The trouble with management communication

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The ability to communicate effectively may be the number one management quality, some experts believe ¹. Leaders must understand how to use communication
strategies to build their teams and organizations to achieve departmental as well as organizational objectives.

Managers are producers of communication messages and recipients of communication from top management via various communication channels.

There are three main areas of management communication:

– Communicating one to many
– Communicating to small groups
– Communicating one to one

How effective is management communication today?

Managers work in increasingly challenging environments. Business conditions are disruptive and ever changing. Managers need to communicate with different generational levels. Messages have to be tied into corporate strategy, being mindful of corporate and external politics. Further, messages must be simplified so that many recipients can quickly grasp and understand meaning. Messages need to be linked to new concepts of change. While feedback via social media can be almost immediate within organisation structures feedback mechanisms are difficult and not always trusted. Receiving and handling feedback from employees is not an automatic skill but requires training.

Other questions for management communication are:

– How well equipped are managers for their communication tasks?
– How familiar are managers with the various communication channels?
– How effective are managers in crafting messages?
– How often do managers communicate?
– How effective are managers’ messages?

Without a clear and exciting communications strategy, linked to company strategy, it’s difficult to be effective. Messages need to have a clear purpose and ultimately be commercially orientated – motivate, inspire, generate action – all towards company’s objectives.

When the size of an organisation increases to a certain level, management has to deal with mass communication. By this is meant communication from one or a few to many. An organisation with many employees in different locations can’t communicate with everyone at the same time. This is why electronic communications is more evident via platforms such as Skype and internal video conferencing facilities. As soon as you communicate from one to many through channels like this, communication has new challenges – messages become impersonal and feedback becomes even more important.

Much time and money is spent on management communication but often not too much is known about how effective communications are. This is why it’s important to research. Research can help to determine the cost effectiveness of present communications and identify gaps as well as strengths and weaknesses. Research can help to identify communication that isn’t working and should be stopped and replaced with better forms of communication.

The main areas where research is required in management communication:

– The effectiveness of messages and content analysis. Are messages being produced in an interesting and impactful way?
– Communication channels. Which communication channels are working and which aren’t? What do the recipients of management communication feel about the way they are being communicated to?
– Frequency of communications. How frequent or regular is management communication? Are recipients receiving too much communication (unlikely) or are they receiving too little (likely)?
– Feedback mechanisms. What feedback mechanisms are available? How effective are they?
– Corporate culture. What is the prevailing corporate culture? How is the corporate culture supporting or hindering communication? What needs to change?

These are just a few of the areas that need research to determine the effectiveness of communication in a company. Recommendations would include what needs to change in communications and how as well as the resources and training required.

Management communication is challenging but it holds exciting possibilities for change given proper research and an understanding of what is working, what isn’t working and how to correct the situation for better results (and be more cost-effective).

¹ An Increasing Usefulness for Managerial
Communication Research on the Main Topics of

Reginald L. Bell
Prairie View A&M University
Deborah Roebuck
Kennesaw State University,

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