Showing posts with label communication patterns. Show all posts
Showing posts with label communication patterns. Show all posts

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Positive and Negative Communication Patterns Impact Workplace Culture

Communication is social by nature, helps others to engage in relationships, and link the micro actions of individuals to the macro actions of the organization. The communication patterns of a workplace determine not only the culture and flavor of the company but also its effectiveness.  The researchers Keyton, et. al. (2013), discuss the nature of communication in the workplace and the patterns formed.

Employees who are effective communicators are likely to succeed in achieving their goals. Individuals are seen as active agents whose behaviors are driven by motivations that are innate (Bandura, 2008). Such individuals express themselves, their personalities, and even their unconscious conflicts through communication.

Let us take two examples of people who have distinct communication patterns within the workplace. Tom wants to be successful and seeks recognition for his work. John feels as though he is more deserving of others and the only way to achieve his goals is to dominate others around him. Both will develop a communication pattern to meet their goals.

Tom talks about the great things he has done and seeks recognition and approval. John is hyper critical and talks poorly of others abilities. Tom likes to talk out differences while John seems to push his agenda on others. Tom learns from others and John negatively compares himself to others. Both have developed a pattern.

Tom and John’s behaviors are both addictive. Communication is social and others gauge their environment by the behaviors around them. If Tom works hard, manages conflict, and seeks recognition and this results in success others will begin to copy Tom. If John’s brashness and negativity is rewarded others will assume that is what makes success. One workplace will become more productive while the other will become more toxic.

Of course, Tom and John are not the only people in the workplace. Therefore, the total communication flow is based upon up the collective pattern of the environment. These patterns are defined as the culture and value systems of a company.  To change culture and patterns can mean to change the conversations, reward systems, and basic economic assumptions of the environment.

The researchers sought to understand what communicative behaviors the workplace has experienced based upon the perception of employees. Within their target they found that the ten most common verbal communication patters were listening, asking questions, discussing, sharing information, agreeing, suggesting, getting feedback, seeking feedback, answering questions and explaining. These observed patterns suggest a workplace that seeks to be efficient and the communicative patterns appear to support that effort.

A second study found some differences. Routinely used verbal communication behaviors exhibited were information sharing, relational maintenance, expressing negative emotion, and organizing. Even though each of these are common it should be understood that relational maintenance should not be excessive and expressing negative emotion should be productive. If they do not add to the success of the organization, it is possible that excessive amounts of time in social structure maintenance and negativity can create a non-mobile and toxic workplace.  

 Understanding what communication patterns employees are using can determine overall cultural values and communicative behaviors within the workplace. Surveying employee’s perceptions of communication patterns within the workplace will help solidify for decision-makers the most common interactions. By understanding these patterns, it is possible to make adjustments that further help the organization develop proper workplace assumptions that lead to productivity.

When conducting similar studies it may be beneficial to break up the surveys into the following:

1.) Executive Communication Patterns: How do executives communicate with each other and employees?

2.) Employee Communication Patterns: How do employees perceive the communication patterns within the workplace?

3.) Employee to Customer Communication Patterns: How do customers perceive the communication patterns coming from employees?

Bandura, A. (2008). Social cognitive theory. In W. Donsbach (Ed.),
The international encyclopedia of communication[electronic version]. London, England: Blackwell. doi:10.1111/ b.9781405131995.2008.

Keyton, J. et. al. (2013). Investigating verbal workplace communication behaviors. Journal of Business Communication, 50 (2).

Other Reading:

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Communication as an Interconnected Activity of Self and Society

Each day we communicate with each other and make inroads into understanding each other. Organizations are built and maintained on the types of communication patterns people choose. As people talk about work, their lives, their hopes and their fears they make relationships and bind themselves to others. These relationships influence the culture of the organization and the effectiveness of behavior that improves upon goal attainment. The manners and styles in which we communicate will determine the effectiveness of our behavior.

