Humans have been regarded as social animals, and in most instances, they crave for information and feedback in order for them to feel good. Effective communication is necessary where the sole purpose should be to ensure the message is easily understood and accepted. In addition, effective communication constitute effective interpersonal relationships especially for the organization where the advantage of such effectiveness results in increased productivity, increased trust and confidence, reduced misunderstanding, and less conflict. Supportive communication has evolved to constitute important form of communication that enhances bridging of the gap between managers and employees, although many managers have not embraced or appreciated this type of communication, thus a situation that has prompted this research. Using a case study of Motor Parts Corporation, this paper will investigate how effective managers can facilitate supportive communication in handling employee’s personal problems.
Challenges of supportive communication within organizations
Always being supportive of the way other people do things has to be the pre-occupation of the organizational management. Supportive communication rests on the assumption that establishing positive interpersonal relationships benefits an organization. Engaging in supportive communication results into engender happier and more pleasant work environment and inmost cases leads to increased organizational productivity (Denhardt, Denhardt and Aristigueta, 2002). Interpersonal relationships are built by people communicating in such unique way that the relationship is supported, validated, and enhanced by the communication (Sonnenschein, 1999). According to Whetten and Cameron (2002), supportive communication has numerous attributes (cited in Sears, Rudisill and Mason-Sears, 2005): it is problem-oriented and not person-oriented where the focus is on problems and issues that can be modified rather than emphasizing individuals or personalizing the issues; supportive communication is congruent not incongruent where the focus should be on paying focus on honest messages in which verbal statements reflects the thoughts and feelings; further supportive communication is descriptive and not evaluate where attention is on describing an objective occurrence; supportive communication is validating and not invalidating, where the focus should be paid on statements that communicate and foster respect, flexibility, collaboration and agreement; supportive communication is specific and not global, where focus should be paid to specific events and behaviors and avoid general or extreme statements; it is conjunctive and not disjunctive; it is owned and not disowned; and it encourages supportive listening and not one-way listening (Sears, Rudisill and Mason-Sears, 2005).
Supportive communication may not always be successful where certain challenges maybe present. In what nature may such challenges be present? First, support communication may be ineffective due to heightened sorrow and distress between all the parties involved or one of the parts in the communication process that in great measure supportive communication may be affected. Next supportive communication may be ineffective due to increased state of trauma being experienced by the employee. Trauma may increase fear and anxiety that may block effective communication reducing chances for effective supportive communication to take place.
Effective listening is needed in any form of communication especially supportive in which the need is to foster healthy interpersonal relationship. Lastly, supportive communication may be hampered by presence of conflict between the involved parties where on overall effective communication may be blocked and the parties may largely withdraw from the mainstream process of communication.
Skills of active listening and giving feedback
Alan Belasen note that problem-solving and decision-making skills are necessary and critical in order to identify the problems and opportunities employees face while at the same enable the manager to evaluate the options and necessary tradeoffs for enabling the employees recover from problems they may be suffering from (Belasen, 2000). Listening skills are necessary for interpersonal skills in the organization and the function is to lead to effectiveness in maintaining employee harmony and sustaining employee commitment (Belasen, 2000). In fostering effective listening skills, the manager’s feedback is paramount where he or she should be specific and not general when communicating with the affected employee. In addition, the manager should further be descriptive rather than judgmental while feedback should be within the ability of the employee in terms of control. Moreover, the manager should not personalize the issue by referring to other people or employees but rather just focus on the concerned employee. Further, the manager’s feedback should be largely helpful, and not punitive; while he should ensure that, he or she engages in positive feedback almost three times more often than negative feedback (Belasen, 2000). In return, the manager should be a good listener, and this can be achieved by listening carefully and being open. This is in addition to always paraphrasing what he hears from the employee in order to understand what the employee means. Lastly, he should be specific in describing the kind of behavior he prefers and state to the employee the kind of behavior feedback should be based (Belasen, 2000). According to Michael Carey, vice president of Johnson and Johnson Company, feedback in communication especially in the organization is beneficial with regard to interpersonal dynamics in the organization where at the same time, has the ability to surface issues, and open up opportunities for discussion and improvement and when delivered constructively it acts to eliminate dysfunctional conflict (Guttman, 2003).
