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Chapter 1

Achieving Success Through Effective


Business Communication

Learning Objectives
AFTER STUDYING THIS CHAPTER, YOU WILL BE ABLE TO
1 Explain what effective communication is and highlight five characteristics of
effective business messages
2 Discuss three developments in the workplace that are intensifying the need to
communicate effectively
3 Describe how organizations share information internally and externally
4 List eight ways the Internet facilitates business communication
5 Define the six phases of the communication process
6 Identify and briefly discuss five types of communication barriers
7 Discuss four guidelines for overcoming communication barriers
8 Explain the attributes of ethical communication, and differentiate between an
ethical dilemma and an ethical lapse

Excellence in Business Communication, Sixth Edition, by John V. Thill and Courtland L. Bove. Copyright 2005,
2001 by Bove & Thill LLC. Published by Prentice Hall, Inc., an imprint of Pearson Education.

On the Job:
COMMUNICATING AT GE INDUSTRIAL SYSTEMS

BRINGING GOOD THINGS TO LIFE WITH FREE-FLOWING INFORMATION


How do you keep a company
erally thousands of Workcompetitive when it employs
Out town meetings, the
40,000 employees in 96 major
views and ideas of every
facilities worldwide? How do
employee, from every funcyou make sure that everyone
tion, in every business, are
NOT AVAILABLE FOR
gets up-to-date information
solicited and turned into
ELECTRONIC VIEWING
in time to make the right deciactionusually on the spot.
sions? Lloyd G. Trotter can tell
Because people see the
you. He is president and chief
value that is attached to
executive officer of GE
their input, their ideas flow
Industrial Systems, one of the
in torrents.
11 major businesses in the
Trotter keeps GE IndusGeneral Electric Company.
trial Systems competitive by
Headquartered in Plainville,
keeping his people up to date
Connecticut, Trotters comon communication technolpany produces electrical and
ogy. This technology helps
electronic products that conemployees handle the vast
trol, distribute, protect, and
amount of information availmonitor electrical power for
able today without getting
industry, commercial buildbogged down. Technology
ings, and homes. With so many employees all over
also helps employees communicate effectively with
the world, GE Industrial Systems must communicate
people who may be located within the same building
successfully to compete and survive.
or halfway around the world, who may or may not
Trotter has built GE Industrial Systems into a
speak English, and who may have different cultural
heavyweight division, posting annual revenues of
views of the best way to conduct business.
around $6 billion, and he plans to double the size of
Trotter encourages his people to work in teams,
the business in the next three years. Effective comusing technology whenever possible. For example,
munication is an important factor in his success. He
GE Industrial Systems was the first of the GE busimakes sure that every employee can exchange infornesses to use real-time collaboration tools to interact
mation with every other inside the company, from
with customers and suppliers. These software tools
entry-level receptionists and maintenance workers to
make e-mail seem slow; they improve information
top-level managers. He also ensures that GE employsharing and tear down geographic and cultural barriees can communicate effectively with numerous peoers. They allow employees to create shared web
ple outside the company, such as customers, suppliworkspaces, use instant messaging and real-time
ers, investors, and public communities, just to name a
conferencing, manage documents electronically, and
few. Trotter emphasizes audience focus and stresses
even use the web for training.
policies such as giving customers what they want,
To help employees face todays challenges,
when they want it, and in the mix or varieties they
Trotter also does what he can to increase diversity in
need. He actively encourages managers, hourly
the company and in business worldwide. For examemployees, and customers to rub elbows and work
ple, he started a group called the African-American
together to solve problems.
Forum, where employees get together every three
GE Industrial Systems benefits from the open
months to talk about their careers and who controls
communication culture established at the corporate
them. You control your own career, says Trotter.
levelwhich focuses on sharing, and putting into
You say, My most valuable asset is myself, and then
action, the best ideas and practices from across the
you focus on caring for and feeding that asset.1
www.ge.com
company and around the world. For example, at lit-

Part I

Understanding the Foundations of Business Communication

COMMUNICATION, BUSINESS, AND YOU

Effective communication helps you


and your organization succeed.

As Lloyd Trotter suggests, your career success depends largely on you. One of the
best ways to care for your most valuable asset is to improve your ability to communicate effectively. Communication is the process of sending and receiving messages.
However, communication is effective only when the message is understood and when
it stimulates action or encourages a receiver to think in new ways.
When you communicate effectively, you increase productivity, both yours and
your organizations (see Figure 11). Only through effective communication can you
anticipate problems, make decisions, coordinate work flow, supervise others, develop
relationships, and promote products and services. Effective communication helps
you shape the impressions you and your company make on colleagues, employees,
supervisors, investors, and customers, and it helps you perceive and respond to the
needs of these stakeholders (the various groups you interact with).2
Conversely, ineffective communication can interfere with sound business solutions and can often make problems worse.3 Without effective communication, people
misunderstand each other and misinterpret information. Ideas misfire or fail to gain
attention, and people and companies flounder.

Characteristics of Effective Business Messages


Business communication differs from
communication in other settings.

Effective business messages have a number of common characteristics. As you study


the communication examples in this book, see how they4
Provide practical information. Business messages usually describe how to do
something, explain why a procedure was changed, highlight the cause of a problem or a possible solution, discuss the status of a project, or explain why a new
piece of equipment should be purchased.
Give facts rather than impressions. Effective business messages use concrete
language and specific details. Their information is clear, convincing, accurate, and
ethical because they present hard evidence (not just opinion) and present all sides
of an argument before committing to a conclusion.

FIGURE 11
The Benefits of Effective
Communication

Quicker
problem
solving
Improved
stakeholder
response

Enhanced
professional
image

Stronger
decision
making

EFFECTIVE
COMMUNICATION

Clearer
promotional
materials

Increased
productivity

Steadier
work
flow
Stronger
business
relationships

Chapter 1

Achieving Success Through Effective Business Communication

Clarify and condense information. Business messages frequently use tables,


charts, photos, or diagrams to clarify or condense information, to explain a
process, or to emphasize important information.
State precise responsibilities. Effective business messages are directed to a specific audience. They clearly state what is expected of, or what can be done for, that
particular audience.
Persuade others and offer recommendations. Business messages frequently persuade employers, customers, or clients to adopt a plan of action or to purchase a
product or service. Persuasive messages are effective when they show just how an
idea, a product, or a service will benefit readers specifically.
Keep these five characteristics in mind as you review Figure 12. Although the
draft for this message appears to be well constructed, the revised version is more
effective, as explained in the documents margins. In this course you will learn how to
create the effective messages that are crucial for meeting the communication challenges facing businesses today.

Communication Challenges in Todays Workplace


Good communication skills have always been important in business. They are even
more important in todays changing environment, which brings communication challenges such as advances in technology, globalization and workforce diversity, and
increased emphasis on team-based organizations.

Advances in Technology The Internet, e-mail, voice mail, faxes, pagers, and

The use of technology showcases


your communication skills and
intensifies the need to communicate
effectively.

other wireless devices have revolutionized the way people communicate. Such technological advances not only bring new and better tools to
the workplace but also increase the speed, frequency, and
reach of communication. People from opposite ends of the
world can work together seamlessly, 24 hours a day.
Moreover, advances in technology make it possible for
more and more people to work away from the officein
cars, airports, hotels, and at home.
This increased use of new technology requires employees to communicate more effectively and efficiently. (See
the photo essay on Powerful Tools for Communicating
NOT AVAILABLE FOR
Efficiently on page 8.) Technology showcases your comELECTRONIC VIEWING
munication skillsyour writing skills are revealed in every
e-mail message, and your verbal skills are revealed in audio
and video teleconferences.5 Furthermore, intranets (private
corporate networks based on Internet technology), and
extranets (the extension of private networks to certain
outsiders such as suppliers) facilitate communication
among employees, managers, customers, suppliers, and
investors. More businesses are installing such networks
and are increasingly engaging in electronic commerce
(e-commerce), the buying and selling of goods and services
over the Internet.

Globalization and Workforce Diversity Businesses today are crossing


national boundaries to compete on a global scale. Over 2 million North Americans
now work for multinational employers, and the number of foreign companies that
have built plants in the United States is increasing.6 In addition to this expanding

The increases in international


business dealings and in the diversity
of the workforce create
communication challenges.

FIGURE 12
Effective Communication by Memo
FROM: Tom Ristoff

SUBJECT: Company website

t
af I have found three website designers who can help us improve our company

Dr

website. As you know, there are many problems with our website. We have
received numerous complaints from customers concerning the length of time it
takes for our website to load. Customers also complain about overuse of banner
advertising, it fails to provide adequate company and product information, difficulty in navigating the site, registration forms take too long to fill out, and out-ofdate articles posted on the website.
On Tuesday, July 14, I met with Josh Allen, the owner of WebDezine, a marketing
firm that specializes in developing, designing, updating, and managing websites. Josh showed me several samples of his companys work. His current client
list and letters of reference are impressive. Josh has several recommendations
for improving our website.

