Implicit communication in organisations The impact of culture, structure and management practices on employee behaviour

  • Hoogervorst J
  • Van Der Flier H
  • Koopman P
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Abstract

Organisations engage in explicit and intentional communication with employees in various ways. However, communication will not be received in a " neutral " context. Employees operate in an organisational (or behavioural) context determined by the organisational culture, structures and systems, and the management practices. This context acts as a source of implicit communication towards employees. This view fits the various perspectives about communication, which does not need to be considered as a two-way process, and which can be intentionally or unintentionally, transmitted and received. All too often, implicit communication is at odds with the " official " explicit communication. Through this latter form of communication the organisation might, for example, proclaim a quality image, while in reality employees experience that, in case of conflicts, delivery planning prevails over quality. Likewise, communication about the " learning organisation " appears to be cumbersome in a culture suppressing discussion about failures. The effect of implicit communication should not be underestimated. Cynicism among employees is repeatedly the result of inconsistent messages being received. This paper describes the aspects of organisational culture, structures and systems, and management practices, seen in a behavioural context, in order to illustrate how these aspects act as an implicit source of communication to employees. Additionally, this form of communication expresses whether employees themselves are seen as the crucial core of organisational success. The importance of consistent signals is illustrated, specifically with respect to organisational change programs. Introduction Implicit communication Organisational performance is for a large part determined by employee behaviour. This behaviour is of primary interest in communication activities. This communication has many facets, such as the source initiating communication, the medium used, and the target group that is to be affected. If communication is seen as more than merely transferring information, then it can be argued that communication aims ultimately to affect behaviour of those receiving the communication. Hence, in our further analysis, employee behaviour will be the core reference variable. This paper argues that next to explicit and intentional forms of communication, also other, more implicit forms of communication exist. These other forms can be both intentional and unintentional. In the latter case, signals can be voiced which are in conflict with the " official " , explicit communication. Not only the organisation transmits

Author-supplied keywords

  • Communication
  • Employees behaviour
  • Organizations

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Authors

  • Jan Hoogervorst

  • Henk Van Der Flier

  • Paul Koopman

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