Organization’s role in helping employees address personal problems
The concern for employee performance has resulted into human resource department having the need to design and institute programs that are intended to help employees especially those faced with numerous problems that may jeopardize the normal performance of employees at the workplace. Suggestion has been that organizations should have in place employee assistance programs (EAPs). This constitutes stress and wellness intervention programs in an organization and it has been identified as interventional method of providing help to organizational employees deal with stressful events in their lives. In general, EAPs help to identify, refer, and treat workers with personal problems that may affect their performance (Cummings and Worley, 2008). The programs in this method include those intended to address the issue of employee emotions, marital matters, and financial problems and sometimes drug abuse problems (Cummings and Worley, 2008). Many organizations that have employed EAPs in their employee management issues observe that, the programs provide means of responding and addressing employee wellness problems that may include chronic stress, grief, anxiety, and financial problems. In this case, the theme that guides operations of EAPs is the belief that although organization possess no right to interfere in the private and reserved lives of its employees, it has that right to institute some specific and certain standards of work performance. At the same time, it should be able to create and put in place sanctions when the prescribed standards are not fulfilled (Cummings and Worley, 2008). In general, any employee facing reduced work performance as a result of impairment emanating from personal problem is eligible to be admitted in any of the EAPs programs for stress management.
Why doesn’t Bob talk more openly with Al about his feelings and concerns?
Studies have shown that managers in many organizations create distance between themselves and their employees an event that lead to lack of trust and confidence on the part of the manager and employees concerned (Domsch and Lidokhover, 2007). In general, managers facilitate and foster isolation in the organization that create some form of unproductive distance especially with regard to communication. Bob as the president of MPC seems to have less direct social interaction with the colleagues or the company employees. For effective communication, Bob, as manager, has to establish social direct interaction with workers an opportunity that results in establishment of confidence between employees and managers enabling them to discuss their issues directly (Domsch and Lidokhover, 2007). At the same time, lack of trust may be another factor that confronts Bob in talking to Al. One requirement for successful conflict resolution in a company is the presence of wide celebrated trust between employees and managers and trust can be achieved through bridging the existing wide distance between managers and employees (Domsch and Lidokhover, 2007).
Using third party to approach the affected employee may have advantage in that, the affected employee may gains confidence and trusts the third party more than the manager in such way he or she is able to reveal the source of his or her problem to the third party in a more confident way. But at the same time, using third party in communication might deny the manager the opportunity to explore, investigate the source of the problem from the employee and more useful information might be hidden to the manager by the third party which if revealed would help in addressing the problem.
Bob’s situation and application of techniques of active listening or giving feedback
Meaningful resolution of conflict or appropriate communication within an organization is always effective when managers become prepared to listen actively and reflectively on the issue of concern while at the same time being adept at giving and receiving feedback (Preziosi, 2007). The manager, together with employees, has the responsibility to eliminate all forms of listening barriers and the focus should be placed on improving and maintaining effective communication at the workplace (Preziosi, 2007). Observation made is that, managers have the opportunity to identify and interpret contextual listening levels and types while at the same time be able to manage employee feedback circumstances by use of appropriate supportive language or communication in general (Preziosi, 2007). In most cases, the manager should strive to employ communication and listening techniques that have ability to build trust and positive social behaviors in the workplace. Some of the suggested techniques to use include: using reflective listening when communicating with employees; using the right technique that the employees will find productive when giving and receiving feedback with the employees; using the right technique to assess the communication climate and style before engaging in communication with employees; wide use of socialization techniques for building workplace relationships that are founded on trust; and initiating active communication to eliminate communication ambiguity (Preziosi, 2007).
Effective supportive communication thrives in situations that manifest general trust, confidence and close social distance. It is recommended that managers should ensure they create trust with employees, impact confidence among the employees, try to bridge the social distance gap with the employees. At the same time, effective communication and listening skills are essential and to attain this managers need to adopt active listening techniques. In general, effective communication in an organization ensures conflict of any particular nature is resolved more appropriately.
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