Fails to capture
readers interest with
a specific subject

Complicates sentence
structure by ignoring
parallelism, thus
making a simple list
difficult to read

On Wednesday, July 15, I met with Steven Sanchez, manager of Your Web Design,
and Betsy Delany, owner of Delany Websites. Both companies perform the same
type of work as WebDezine. Both have an impressive list of clients and good credentials. However, I did not think Delanys Web ideas were as innovative as the
other two companies.
I have invited all three companies to make a presentation to management at a
special meeting scheduled on Wednesday, July 22 at 9:00 a.m. Each company will
make a short presentation showing us specific samples of their work, outline
suggestions for our company website, and discuss their fees and timeline. At
that meeting, they will also address any questions and concerns you may have.
I strongly suggest you attend this meeting so that we can select the best candidate and get the revision project underway. Minimally, it will take a designer at
least three months to complete this project. The longer we delay in the selection
process, the longer it will take us to develop a website that matches our competitors.

Does not clarify


whether the meeting
is scheduled for 9:00
A.M. or whether the
presentation begins at
9:00 A.M.
Buries the main idea
at the end of the
message (Why not
state this in the
beginning?)

Please let me know if you will be able to attend.

on

i
is

v
Re

All Department Managers

DATE:

SUBJECT: Meeting with prospective


website developers

I have identified three prospective website developers to help us improve our


company website. Each candidate will deliver a short presentation at a special
meeting on Wednesday, July 22. The meeting will begin at 9:00 a.m., and the
presentations will begin immediately.
I encourage you to attend so that we can expedite our revision project. The
project will take at least three months to complete. This estimate does not
include the time it will take to negotiate a contract with the developer.

Josh Allen, owner of WebDezine (Del Mar, CA), specializes in developing, designing, updating, and managing websites. Hes been designing web pages for eight
years. His current client list, letters of reference, and sample sites are impressive, and he has several exciting recommendations for improving our website.

Fails to state when


managers should
respond or how

July 17, 2004

All three candidates specialize in designing, developing, and managing websites. The candidates include the following:

Withholds early
impressions and sticks
to the facts

Gives impressions
rather than fact,
making the message
less effective

BRAXTON & TEAGUE CONSULTING

FROM: Tom Ristoff

Uses concise language,


ample white space, and
bullets to make this
document easier to
skim

Takes too long to


get to the point by
including irrelevant
information

MEMO
TO:

Provides important
information up front
without wasting time
on preliminaries

Wastes readers time


with impractical
information that
managers already
know about

Steven Sanchez, manager of Your Web Design (Orange, CA), specializes in developing and updating website designs. His company has been designing websites
for five years and has an impressive list of clients. However, his company does
not manage websites on a continuing basis.

Lets readers know the


purpose of the memo
by using a descriptive
subject line

Persuades managers to
attend, using italics to
emphasize urgency

Uses body of memo to


provide managers with
practical information
about each candidate

Betsy Delany, owner of Delany Websites (Laguna Beach, CA), develops, designs,
updates, and manages websites. Her credentials are excellent, but her list of
clients is short since shes been in business for less than a year.
I have reviewed samples from all three candidates, and youll have an opportunity to see them and learn more about each company at the meeting. In addition,
each candidate will present recommendations for improving our website, a projected timeline, and estimated costs.
Please check your calendar and let me know by e-mail before Monday, July 20,
whether youll be able to attend this meeting. If you cant attend and have specific questions or concerns that you would like addressed, please send them
along in your response.

Clearly states what is


expected of the
audience

Chapter 1

Achieving Success Through Effective Business Communication

NOT AVAILABLE FOR


ELECTRONIC VIEWING

globalization, a growing percentage of the U.S. workforce is made up of people with


diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, a trend that will continue in the years
ahead. In the United States, for example, ethnic minorities are entering the workforce
in record numbers (see Figure 13).
Increased globalization and workforce diversity mean that employees must Todays employees must
understand the laws, customs, and business practices of many countries and be communicate with people who speak
able to communicate with people who speak other languages. Look at 3Coms English as a second language.
sprawling modem factory in Chicago. The plant employs 1,200 people, the vast
majority of whom are immigrants. Urban Asians with
multiple college degrees work alongside people who
have recently arrived from Central American villages.
Serbs work with Bosnian Muslims and with Iraqis,
Peruvians, and South Africans. The employees speak
more than 20 different languages, including Tagalog,
Gujarati, and Chinese. English of varying degrees ties
them together.7
Chapter 3 discusses intercultural communication in
detail, and special boxes throughout this text explore cultural issues that you will likely encounter in the global
NOT AVAILABLE FOR
ELECTRONIC VIEWING
workplace.

Team-Based Organizations

The command-andcontrol style of traditional management structures is


ineffective in todays fast-paced, e-commerce environment.8 Successful companies like GE Industrial Systems
no longer limit decisions to a few managers at the top of
a formal hierarchy. Instead, organizations use teams and
collaborative work groups to make the fast decisions
required to succeed in a global and competitive marketplace. Although working in teams has many advantages,
it also offers many challenges, since team members often
come from different departments, perform different
functions, and come from diverse cultural backgrounds. Chapter 2 discusses
teams in detail. One requirement for succeeding in teams is a basic understanding
of how communication works in organizational settings.

When working in teams, you should


be able to clarify, confirm, give
feedback, explore ideas, and credit
others.

Powerful Tools for Communicating Effectively


The tools of business communication evolve with every new generation of digital technology. Selecting the right tool for each
situation can enhance your business communication in many ways. In todays flexible office settings, communication technology helps
people keep in touch and stay productive. When co-workers in different cities need to collaborate, they can meet and share ideas
without costly travel. Manufacturers use communication technology to keep track of parts, orders, and shipmentsand to keep customers well-informed. Those same customers can also communicate with companies in many ways at any time of day or night.

Flexible Workstations
Many professionals have
abandoned desktop PCs
for laptops they can carry
home, on travel, and to meetings. Back at their desks, a docking
station transforms the laptop into a full-featured PC with network connection. Workers without permanent desks sometimes
share PCs that automatically reconfigure themselves to access
each users e-mail and files.

Wireless Networks
Laptop PCs with wireless access cards let
workers stay connected
to the network from
practically anywhere
within the officeany
desk, any conference
room. This technology offers high-speed
Internet access within range of a wireless
access point.

Redefining the Office

Follow-me Phone Service


To be reachable without juggling multiple forwarding numbers, some people have follow-me phone service.
Callers use one number to reach the
person anywhereat the office, a
remote site, a home office. The system
automatically forwards calls to a list of
preprogrammed numbers and transfers unanswered calls to voice mail.

Technology makes it easier for people


to stay connected with co-workers
and retrieve needed information.
Some maintain that connection without having a permanent office, a
desktop PC, or even a big filing cabinet. For example, Sun Microsystems
lets staff members choose to work
either at the main office or at remote
offices called "drop-in centers." Many
Sun facilities have specially equipped
"iWork" areas that can quickly reconfigure phone and computer connections to meet individual requirements.

Electronic Presentations
Combining a color projector with a
laptop or personal digital assistant
(PDA) running the right software
lets people give informative business presentations that are
enhanced with sound, animation,
and even website hyperlinks.
Having everything in electronic
form also makes it easy to customize a presentation or to make
last-minute changes.

COMMUNICATING IN THE OFFICE


Intranets
Businesses use Internet
technologies to create an
intranet, a private computer network that simplifies information sharing within the
company. Intranets can handle company e-mail, instant messaging (IM), websites, and even Internet phone connections. To
ensure the security of company communication and information, intranets are shielded from the public Internet.

Web-based Meetings
Wall Displays
Teams commonly
solve problems by
brainstorming at a
whiteboard. Wall displays take this concept one step further, letting participants transmit words
and diagrams to distant colleagues via the corporate
intranet. Users can even share the virtual pen to make
changes and additions from more than one location.

Workers can actively participate in web-based meetings by logging on from a


desktop PC, laptop, or cell
phone. Websites such as
WebEx help users integrate
voice, text, and video, and
let them share applications
such as Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Word in a
single browser window.

Collaborating

Internet Videophone
Person-to-person video calling has long
been possible through popular instant
messaging programs. Internet videophone
services do even more, letting multiple
users participate in a videoconference
without the expense and complexity of a
full-fledged videoconferencing system.
Some services are flexible enough to
include telecommuters who have broadband Internet connections.

Working in teams is essential in


almost every business. Teamwork
can become complicated, however,
when team members work in different parts of the company, in different
time zones, or even for different
companies. Technology helps bridge
the distance by making it possible to
brainstorm, attend virtual meetings,
and share files from widely separated
locations. Communication technology also helps companies save money
on costly business travel without losing most of the benefits of face-toface collaboration.

