also proved like other researches that interactional factors were relevant in organizational judgments (Willi-Peltola, 2007). The strength of the study was that plenty of data were available and both quantitative and qualitative data were obtained (Wiili-Peltola, 2007). Triangulation was done and good survey instruments were used. The results were reliable. The comments of the participants were not only their own but also those of others around them. Justice perceptions were experienced in all sections and were socially and collectively made. The units gave the impression that they were “managerial challenges”.

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Braithwaite’s study (2007) involved multiple health inquiries into organizational failures including matters that went wrong in the healthcare industry, adverse events and incidents which resulted from iatrogenic harm were the “participants” in the review study (Braithwaite, 2007). Data collection was achieved by collecting the papers relevant to the inquiries by “Watt, 2002; Douglas et al, 2001; Health and Disability Commissioner, 2002; Health Services Commissioner, 2002; Sinclair, 2000, Slovenian Health Ministry, 2003, Department of Health, 2001; Walker, 2004 and Hindle et al, 2005” (Braithwaite, 2007). How trust broke down and how communication systems were not up to the mark were addressed (Braithwaite, 2007). The study by Braithwaite and colleagues explored things that went wrong after a breakdown in communications and trust using evolutionary psychology (2007). This is a review analysis of organizational failure in the healthcare industry. Evolutionary psychology was used to explain the theory of the mind and the social brain hypothesis (Braithwaite, 2007). Recurring and inappropriate behavior routines and the stigma of inquiries and the entry of politicians, whistleblowers, relatives and supporters into the fray worsened the trust relationship (Braithwaite, 2007). Behaviors could not be justified but with evolutionary psychology, one could gauge survival mechanisms or understand why a reaction or response occurred (Braithwaite, 2007). Turf protection, competitive nature, the elimination of people who try to oppose malpractices, self-interest, politics and tribal behaviors could be explained with this psychology. The Evolutionary psychology argument indicated the origin of the organizational conduct to be related to Pleistocene-oriented behavior in the face of stress (Braithwaite, 2007). Right from the days of the hunter-gatherer, problems of survival had haunted the human being. The brain of the human has evolved over the years to become the social brain which is vital to survival and solution of problems. The theory of the mind allows the perception of other’s emotions and feelings through inferences (Braithwaite, 2007). However, only a few studies use the evolutionary psychology theory to understand human nature.

Calnan and Rowe (2006) performed a review analysis of the rationale for the nature of trust in health care by using an international comparative study. This review differed slightly from the review analysis of Braithwaite and colleagues in 2007. There the inquiry reports of many sections of the health services were used. Here empirical research had been used. Threats to patient-provider relationships and patient’s perspectives of the nature of trust in the UK health care system were reviewed (Calnan and Rowe, 2006). This research was also different from other researches which focused on assessing levels of trust and not the nature of trust (Calnan and Rowe, 2006). Data from an international comparative study has been used here. The high level of confidence that the patients had for doctors and nurses and the erosion in trust in the health services managers which was worse in the NHS (only 29%) than in private hospitals (59%) were examined. The evolution of themes was the method of analysis here just like Wiili Peltola’s study of 2007. Six themes were found from 32 items regarding health care to demonstrate public assessment of confidence: patient-centered care, macro-level performance and patient care, professional competence, quality of care, communications and provision of information and quality cooperation between providers and practitioners (Calnan and Rowe, 2006). The predictor items that most explained trust were whether the patients were taken seriously and whether they were provided enough attention. The items which next came on the list were that patients would always get the best treatment and whether doctors always make the right diagnosis (regarding the expertise of doctors) (Calnan and Rowe, 2006). The findings suggested that trust is not a personal attribute but results from a combination of interpersonal behaviors which are governed by institutional rules, laws and customs (Calnan and Rowe, 2006). More detailed explanations are necessary and this provides scope for more research into trust relationships.

Media relations played a significant role in White’s study (2009). How the media worked to identify the wrongdoings of a personality and brought things out into the open was the subject of the study. The president of the University of Tennessee had resigned after all the clamor and the issue had become a non-issue. The power of information and communications among the staff was highlighted (White, 2009). White (2009) used a case study method with participant observation and interviews and the information was confirmed through quantitative content analysis of newspaper coverage. Qualitative and quantitative analyses were possible. University administrators, staff, students, Board of Trustee members and journalists were the participants. Data were collected from participant observation, interviews and content analysis of media. The data analyzed by the observations and the interviews were confirmed from the media analysis.

Toncar’s study of 2007 was similar to White’s study in that media relationship was exploited. Two celebrities in their own rights and one non-celebrity had made public announcements over the radio following the natural calamity, Hurricane Katrina. One was a film star, another a local media celebrity and another was a victim. This quantitative study was different in that the advertisement of a celebrity was hardly compared with that of a non-celebrity in earlier research (Toncar et al, 2007). The calamity produced extensive disasters for human beings. Many had lost their homes, belongings and family. The spokespersons’ efforts were used for soliciting contributions to help tide over the disastrous after-effects. 65 students were asked to comment on the announcements; each was exposed to one of the three. The self-reported thoughts of the listeners were the basis for the measures. The Personal Involvement Inventory for Advertising Scale (Zaichkowsky, 1985 cited in Toncar, 2007) was employed to measure the listener’s ad involvement (Toncar et al, 2007). The reliability of the scale was suitable with the value of alpha equaling 0.75. The TV Advertising Believability Scale (Beltramini, 1982 cited in Toncar, 2007) showed reliability of alpha of 0.90. The celebrity endorser’s scale (Ohanian, 1990) which determined the expertise, trustworthiness, attractiveness and credibility of the spokespersons in the announcements had a reliability of 0.85 on the average for these dimensions. Several hypotheses were considered. The hurricane victim was found to be the most believable spokesperson. The local celebrity was the next and the least believable was the film personality. The limitation in this study was that the results could not be generalized as the study was in one setting with one set of stimuli and one set of spokespersons. Nonprofit agencies which use film personalities or celebrities as spokespersons for their announcements must think twice before doing so. However public announcements may not be similar to conventional advertisements.