Workplaces have transformed in communication to hyper information that bombards us from cell phones, face-to-face communication, email, Internet, and just about everywhere else. It hits us from all directions. The rise in the need for stronger communication abilities is apparent in the world of globalization and technology. Employers are now seeking people with emphasis on “interpersonal skills and the ability to collaborate” in teams in order to achieve their collective goals (Barley & Kunda, 2001, p. 77).
Oral and face-to-face communication are still the gold standards in communicative abilities. Organizations have ranked new graduates as largely inefficient in their communication skills (The Conference Board, 2009). Therefore, the need to understand communication and those behaviors that are most beneficial is needed. This understanding raises the ability to improve upon these communication styles and create higher levels of effectiveness.

Communication behaviors doesn't work within a vacuum on their own and by themselves. They exist within an environmental context and create a sequence of events. Such behaviors are social, used to engage people, link micro actions to collective structures (Bisel, 2010). Thus, communication is a method of taking individuals and connecting them to the organizational and societal collective.

People communicate with each other for a number of personal reasons. When a person engages in communication, they seek to influence their goals, relational status among others, and their self-identity (Clark and Delia, 1979). Therefore, communication is not passive but an active aspect of modern living that is connected to both the self and collective society.

Communication also has a larger impact on the perception self and choices of behaviors. “Whatever processes may be involved in human skill learning and performance, the concern is with intentional attempts to carry out motor acts, which will bring about predetermined results” (Hargie, 2006). Therefore, communication is a precursor to actions that are goal seeking.Communication is vital to American businesses and individual needs attainment.

Communication influences the environment but also allows the environment to influence the person. It is an outward expression of inner thoughts that allows for goal attainment that further connects people to society. It is through this connection that people are able to achieve their personal and professional goals. Organizations can develop communication abilities to help enhance the efficiency of accomplishment within organizations.

Two studies by Keyton, et. al. (2013 help to highlight which communication behaviors are exhibited in the workplace and which are most successful. You may view their two studies below:

Study 1:

Two authors identified 343 communication activities from four communication textbooks. These were analyzed for relevance and a total of 163 communication behaviors were identified. Each were analyzed to determine if it was a communication activity, if they had logical opposites, and was it simple. A total of 126 participants were involved that help identify the behaviors they experienced at work.


-The top ten communication behaviors were listening, asking questions, discussing, sharing information, agreeing, suggesting, getting feedback, seeking feedback, answering questions and explaining.

Study 2:

The second study focused on trying to understand if the communication had an internal structure that allowed for the development of measurements of communication abilities. Out of 331 participants 1/3 were asked to fill out the survey that analyzed the communication styles exhibited at work. They ranked themselves on how well they did on these communication styles.


-Participants ranked their most effective behaviors as showing respect, cooperating, offering help and sharing information.

-Participants ranked their least effective behaviors as complaining, expressing frustration, relational maintenance of small talk, telling stories, and seeking approval.


Communication is a method of connecting individuals to an organization and society. By engaging and talking with people you can develop relationships with them and this further creates higher levels of social influence as well as provide opportunities for individuals to achieve their goals. Understanding communication patterns within the workplace helps in developing methods for improving such communication. Through these communication patterns, employers can encourage stronger choices and behaviors that help to achieve goals. Colleges can provide greater methodology and skill in preparing students to effectively communicate with their work environments to achieve their personal goals as well as help the organization.

Barley, S.& Kunda, G. (2001). Bringing work back in. Organization Science, 12, 76-95.

Bisel, R. S. (2010). A communicative ontology of organization? A description, history, and critique of CCO theories for organization science. Management Communication Quarterly, 24, 124-131.
Clark, R. A., & Delia, J. G. (1979). Topoi and rhetorical competence. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 65, 187-206.

Hargie, O. D. W. (2006). Communication as skilled performance. In O. D. W. Hargie (Ed.), The handbook of communication skills (3rd ed., pp. 7-28). New York, NY: Routledge.

Keyton, et. al. (2013). Investigating verbal workplace communication behaviors. Journal or Business Communication, 50 (2).

Keyton, J., & Shockley-Zalabak, P. (Eds.). (2006). Case studies for organizational communication: Understanding communication processes (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury.

The Conference Board. (2009). The ill-prepared U.S. workforce: Exploring the challenges of employer-provided workforce readiness training. Retrieved April 20th, 2013 from