Shared Workspace
Online workspaces such as eRoom and
Groove make it easy for far-flung team
members to access shared files anywhere,
any time. Accessible through a browser,
the workspace contains a collection of
folders and has built-in intelligence to
control which team members can read,
edit, and save specific files.

COMMUNICATING REMOTELY

Videoconferencing and Telepresence


Less costly than travel, videoconferencing provides
many of the same benefits as an in-person meeting.
Advanced systems include telepresence and robot surrogates, which use computers to "place" participants
in the room virtually, letting them see and hear everyone while being seen and heard themselves. Such realistic interaction makes meetings more productive.

Extranet
Warehouse RFID
In an effort to reduce the
costs and delays associated
with manual inventory
reports, Wal-Mart asked its
top suppliers to put radiofrequency identification (RFID) tags on all their shipping cases
and pallets by 2005. These tags automatically provide information that was previously collected by hand via barcode scanners.

Extranets are secure,


private computer networks that use Internet
technology to share
business information
with suppliers, vendors,
partners, and customers.
Think of an extranet as
an extension of the company intranet that is available to
people outside the organization by invitation only.

Sharing the Latest Information

Wireless
Warehouse
Communication technology is a key source of
competitive advantage for shipping companies
such as FedEx and UPS. Hand-worn scanners
use wireless links to help warehouse personnel access instant information that lets them
process more packages in less time at transit
hubs. Currently, 300 package loaders at four
UPS hub facilities are testing the new wireless
application called UPScan. A pager-size cordless scanner worn on the loaders hand captures data from a package bar code and transmits the data via Bluetooth wireless technology to a Symbol Technologies wireless terminal worn on the loaders waist.

Companies use a variety of communication technologies to create products and services and deliver them to
customers. The ability to easily
access and share the latest information improves the flow and timing of
supplies, lowers operating costs, and
boosts financial performance. Easy
information access also helps companies respond to customer needs by
providing them timely, accurate
information and service and by delivering the right products to them at
the right time.

Package Tracking
Senders and receivers often want
frequent updates when packages are
in transit. Handheld devices such as
the FedEx PowerPad enhance customer service by letting delivery
personnel instantly upload package
data to the FedEx network. The
wireless PowerPad also aids drivers
by automatically receiving weather
advisories.

COMMUNICATING ABOUT PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Supply Chain Management


Advanced software applications let suppliers,
manufacturers, and retailers share information
even when they have incompatible computer systems. Improved information flow increases report
accuracy and helps each company in the supply
chain manage stock levels.

Help Lines
Some people prefer the
personal touch of contact
by phone. Moreover,
some companies assign
preferred customers special ID numbers that let
them jump to the front of
the calling queue. Many
companies are addressing
the needs of foreign-language speakers by connecting them with external service
providers who offer multilingual support.

O v e r- t h e - s h o u l d e r
Support
For online shoppers who
need instant help, many
retail websites make it easy
to connect with a live sales
rep via phone or instant
messaging. The rep can
provide quick answers to
questions and, with permission, can even control a shoppers browser to help locate
particular items.

Interacting

Corporate Blogs
Web-based journals let companies offer
advice, answer questions, and promote the
benefits of their products and services.
Elements of a successful blog include frequent updates and the participation of
knowledgeable contributors. Adding a subtle mix of useful commentary and marketing messages helps get customers to read or
listen to them.

Maintaining an open dialog with


customers is a great way to gain a
better understanding of their likes
and dislikes. Todays communication technologies make it easier for
customers to interact with a company whenever, wherever, and however they wish. A well-coordinated
approach to phone, web, and instore communication helps a company build stronger relationships
with its existing customers, which
increases the chances of doing more
business with each one.

Retail RFID
Customers
can't buy
what they
cant find, and
manual
reporting is often too slow for fast-paced
retailing. To keep enough goods on the
shelves, some retailers use RFID tags to
monitor products on display. Clerks use
wireless readers to scan tagged products
and report stock data to a computerized
inventory system that responds with an
up-to-the-minute restocking order.

COMMUNICATING WITH CUSTOMERS


In-store Kiosks
Staples is among the
retailers that let shoppers
buy from the web while
theyre still in the store.
Web-connected kiosks
were originally used to
let shoppers custom-configure their PCs, but the kiosks
also give customers access to roughly 8,000 in-store items
as well as to the 50,000 products available online.

12

Part I

Understanding the Foundations of Business Communication

COMMUNICATION IN ORGANIZATIONAL SETTINGS


To succeed, organizations must share
information with people both inside
and outside the company.

When you join a company, you become a link in its information chain. Whether
youre a top manager or an entry-level employee, you have information that others
need, and others have information that is crucial to you. Whether your organization
is large, small, or virtual, sharing information among its parts and with the outside
world is the glue that binds it together.

Communicating Internally
You are a contact point in both the
external and internal communication
networks.

Internal communication refers to the exchange of information and ideas within an


organization. As an employee, you are in a position to observe things that your supervisors and co-workers cannot see: a customers first reaction to a product display, a
suppliers brief hesitation before agreeing to a delivery date, an odd whirring noise in
a piece of equipment, or a slowdown in the flow of customers. Managers and coworkers need these little gems of information in order to do their jobs. If you dont
pass it along, nobody willbecause nobody else knows.
Much of this information can be exchanged internally by phone, fax, interoffice
memo, company intranet, or e-mailas it is for example, at Carnival Corporation,
the worlds largest multiple-night cruise company. Lauren Eastman, assistant director
of sales, used e-mail to request capacity information from the companys operations
manager, Brad Lymans (see Figure 14).
Internal communication helps employees do their jobs, develop a clear sense of
the organizations mission, and identify and react quickly to potential problems. To
maintain a healthy flow of information within the organization, effective communicators use both formal and informal channels.

FIGURE 14
Effective Internal Communication by E-Mail

Uses a typical e-mail


heading that lets the
reader know the
purpose of the message
with an informative
subject line

Uses an informal
salutation for e-mail
to peers

Brad Lymans <blymans@carnivalcorp.com>


Lauren Eastman <leastman@carnivalcorp.com>
Need capacity data for ships

Hi Brad:
I am developing a summer marketing program for our Holland America, Seabourn, and Windstar lines.
Could you please provide me with a breakout of current passenger capacity by cruise brand for all
company ships.
I need this information by Thursday, June 12, at the latest. Please send it to me in an e-mail attachment.
If you have any questions, or if you will not be able to produce the data by June 12, please let me
know right away.

Includes a brief
complimentary close
and a typed name
Includes contact
information in case
e-mail is forwarded
to someone else

Always provides
information on To,
From, and Subject

Thanks,
Lauren Eastman
Assistant Director of Sales
Carnival Corporation
leastman@carnivalcorp.com
1-305-599-2600 ext. 10839
Writing at 11:29 a.m.
On Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Opens by stating the


specific request for
information

Communicates one
clear and concise
objective, in the
body, and clearly
states what is
expected of Brad
Closes cordially,
making a statement
about the specific
action requested

Chapter 1

Achieving Success Through Effective Business Communication

Formal Communication Network The formal communication network is typically shown as an organization chart like the one in Figure 15. Such charts summarize the lines of authority; each box represents a link in the chain of command, and
each line represents a formal channel for the transmission of official messages.
Information may travel down, up, and across an organizations formal hierarchy.
Downward flow. Organizational decisions are usually made at the top and then
flow down to the people who will carry them out. Most of what filters downward
is geared toward helping employees do their jobs. From top to bottom, each person must understand each message, apply it, and pass it along.

13

The formal flow of information


follows the official chain of
command.
Information flows down, up, and
across the formal hierarchy.

Upward flow. To solve problems and make intelligent decisions, managers must
learn whats going on in the organization. Because they cant be everywhere at
once, executives depend on lower-level employees to furnish them with accurate,
timely reports on problems, emerging trends, opportunities for improvement,
grievances, and performance.
Horizontal flow. Communication also flows from one department to another,
either laterally or diagonally. This horizontal communication helps employees
share information and coordinate tasks, and it is especially useful for solving complex and difficult problems.9
Formal organization charts illustrate how information is supposed to flow.
However, such charts may not be accurate models for every business. Moreover, in
actual practice, lines and boxes on a piece of paper cannot prevent people from talking with one another.

Informal Communication Network Every organization has an informal communication networka grapevinethat supplements official channels. As people go
about their work, they have casual conversations with their friends in the office. They
joke and share and discuss many things: their apartments, their families, restaurants,
movies, sports, and other people in the company. Although many of these conversations deal with personal matters, about 80 percent of the information that travels
along the grapevine pertains to business, and 75 to 95 percent of it is accurate.10

The informal communication


network carries information along
the organizations unofficial lines of
activity and power.