Sambrook also focused her study in the UK; she used principles of critical managerial studies to identify the empowerment culture in the UK like Calnan and Rowe (2006). The aim was to make necessary changes in an MSc program to suit the students’ perception of education and thereby help to enhance health services by changing local cultures. Small innovative changes in the NHS could be possible by understanding the issues of power and empowerment providing challenges to the cultures (Sambrook, 2009). The study helped to identify the tensions of health service managers and the problems they face. Critical pedagogy is essential in developing management in the NHS.

Verhoeven’s study suggested that the actor-network theory (ANT) explained the societal role of communication management and building relationships which were previously explained by the hypothesis of decreasing social capital and the hypothesis of the increasing contingency of Western societies (Verhoeven, 2008). The ANT appeared to be suitable for studying the relations between communication, social capital and social cohesion. It is easy to understand who is bonding with whom. A comprehensive understanding of communication management with functionalistic and social psychological relationships is possible (Verhoeven, 2008).

Bambacas and Patrickson (2006) studied the extent to which organizations select their employees for managerial work using the criterion of communication skills. The findings of semi-structured qualitative interviews with senior HR managers in different-sized organizations were studied. The indication was that communication skills were considered under the idea of leadership but this skill was not primarily targeted (Bambacas and Patrickson, 2006). The study implied that the knowledge of interpersonal, verbal, written and listening skills was significant. It also implied that the development of the skills took time. Though this information had been around for some time, the idea was not heeded in actual interviews. The recommendation is that HR managers should consider the matter of communication skills seriously (Bambacas and Patrickson, 2006).

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In another study, Bambacas and Patrickson (2008) performed a number of in-depth interviews with 32 senior HR managers to explore their expectations of the interpersonal communication skills of senior supervisory managers in large organizations. The HR managers expected their supervisory managers to focus on the clarity and regularity of messages that they send. They should also be able listeners, and be efficient leaders of the organization, collaboration being one aspect of it. The messages would enable the HR managers to enhance the commitment of the workers. Unfortunately, the study showed that it was these expected skills that were most lacking in the senior managers (Bambacas and Patrickson, 2008).

Klopper-Kes et al (2009) attempted to find a perspective into the complex relationship between physicians and hospital managers by applying the image theory of Alexander et al in the Dutch Hospital context in a qualitative study. The knowledge about the relationship could facilitate organizational change. Relative status, power and goal incompatibility were the variables of consideration and they were highly reliable. The variables were differently looked at by the two groups. A questionnaire has evolved out of the study. Insight into the manner in which each sees the other was obtained. The bottlenecks and the areas where maximum cooperation was possible were focused upon. The relationship was handled in a qualitative perspective and the quantitative aspect enables researchers to validate the data.

Storr (2004) investigated the relationship between leadership and integrity through a critical analysis of literature. The aim was to build current notions of leadership. 15 themes emerged. The findings were that leadership is related to integrity and this improved organizational effectiveness. The effectiveness and integrity of a leader depended on his character and behavior. The study failed to identify ethical implications. The scope of the leadership for power and influence on policy and strategy was not discussed. The findings suggest the capability of the nurse leadership (Storr, 2004).

Fujimoto et al (2007) examined the relational and task dimensions of online communication and discussed the associated emotional experience. Four categories of work outcomes were examined: emotional experiences of work, work attitudes, work dynamics and work behaviors. Each was discussed in relation to cross-cultural online communications. It was understood that the relationship between diverse HRM can improve with online communication. The relationship is moderated with better cognitive, affective and behavioral outcomes (Fujimoto et al, 2007). Cross-cultural misunderstandings can be avoided. Greater efficiency can be expected worldwide. The use of information technology in HR management in diverse cultures improves relationships.


Employees are the greatest assets of an organization or a company. The maximum employee commitment and contribution is possible through the effective communication ability of the Human Resources Manager. Employee participation improves the quality of the system and the communication facilities. The HR manager is responsible for conveying accurate information, clearly and easily comprehensible by the employees. Empirical researches have concluded that the efficacy of human resources practices is absolutely essential for a successful organization. However, the suggestions made have not been put into practice. The greatest disparity has been seen in HR recruitment and selection. This paper has revealed interesting findings from articles that have focused on various communication methods employed in different organizations. The role of language as a facilitator in communications among employees and between the employees and the managerial staff in the global perspective is a significant point (Tange and Lauring, 2009). However, it has also been mentioned that the lack of communication of language does not interfere with the improvement of inter-relationship among the employees. Relationships can be improved even otherwise. Workplace conflicts arise out of poor inter-relationships (Doucet et al, 2008). Employees must be accorded organizational justice to make them committed and happy in their job (Wiili-Peltola, 2007). A trusting relationship is essential in an organization (Braithwaite, 2007). This concept is affirmed by Calnan and Rowe (2006). The passing on of accurate information is another essential factor especially in crises (White, 2009). The communication by celebrities is not as effective as by victims of natural calamities when soliciting contributions (Toncar et al, 2007). The various kinds of studies in this paper explore the effect of communication problems and how they can be improved to ensure a successful organizational venture. The methodologies used have included qualitative exploratory studies, cross-sectional studies, combined qualitative and quantitative studies, review analyses, qualitative content analysis and the role of media in communications, quantitative studies, critical pedagogy, actor-network theory incorporated quantitative study and critical analysis of literature. Applying the findings obtained and doing more empirical research is the next alternative.


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