FIGURE 15
Formal Communication Network
President

Vice President
of Finance

Vice President
of Marketing

Head
Accountant

Sales
Manager

Director of
Advertising and
Promotion

Industrial
Sales
Director

Retail
Sales
Director

Special
Projects
Supervisor

Downward
Upward
Horizontal

Vice President
of Research and
Development

Vice President
of Production

Plant
Manager

Advertising
Production
Chief

Line A
Supervisor

Line B
Supervisor

Line C
Supervisor

14

Part I

Understanding the Foundations of Business Communication

The grapevine is an important source


of information in most organizations.

Some executives are wary of the informal communication network, possibly


because it threatens their power to control the flow of information. However, savvy
managers tap into the grapevine, using it to spread and receive informal messages.11
Since it is virtually impossible to eliminate the grapevine, sophisticated companies
minimize its importance by making certain that the official word gets out.

Communicating Externally
The external communication
network links the organization with
the outside world of customers,
suppliers, competitors, and
investors.

Just as internal communication carries information up, down, and across the organization, external communication carries it into and out of the organization.
Companies constantly exchange messages with customers, vendors, distributors,
competitors, investors, journalists, and community representatives. Sometimes this
external communication is carefully orchestratedespecially during a crisis. At other
times it occurs informally as part of routine business operations.

Companies use external


communication to create a
favorable impression.

Formal External Communication Whether by letter, website, phone, fax,


Internet, or videotape, good communication is the first step in making a favorable
impression on outsiders. As Lloyd Trotter can attest, carefully constructed letters,
reports, memos, oral presentations, and websites convey an important message about
the quality of your organization (see Figure 16). Messages such as statements to the
press, letters to investors, advertisements, price increase announcements, and litigation updates require special care because of their delicate nature. Therefore, such
documents are often drafted by a marketing or public relations teama group of
individuals whose sole job is to create and manage the flow of formal messages to
outsiders.
The public relations team is also responsible for helping management plan for
and respond to crisesa broad range of possibilities that can include environmental accidents, sabotage situations, strikes, massive product failure, major litigation,
or even an abrupt change in management. To minimize the impact of any crisis,
expert communicators advise managers to communicate honestly, openly, and
often (see Table 11 on page 16).12 If handled improperly, a crisis can destroy a
companys reputation, drain its financial strength, erode employee morale, and
result in negative publicity.
Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone were criticized for not taking appropriate
action when reports started surfacing about the faulty tires manufactured by
Bridgestone/Firestone and fitted on Ford Explorer sport utility vehicles. When the
vehicles were driven at high speed, the treads separated from the tires, causing the
cars to roll over and leading to the serious injuryeven deathof passengers.
Although both Ford and Firestone eventually recalled 6.5 million tires, both companies paid the price for making serious mistakes in handling the crisis.13

The way a company handles a crisis


can have a profound effect on the
organizations subsequent
performance.

Every employee informally


accumulates facts and impressions
that contribute to the organizations
collective understanding of the
outside world.

Informal External Communication Although companies usually communicate with outsiders in a formal manner, informal contacts with outsiders are important for learning about customer needs. As a member of an organization, you are an
important informal conduit for communicating with the outside world. In the
course of your daily activities, you unconsciously absorb bits and pieces of information that add to the collective knowledge of your company. Moreover, every
time you speak for or about your company, you send a message. Outsiders may
form an impression of your organization on the basis of the subtle, unconscious
clues you transmit through your tone of voice, facial expression, and general
appearance.
Top managers rely heavily on informal contacts with outsiders to gather information that might be useful to their companies. Much of their networking involves

Chapter 1

Achieving Success Through Effective Business Communication

15

Uses letterhead
stationery

Includes the date


after the heading

Uses a typical
inside address

Greets the recipient


with a salutation

March 13, 2004


Mr. Sam Davis, Managing Editor
Montana Times Magazine
468 West Times Dr.
Helena, MT 59601
Dear Mr. Davis:
Thank you for your recent editorial supporting the Montana wolf relocation
program. We are as dedicated to preserving domestic livestock herds as are
the ranchers who own them. However, killing the wolf predators is both a
short-term and a short-sighted solution. Wed like your readers to have some
additional information, besides the excellent points you made.
Every one of the 32 wolves weve captured and relocated this year has been
examined by a veterinarian. The wolves receive inoculations to prevent rabies,
among other diseases. Therefore, the relocated wolves pose little threat of
disease to wildlife, their pack, or the occasional domestic animal or human
who might encounter them.

States the message


clearly

In the wilderness areas where they will be relocated, wolves help keep the
population of caribou, moose, and deer under control, and they cull injured or
sick animals from the herd. However, wolves fear human beings and will avoid
people whenever possible. Our North American wolves do not attack humans.
In addition, your readers will be interested to know a little more about wolves in
general. Wolves have strong family ties and often mate for life. Female wolves
give birth to about four to six pups, and both parents supply food and help train
the pups. In fact, the wolf pack is usually a family group. And just as families
call to their children, wolves sometimes howl to keep their pack together.
We invite those of your readers who would like to join our efforts to call
1-800-544-8333 to receive more information.

Includes a
complimentary close

Follows close with a


signature block
Also includes
typists initials

Sincerely,

Carroll Paulding
President
sg

FIGURE 16
Effective External Communication by Letter

interaction with fellow executives. However, plenty of high-level managers recognize


the value of keeping in touch with the real world by creating opportunities to talk
with and get feedback from customers and frontline employees. This sort of feedback
is one important reason the Internet is becoming so popular with companies around
the world.

Communicating Through the Internet


The challenges of communicating effectively with people inside and outside the organization are magnified as more businesses communicate through the Internet. When
entering the business world, youll be expected to know how to use the Internet for
effective workplace communication.

Opens by telling what


prompted the letter,
clearly stating the
purpose, and
identifying two
audiences for this
information: the
magazine editor and
his readers

Provides specific
relocation-program
details in the body,
reassures readers
about their personal
safety, and anticipates
the needs of the
second audience by
providing information
that was not
requested

Closes cordially,
clearly stating the
invitation where the
reader will notice it

16

Part I

Understanding the Foundations of Business Communication

Table 11

WHAT TO DO IN A CRISIS
When a Crisis Hits:
Do

Dont

Do prepare for trouble ahead of time by


identifying potential problems, appointing
and training a response team, and preparing
and testing a crisis management plan.

Dont blame anyone for anything.

Do get top management involved as soon


as the crisis hits.

Dont release information that will violate


anyones right to privacy.

Do set up a news center for company


representatives and the media, equipped
with phones, computers, and other electronic
tools for preparing news releases.

Dont use the crisis to pitch products or


services.

Dont speculate in public.


Dont refuse to answer questions.

Dont play favorites with media


representatives.

Issue at least two news updates a day, and


have trained personnel to respond to
questions around the clock.
Provide complete information packets to
the media as soon as possible.
Prevent conflicting statements and provide
continuity by appointing a single person,
trained in advance, to speak for the
company.
Tell receptionists to direct all calls to the
news center.
Do tell the whole storyopenly, completely,
and honestly. If you are at fault, apologize.
Do demonstrate the companys concern by
your statements and your actions.

How Businesses Use the Internet


The Internet is greatly influencing
business interactions, both inside
and outside organizations.

Businesses are using the Internet to make closer connections with organizations and customers all over the planet. The Internet is changing the way customers, suppliers, companies, and other stakeholders interact. Its also changing the way companies operate
internally, by allowing speedy, convenient exchanges of ideas and informationanytime,
anywhere, across thousands of miles or across the street. Companies use the Internet to
Share text, photos, slides, videos, and other data within the organization
Permit employees to telecommute, or work away from a conventional office,
whether at home, on the road, or across the country14
Recruit employees cost-effectively
Locate information from external sources
Find new business partners and attract new customers
Locate and buy parts and materials from domestic and international suppliers
Promote and sell goods and services to customers in any location

Chapter 1

Achieving Success Through Effective Business Communication

FIGURE 17

Increase revenues

Expected Internet Benefits


Reduce time to market
Foster innovation
Create new products and services
Support globalization
Enter new markets
Reduce costs
Improve knowledge sharing
Enhance customer service
Improve communication
0%

10%

20%

30%

40%

50%

60%

70%

80%

Percentage of executives who expect these benefits


from the Internet

Provide customers with service, technical support, and product information


Collaborate with local, national, and international business partners
Inform investors, industry analysts, and government regulators about business
developments
Executives expect a number of benefits from the Internet, the most important of
which is to improve communication (see Figure 17). So exactly how does the
Internet help?

How the Internet Facilitates Communication


The Internet offers businesses a wide variety of choices for online communication,
all of which provide convenience, speed, and the ability to communicate across
time zones:
E-mail. Electronic mail (e-mail) enables users to create, send, and read written
messages entirely on computer, as Chapter 4 points out. An e-mail document may
be a simple text message, or it might include complex files or programs.
Discussion mailing lists. Also known as listservs, discussion mailing lists are discussion groups to which you subscribe by sending a message to the lists e-mail
address. From then on, copies of all messages posted by any other subscriber are
delivered to you via e-mail.
Newsgroups. Consisting of posted messages and responses on a particular subject, a Usenet newsgroup posts messages on its website, which you must visit and
access by using a news reader program. Messages posted to a newsgroup can be
viewed by anyone.
Instant messaging and chat. Many companies encourage the use of instant messaging and chat for work purposes, as Chapter 4 explains. Within a few years,
more than 200 million employees will be using instant messaging for job-related
communication.15

The Internet increases the


convenience, speed, and reach of
business communication.

17

18

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Understanding the Foundations of Business Communication

Videoconferencing. As Chapter 2 points out, more businesses are using online


videoconferencing to replace face-to-face meetings with colleagues, customers,
and suppliers.
Telnet. This Internet application program lets you communicate with other computers on a remote network, even if your computer is not a permanent part of that
network. For instance, you would use Telnet to access your county librarys electronic card catalog from your home computer.
Internet telephony. Internet users can converse vocally over the web using
Internet telephony. Much less expensive than calling over standard phone lines,
Internet telephony can also be more efficient, allowing an organization to accommodate more users on a single line at once.16
File transfers. An Internet service known as file transfer protocol (FTP)
enables you to download files (transfer data from a server to your computer) and
upload files (transfer data from your computer to another system).17 FTP also
allows you to attach formatted documents to your e-mail messages and download
formatted files.18 Using the Internet and software, people can exchange files
directly (from user to user) without going through a central server.
The Internet helps you communicate inside and outside the organizational setting. However, whether youre communicating through the Internet, in a letter, on
the phone, or face to face, you will do so more effectively if you understand the
process of communication. The following section gives you a basic overview of what
happens during communication.

THE COMMUNICATION PROCESS


The communication process consists
of six phases linking sender and
receiver.

Communication doesnt occur haphazardly in organizations. Nor does it happen all


at once. It is more than a single act. Communication is a dynamic, transactional (twoway) process that can be broken into six phases (see Figure 18):
1. The sender has an idea. You conceive an idea and want to share it.
2. The sender encodes the idea. When you put your idea into a message that
your receiver will understand, you are encoding it. You decide on the messages

FIGURE 18
The Successful
Communication Process

Phase 6
Receiver sends
feedback

Phase 1
Sender has an
idea

Phase 2
Sender encodes
idea

Phase 3
Sender transmits
message

CHANNEL
AND
MEDIUM

Phase 5
Receiver decodes
message

Phase 4
Receiver gets
message

Chapter 1

Achieving Success Through Effective Business Communication

19

form (word, facial expression, gesture), length, organization, tone, and styleall
of which depend on your idea, your audience, and your personal style or mood.
3. The sender transmits the message. To physically transmit your message to
your receiver, you select a communication channel (spoken or written) and a
medium (telephone, letter, memo, e-mail, report, face-to-face exchange). This
choice depends on your message, your audiences location, your need for speed,
and the formality required.
4. The receiver gets the message. For communication to occur, your receiver
must first get the message. If you send a letter, your receiver has to read it before
understanding it. If youre giving a speech, your listeners have to be able to hear
you, and they have to be paying attention.
5. The receiver decodes the message. Your receiver must decode (absorb and
understand) your message. The decoded message must then be stored in the
receivers mind. If all goes well, the receiver interprets your message correctly,
assigning the same meaning to your words as you intended.
6. The receiver sends feedback. After decoding your message, the receiver may
respond in some way and signal that response to you. This feedback enables
you to evaluate the effectiveness of your message: If your audience doesnt
understand what you mean, you can tell by the response and refine your
message.
As Figure 18 illustrates, the communication process is repeated until both parties have finished expressing themselves.19 Moreover, effective business communicators try not to cram too much information into one message. Instead, they limit the
content of a message to a specific subject and use this back-and-forth exchange to
provide additional information or details in subsequent messages.
However, Figure 18 does not illustrate how complicated the communication
process actually is. Both sender and receiver may be trying to communicate at the
same time, or their cultures or backgrounds may be so different that they wont
understand one another without some allowance for these differences. Also, the
receiver may not always respond to the message, so the sender may need to evaluate
whether to send the message again. In fact, the communication process can fail in any
number of ways.

The actual process of communication


is much more complicated than the
model.

COMMUNICATION BARRIERS
Communication is successful only when the receiver understands the message
intended by the sender. Any step in the communication process can be blocked
by some sort of interference, or noise. Such noise can be caused by a variety of
communication barriers, including perceptual and language differences, restrictive environments, distractions, deceptive communication tactics, and information overload.

Communication barriers block the


communication process.

Perceptual and Language Differences


The world constantly bombards us with sights, sounds, scents, and so on. Our minds
organize this stream of sensation into a mental map that represents our perception of
reality. Even when two people have experienced the same event, their mental images
of that event will not be identical. Because your perceptions are unique, the ideas you
want to express differ from other peoples, and you may have difficulty being understood. As a sender, you choose the details that seem important to you. As a receiver,
you try to fit new details into your existing pattern; however, if a detail doesnt quite

Perception is peoples individual


interpretation of the sensory world
around them.

20

Part I

Understanding the Foundations of Business Communication

The more experiences people share,


the more likely they will understand
each other.

fit, you are inclined to distort the information rather than rearrange your patterna
process known as selective perception.
Similarly, language is an arbitrary code that depends on shared definitions.
However, theres a limit to how completely any two people can share the same meaning for a given word. Take the simple word cookie, for example. You might think of
oatmeal, chocolate chip, and sugar. However, others might think of cookie in its computer contextthat is, a text file stored on a visitors computer to identify each time
the user visits a website.
The more experiences you share with another person, the more likely you are to
share perception and thus share meaning. Both perception and language are heavily
influenced by culture, which is discussed in detail in Chapter 3.

Restrictive Environments
The communication climate suffers
when information is distorted,
fragmented, or blocked by an
authoritarian style of management.

Every link in the communication chain is open to error. By the time a message travels
all the way up or down the chain, it may bear little resemblance to the original idea.
Moreover, if a companys formal communication network limits the flow of information in any direction (upward, downward, or horizontal), communication becomes
fragmented. Lower-level employees may obtain only enough information to perform
their own isolated tasks, leaving only the people at the very top of the organization to
see the big picture.
When managers use a directive and authoritarian leadership style, information
moves down the chain of command, but not up. In a recent poll of 638 employees,
90 percent said they had good ideas on how their companies could run more successfully. Yet more than 50 percent said they were prevented from communicating
these thoughts because of a lack of management interest and a lack of effective means
for sharing their ideas.20

Deceptive Tactics
Using deceptive tactics to manipulate
receivers blocks communication and
ultimately leads to failure.

Since language itself is made up of words that carry values, you need only say things
a certain way to influence how others perceive your message, to shape expectations
and behaviors.21 Given such power, your responsibility to communicate honestly
and honorably is a grave one. No organization can create illegal or unethical messages
and still be credible or successful in the long run. Still, some business communicators
try to manipulate their receivers by using deceptive tactics.
For example, deceptive communicators may exaggerate benefits, quote inaccurate statistics, or hide negative information behind an optimistic attitude. They may
state opinions as facts, leave out crucial information, or portray graphic data unfairly.
Unscrupulous communicators may seek personal gain by making others look better
or worse than they are. And they may allow personal preferences to influence their
own perception and the perception of others.

Distractions

Your audience members are more


likely to receive your message
accurately if they are not distracted
by physical or emotional distractions
or by information overload or roundthe-clock accessibility.

Business messages can be interrupted or distorted by uncountable types of distractions, including physical distractions, emotional distractions, information overload,
and round-the-clock accessibility:
Physical distractions. Bad connections, poor acoustics, or illegible copy may
seem trivial, but they can block an otherwise effective message. Your receiver
might be distracted by an uncomfortable chair, poor lighting, health problems, or
some other irritating condition.

Chapter 1

Achieving Success Through Effective Business Communication

21

Emotional distractions. When you are upset, hostile, or fearful, you have a hard
time shaping a message objectively. If your receivers are emotional, they may
ignore or distort your message. Its practically impossible to avoid all communication in which emotions are involved, but try to remember that emotional messages
have a greater potential for misunderstanding.
Information overload. Every day, the number of documents on the Internet
increases by 7.5 million. On top of that, people receive more and more messages
by e-mail, overnight service, fax, voice mail, website, regular mail, pager, and
cell phone.22 On a typical day, the average office worker sends and receives over
200 messages.23 The sheer number of messages can be distracting, making it difficult to discriminate between useful and useless information.
Round-the-clock accessibility. Technologys demand for instant answers means
that professionals find themselves constantly tied to work.24 They make business
calls on cell phones as they commute. They check pagers and voice mail at business meetings, at home, and at the grocery store. They plug into their companys
intranet in the evening. And even on vacation, some find it easier to check e-mail
daily and quickly respond than to return to work and tackle over 1,000 e-mail
messages.25

GUIDELINES FOR OVERCOMING


COMMUNICATION BARRIERS
Effective communicators work hard at perfecting the messages they deliver. When
they make mistakes, they learn from them. If a memo theyve written doesnt get the
response they had hoped for, they change their approach the next time. If a meeting
theyre running gets out of control or proves unproductive, they do things differently
at the next one. If they find that they have to explain themselves over and over again,
they reevaluate their choice of words and rework their messages.
The coming chapters present real-life examples of both good and bad communication and explain whats good or bad about them. After a while youll notice that
four themes keep surfacing: (1) adopting an audience-centered approach, (2) fostering an open communication climate, (3) committing to ethical communication, and
(4) creating efficient messages. Guidelines based on these themes will help you overcome barriers and improve your communication.

To be effective, business messages


must constantly be perfected.

Guideline 1: Adopt an Audience-Centered Approach


Adopting an audience-centered approach means focusing on and caring about your
audiencemaking every effort to get your message across in a way that is meaningful to receivers. As Lloyd Trotter knows, you need to learn as much as possible about
the biases, education, age, status, and style of your audience to create an effective
message. When you address strangers, try to find out more about them; if thats
impossible, try to project yourself into their position by using your common sense
and imagination. By writing and speaking from your audiences point of view, you
can help receivers understand and accept your message.

Using an audience-centered
approach means keeping your
audience in mind at all times when
communicating.

Guideline 2: Foster an Open Communication Climate


An organizations communication climate is a reflection of its corporate culture: the
mixture of values, traditions, and habits that give a company its atmosphere or personality. Successful companies such as GE Industrial Systems encourage employee

The organizations communication


climate affects the quantity and
quality of the information
exchanged.

22

Part I

Understanding the Foundations of Business Communication

NOT AVAILABLE FOR


ELECTRONIC VIEWING

contributions by making sure that communication flows freely down, up, and across the organization chart. They encourage candor and honesty, and their employees feel free to confess their
mistakes, disagree with the boss, and express
their opinions. These companies create an open
climate in two ways: by modifying the number of
organizational levels and by facilitating feedback.

Modify the Number of Organizational


Levels To foster an open communication cli-

Adjusting organizational levels can


improve the communication climate.

Companies that encourage feedback


achieve the open communication
climate that allows them to respond
to the ideas and needs of employees.

Table 12

mate, companies today are reducing the number of levels in their organizations structure. A
flat structure has fewer levels with more people
reporting to each supervisor. Thus, the organizations communication chain has fewer links and is less likely to introduce distortion. Flatter organizations enable managers to share information with colleagues
and employees and to include employees in decision making, goal setting, and
problem solving.26 However, designing too few formal channels and having too
many people report to a single individual can block effective communication by
overburdening that key individual.

Facilitate Feedback Giving your audience a chance to provide feedback is crucial to maintaining an open communication climate. What employees want the most
from employers is personal feedback (even more than money).27 Knowing how to
give constructive criticism or feedback is an important communication skill, as highlighted in Table 12. To encourage feedback, companies use employee surveys, opendoor policies, company newsletters, memos, e-mail, task forces, and even real-time
two-way chat. Still, feedback isnt always easy to get. You may have to draw out the
other person by asking specific questions. You can also gain useful information by
encouraging your audience to express general reactions.

GIVING CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK


To Give Constructive Feedback
Focus on particular behaviors. Feedback should be specific rather than general.
Keep feedback impersonal. No matter how upset you are, keep feedback job related,
and never criticize someone personally.
Use I statements. Instead of saying, You are absent from work too often, say, I feel
annoyed when you miss work so frequently.
Keep feedback goal oriented. If you have to say something negative, make sure its
directed toward the recipients goals. Ask yourself whom the feedback is supposed to
help. If the answer is essentially you, bite your tongue.
Make feedback well-timed. Feedback is most meaningful when there is a short interval
between the recipients behavior and feedback about that behavior.
Ensure understanding. If feedback is to be effective, make sure the recipient understands it.
Direct negative feedback toward behavior that is controllable by the recipient. Little value
is gained by reminding a person of some shortcoming over which he or she has no control.

Chapter 1

Achieving Success Through Effective Business Communication

23

Guideline 3: Commit to Ethical Communication


Ethics are the principles of conduct that govern a person or a group. Unethical people say or do whatever it takes to achieve an end. Ethical people are generally trustworthy, fair, and impartial, respecting the rights of others and concerned about the
impact of their actions on society. Former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart
defined ethics as knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and
what is the right thing to do.28
Ethical communication includes all relevant information, is true in every sense,
and is not deceptive in any way. In contrast, unethical communication can include
falsehoods and misleading information or exclude important information. Some
examples of unethical communication include:29

Ethics are the principles of conduct


that govern a person or a group.

Plagiarism. Stealing someone elses words or work and claiming it as your own
Selective misquoting. Deliberately omitting damaging or unflattering comments
to paint a better (but untruthful) picture of you or your company
Misrepresenting numbers. Increasing or decreasing numbers, exaggerating,
altering statistics, or omitting numerical data
Distorting visuals. Making a product look bigger or changing the scale of graphs
and charts to exaggerate or conceal differences
An ethical message is accurate and sincere. It avoids language that manipulates,
discriminates, or exaggerates. When communicating ethically, you do not hide
negative information behind an optimistic attitude, you dont state opinions as
facts, and you portray graphic data fairly. You are honest with employers, coworkers, and clients, and you never seek personal gain by making others look better or worse than they are. You dont allow personal preferences to influence your
perception or the perception of others, and you act in good faith. On the surface,
such ethical practices appear fairly easy to recognize. But deciding what is ethical
can be quite complex (see Promoting Workplace Ethics: Ethical Boundaries:
Where Would You Draw the Line?).

Recognize Ethical Choices Every company has responsibilities to various


groups: customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers, neighbors, the community,
and the nation. But sometimes whats right for one group may be wrong for
another.30 At other times, as you attempt to satisfy the needs of one group, you may
be presented with an option that seems right on the surface but somehow feels
wrong. When you must choose between conflicting loyalties and weigh difficult
trade-offs, you are facing a dilemma.
An ethical dilemma involves choosing between alternatives that arent clearcut (perhaps two conflicting alternatives are both ethical and valid, or perhaps the
alternatives lie somewhere in the vast gray area between right and wrong).
Suppose you are president of a company thats losing money. You have a duty to
your shareholders to try to cut your losses and to your employees to be fair and
honest. After looking at various options, you conclude that youll have to lay off
500 people immediately. You suspect you may have to lay off another 100 people
later on, but right now you need those 100 workers to finish a project. What do
you tell them? If you confess that their jobs are shaky, many of them may quit just
when you need them most. However, if you tell them that the future is rosy, youll
be stretching the truth.
Unlike a dilemma, an ethical lapse is making a clearly unethical or illegal choice.
Suppose you have decided to change jobs and have discreetly landed an interview
with your bosss largest competitor. You get along great with the interviewer, who is

Ethical communication is truthful


and relevant.

Conflicting priorities and the vast


gray areas between right and wrong
create ethical dilemmas for an
organizations communicators.

Self-interest and a lack of scruples


create ethical lapses for business
communicators.

24

Part I

Understanding the Foundations of Business Communication

PROMOTING WORKPLACE ETHICS


Ethical Boundaries: Where
Would You Draw the Line?

Buying one software package for use by three computer


operators

At the very least, you owe your employer an honest days work
for an honest days pay: your best efforts, obedience to the
rules, a good attitude, respect for your employers property,
and a professional appearance. Such duties and considerations
seem clear-cut, but where does your obligation to your
employer end? For instance, where would you draw the line in
communication situations such as the following?

Making up an excuse when (for the fourth time this month)


you have to pick up your child from school early and miss an
important business meeting

Writing your rsum so that an embarrassing two-year lapse


wont be obvious
Telling your best friend about your companys upcoming
merger right after mailing the formal announcement to your
shareholders
Hinting to a co-worker (whos a close friend) that its time to
look around for something new, when youve already been
told confidentially that shes scheduled to be fired at the end
of the month
Saying nothing when you witness one employee taking credit
for anothers successful idea

Calling in sick because youre taking a few days off and you
want to use up some of the sick leave youve accumulated
The ethics involved in these situations may seem perfectly
clear . . . until you think about them. But wherever you are,
whatever the circumstances, you owe your employer your best
efforts. And time and again, it will be up to you to decide
whether those efforts are ethical.
CAREER APPLICATIONS
1. List ethical behaviors you would expect from your employees, and compare your list with those of your classmates.
2. As the supervisor of the records department, you must deal
with several clerks who have a tendency to gossip about
their co-workers. List five things you might do to resolve the
situation.

Preserving your position by presenting yourself to supervisors as the only person capable of achieving an objective

impressed enough with you to offer you a position on the spot. Not only is the new
position a step up from your current job, but the pay is double what youre getting
now. You accept the job and agree to start next month. Then as youre shaking hands
with the interviewer, she asks you to bring along profiles of your current companys
10 largest customers when you report for work. Do you comply with her request?
How do you decide between whats ethical and what is not?
Laws provide ethical guidelines for
certain types of messages.

Make Ethical Choices One place to look for guidance is the law. Ask your boss

Asking the right questions can help


you decide what is ethical.

1. Is this message balanced? Does it do the most good and the least harm? Is it fair
to all concerned in the short term as well as the long term? Does it promote positive winwin relationships? Did you weigh all sides before drawing a conclusion?

or your companys attorney, and if saying or writing something is clearly illegal, you
have no dilemma: You obey the law. However, even though legal considerations will
resolve some ethical questions, youll often have to rely on your own judgment and
principles. If your intent is honest, the statement is ethical, even though it may be
factually incorrect; if your intent is to mislead or manipulate the audience, the message is unethical, regardless of whether it is true. If a message does not violate civil
law or company policy, you might ask yourself three questions:31

2. Is it a message you can live with? Does it make you feel good about yourself?
Does it make you proud? Would you feel good about your message if a newspaper published it? If your family knew about it?

Chapter 1

Achieving Success Through Effective Business Communication

25

3. Is this message feasible? Can it work in the real world? Have you considered
your position in the company? Your companys competition? Its financial and
political strength? The likely costs or risks of your message? The time available?

Motivate Ethical Choices Some companies lay out an explicit ethical policy by
using a written code of ethics to help employees determine what is acceptable. In
addition, many managers use ethics audits to monitor ethical progress and to point
out any weaknesses that need to be addressed. They know that being ethical is simply the right thing to do. Plus, its contagious. Others will follow your example when
they observe you being ethical and see the success you experience both in your interpersonal relationships and in your career.32

Organizations can foster ethical


behavior
By formalizing a written code of
ethics
By using ethics audits
By setting a good ethical example

Guideline 4: Create Efficient Messages


Too much information is as bad as too little; it reduces the audiences ability to concentrate on the most important data. For the leanest messages, you need to determine which information is unnecessary and make necessary information easily
available. Try to give information meaning, rather than just passing it on, and set
priorities for dealing with the overall message flow. Successful communicators
overcome information overload and other communication barriers by reducing the
number of messages, minimizing distractions, and fine-tuning their business communication skills.

Minimize Physical and Emotional Distractions Although you dont have

Attending to relevance, meaning, and


priorities will help you create lean
messages.
Eliminate physical distractions such
as the messy appearance of a written
message or poor acoustics in an oral
presentation.
Do your best to control emotions
before they block the
communication process.

power over every eventuality, do your best to overcome physical barriers by exercising as much control as possible over the physical transmission link: If youre Organizations save time and money
by sending only necessary messages.
preparing a written document, make sure its appearance doesnt detract from your
message. If youre delivering an oral presentation,
choose a setting that permits the audience to see and
hear you without straining. Help listeners by connecting your subject to their needs, using language
that is clear and vivid, and relating your subject to
familiar ideas.
When youre the audience, learn to concentrate
on the message rather than on any distractions. As
discussed in Chapter 2, you can overcome listening
barriers by paraphrasing what youve heard. Try to
view the situation through the speakers eyes, and
resist jumping to conclusions. Listen without interrupting, and clarify meaning by asking nonthreatenNOT AVAILABLE FOR
ing questions.
ELECTRONIC VIEWING
Overcome emotional barriers by recognizing the
feelings that arise in yourself and in others as you communicate, and try to avoid causing these emotions. For
example, choose neutral words to avoid arousing
strong feelings unduly. Avoid placing blame and try not
to react subjectively. Most important, be aware of the
greater potential for misunderstanding that accompanies emotional messages.

Reduce the Number of Messages A good way to


make your messages more effective is to send fewer of
them. Think twice before sending one. For example, if

26

Part I

Understanding the Foundations of Business Communication

Document Makeover
IMPROVE THIS MEMO
To practice correcting drafts of actual documents, visit
www.prenhall.com/onekey on the web. Click Document
Makeovers, then click Chapter 1. You will find a memo that
contains problems and errors relating to what youve learned in
this chapter about overcoming communication barriers in business messages. Use the Final Draft decision tool to create an
improved version of this memo. Check the memo for an
audience-centered approach, ethical communication, communicating efficiently, and facilitating feedback.

Dont wait for communication


training on the job.

Practice and constructive criticism


help you improve your
communication skills.

Focus on building skills in the areas


where youve been weak.

a written message merely adds to the information overload, its probably better left unsent or
handled some other waysuch as by a quick
telephone call or a face-to-face chat. Holding
down the number of messages reduces the
chance of information overload.

Fine-Tune Your Business Communication


Skills The key to making your business

communication effective is to improve your


communication skills. Many companies provide
employees a variety of opportunities for training. But even though you may ultimately receive
communication training on the job, dont wait.
Start mastering business communication skills
right now, in this course. People with good communication skills have an advantage in
todays workplace.
Lack of experience may be the only obstacle between you and effective messages, whether written or spoken. Perhaps you have a limited vocabulary, or maybe
youre uncertain about questions of grammar, punctuation, and style. Perhaps
youre simply frightened by the idea of writing something or appearing before a
group. People arent born writers or speakers. Their skills improve the more they
speak and write. Someone who has written 10 reports is usually better at it than
someone who has written only two.
One of the great advantages of taking a course in business communication is that
you get to practice in an environment that provides honest and constructive criticism. For instance, this course gives you an understanding of acceptable and unacceptable techniques so that you can avoid making costly mistakes on the job. It provides the kind of communication practice that will help you get the job you want,
boost your chances for a promotion, start your own business, or succeed at whatever
you choose to do in the future.
In this course youll learn how to collaborate in teams, listen well, master nonverbal communication, ensure successful meetings, and communicate across cultures
and through the Internet. This book presents a three-step process for composing
business messages. It gives tips for writing letters, memos, e-mail messages, reports,
and oral presentations, and it provides a collection of good and bad communication
examples with annotated comments to guide you in your own communication
efforts. It also provides a handbook of the fundamentals of grammar, punctuation,
and usage (see the Handbook of Grammar, Mechanics, and Usage at the end of this
textbook). Finally, it explains how to write effective rsums and application letters
and how to handle employment interviews.
Perhaps the best place to begin strengthening your communication skills is
with an honest assessment of where you stand. In the next few days, watch how
you handle the communication situations that arise. Try to figure out what youre
doing right and what youre doing wrong. Then, as you progress through this
course in the months ahead, focus on those areas in which you need the
most work.

APPLYING WHAT YOUVE LEARNED


In this chapter, youve met GE Industrial Systemss Lloyd Trotter, and throughout the
book youll meet a cross section of real peoplemen and women who work for some
of the most fascinating organizations around. At the beginning of this chapter, you
read about communicating at GE Industrial Systems. A similar slice-of-life vignette

Chapter 1

Achieving Success Through Effective Business Communication

27

titled On the Job: Communicating at . . . begins every chapter. As you read through
each chapter, think about the person and the company highlighted in the vignette.
Become familiar with the various concepts presented in the chapter, and imagine
how they might apply to the featured scenario.
At the end of each chapter, youll take part in an innovative simulation called On
the Job: Solving Communication Dilemmas. Youll play the role of a person working
in the highlighted organization, and youll face a situation youd encounter there. You
will be presented with several communication scenarios, each with several possible
courses of action. Its up to you to recommend one course of action from each scenario as homework, as teamwork, as material for in-class discussion, or in a host of
other ways. These scenarios let you explore various communication ideas and apply
the concepts and techniques from the chapter.
Now youre ready for the first simulation. As you tackle each problem, think
about the material you covered in this chapter and consider your own experience as
a communicator. Youll probably be surprised to discover how much you already
know about business communication.

On the Job:
SOLVING COMMUNICATION DILEMMAS AT GE INDUSTRIAL SYSTEMS
At GE Industrial Systems, Lloyd Trotter keeps communication flowing and makes sure that everyone receives
necessary information by helping employees overcome
all the potential barriers to effective communication.
You are Trotters administrative assistant, and he has
put you in charge of several communication decisions
both internal and external. Use your knowledge of
communication to choose the best response for each
of the following situations. Be prepared to explain why
your choice is best.
1. An employee from the companys commercial division has an idea for changing the production
process so that it is more efficient and less expensive.
She wants to send an e-mail message to her production manager, and she comes to you for advice
on how to focus her message on the audience.
Which of the following message openings would
you recommend?
a. I have thought long and hard about how to make
the production process more efficient.
b. You told us to come to you with new ideas.
c. Here is an idea for saving money on the production process.
d. A small change in the production process could
save us both time and money.
2. A highly placed manager is uncomfortable with GEs
reverse-mentoring program. In business, mentoring is nothing new: Older, experienced managers act
as mentors to teach young, up-and-coming employees new skills. But GEs program is reversed
because veteran managers must seek out young,
Internet-savvy employees to help them improve their
own Internet skills. In this case, the veteran wants no

part of learning new tricks from some young pup.


Trotter has participated in the program, and he
believes the key to our success is that no matter at
what level we find ourselves in the organization, we
can accept change. What feedback would you suggest that Trotter give this manager?
a. You need to think of this as a process of give and
take. You have a lot to offer our younger employees, and your mentor will probably learn just as
much from you as you learn from your mentor.
Youll see firsthand the bright, young talent that
represents the future leadership of our business.
b. I know that when I was first presented with the
possibility of having a young employee mentor
me, I found it a bit daunting. But for both of us,
the program has been an excellent tool for mutual
learning and growth. Its been a rewarding experience, helping me get a fast start in understanding
the tool and its power.
c. Other GE managers meet with their employees
for web lessons. They discuss the articles and
books their mentors give them for homework, and
they ask lots of stupid questions. But they also
learn how to use the Internet effectively.
d. Anyone who is not open to learningtop down or
bottom upis slamming down the gate on their
own career.
3. A rumor begins circulating that a major product line
will be dropped and the workers in that area will be
laid off. The rumor is false. What is the first action
Trotter should take?
a. Create an official statement and distribute it to top
managers, with instructions for them to pass the

28

Part I

Understanding the Foundations of Business Communication

statement on to middle managers, who will pass it


on to their employees.
b. Try to plant a counter-rumor on the grapevine so
that employees will get the right message the
same way they got the wrong one.
c. Schedule a meeting with all employees on the
affected product line. At the meeting, Trotter can
explain the facts and publicly state that the rumor
is false.
d. Ignore the rumor. Like all false rumors, it will eventually die out.
4. Trotter promoted a brilliant engineer who turned out
to be a bad manager. Instead of setting an agenda
for his team, giving them support, and then allowing
them to flourish, the engineer micromanaged his
employees. Trotter tried to point out that the engineer was holding his team down by asking him: Why
are so many on your staff sitting on the sidelines and
waiting for you to make decisions? Why is your team
unable to move ahead when you take a two-week
vacation? But the engineer has not changed his
style, so Trotter must remove him from the manage-

ment position. Even so, Trotter would like this brilliant engineer to stay with the company. Which of the
following choices would be both ethical and good for
the company?
a. The only way to be ethical is for Trotter to tell the
engineer the whole truththat he has failed as a
manager but could be successful in a different
role.
b. It is perfectly ethical for Trotter to reassign the
engineer to another department in which he has
no managerial responsibilities. Trotter is the boss
and owes the engineer no explanation for the
transfer.
c. The most ethical way for Trotter to resolve the situation is to find a pressing engineering problem
(that requires no managerial responsibilities) and
offer that challenge to the engineer.
d. To be completely above board and ethical, Trotter
must fire the engineer for not fulfilling his mission.
Its too bad he has to lose such a brilliant engineer,
but the price of being ethical can sometimes be
very high.33

Learning Objectives Checkup


To assess your understanding of the principles in this chapter,
read each learning objective and study the accompanying
exercises. For fill-in items, write the missing text in the blank
provided; for multiple choice items, circle the letter of the correct answer. You can check your responses against the answer
key on page AK-1.
Objective 1.1: Explain what effective communication is and
highlight five characteristics of effective business messages.
1. Communication is effective when it
a. Helps people understand each other
b. Stimulates others to take action
c. Encourages others to think in new ways
d. Does all of the above
2. Effective business messages have the following characteristics:
a. They provide practical information such as instructions, explanations, problems, solutions, and status
reports.
b. They give impressions and opinions that help make
your business messages more persuasive.
c. They include as much information as possible, and
avoid visual aids in favor of textual descriptions.
d. They put a positive spin on every message, and leave
out anything that could be perceived as negative.
Objective 1.2: Discuss three developments in the workplace that are intensifying the need to communicate
effectively.
3. Because of advances in ________________, people can
communicate more quickly, more frequently, and from
remote locations.

4. Increased workforce diversity requires employees to focus


on ________________ communication so that people
from different backgrounds can avoid misunderstandings.
5. Rather than the traditional command-and-control style of
management, todays fast-paced organizations rely on collaborative work groups and ________________.
Objective 1.3: Describe how organizations share information internally and externally.
6. Within an organization, the formal communication network may be depicted as
a. Links joined in a long chain from top to bottom
b. An organization chart of connected squares depicting
the companys hierarchy
c. A flow chart showing all information moving in one
direction
7. Within an organization, the informal communication network is called
a. The rumor mill
b. Word of mouth
c. The grapevine
d. Hearsay
8. Communication between organizations and the outside
world is
a. More formal than internal communication, such as a
news release carefully prepared by a marketing or public relations team
b. As formal as or as informal as the situation calls for
c. More informal than internal communication, such as
talking with a customer or letting your appearance
transmit an impression of your organization

Chapter 1

Achieving Success Through Effective Business Communication

Objective 1.4: List eight ways the Internet facilitates business communication.
9. Online groups that deliver posted messages to you via
e-mail are called
a. Telnet
b. Discussion mailing lists
c. Newsgroups
d. Instant messaging and chat
10. When users converse vocally over the web, they are using
a. Instant messaging and chat
b. Telnet
c. Internet telephony
d. File transfer protocol
11. To replace in-person face-to-face meetings with online
meetings, you would use
a. Discussion mailing lists
b. Internet telephony
c. Videoconferencing
d. E-mail
12. Users who wish to conduct real-time conversations over
the computer would use
a. Instant messaging and chat
b. Telnet
c. Internet telephony
d. File transfer protocol
Objective 1.5: Define the six phases of the communication
process.
13. The first phase of the communication process occurs when
a. The sender transmits the message
b. The receiver sends feedback
c. The sender has an idea
d. The receiver gets the message
14. The last phase of the communication process occurs when
a. The sender transmits the message
b. The receiver sends feedback
c. The sender has an idea
d. The receiver gets the message
Objective 1.6: Identify and briefly discuss five types of
communication barriers.
15. The more experiences people share, the more likely they
are to share meaning; however, each experience is
strongly influenced by

29

a. Differences in perception and language


b. Restrictive structures
c. Distractions or information overload
d. Deceptive communication tactics
16. When communicators consider their own needs above
those of their audience, they are likely to engage in
a. Perceptual differences
b. Restrictive structures
c. Deceptive communication tactics
d. Distractions or information overload
Objective 1.7: Discuss four guidelines for overcoming
communication barriers.
17. When you encourage employee contributions, candor,
and honesty, you are
a. Adopting an audience-centered approach
b. Fostering an open communication climate
c. Committing to ethical communication
d. Creating efficient messages
18. When you try to give information meaning, rather than
just passing it on, you are
a. Adopting an audience-centered approach
b. Fostering an open communication climate
c. Committing to ethical communication
d. Creating efficient messages
Objective 1.8: Explain the attributes of ethical communication, and differentiate between an ethical dilemma and an
ethical lapse.
19. Which of the following is not an attribute of ethical communication?
a. The message is true in every sense.
b. It avoids language that manipulates, discriminates, or
exaggerates.
c. It does not conceal negative information by misrepresenting numbers or distorting visual aids.
d. It omits damaging or unflattering comments to paint a
better picture of your company.
20. An ethical ______________ involves choosing between
two or more alternatives that are neither clearly ethical
nor clearly unethical, whereas an ethical ______________
involves choosing an alternative that is clearly unethical
or illegal.

Apply Your Knowledge


1. Why do you think good communication in an organization improves employees attitudes and performance?
Explain briefly.
2. Under what circumstances might you want to limit the
feedback you receive from an audience of readers or listeners? Explain briefly.
3. Would written or spoken messages be more susceptible to
noise? Why?
4. As a manager, how can you impress on your employees
the importance of including both negative and positive
information in messages?

5. Ethical Choices Because of your excellent communication skills, your boss always asks you to write his reports
for him. When you overhear the CEO complimenting him
on his logical organization and clear writing style, he
responds as if hed written all those reports himself. What
kind of ethical choice does this response represent? What
can you do in this situation? Briefly explain your solution
and your reasoning.

Part I

30

Understanding the Foundations of Business Communication

Practice Your Knowledge


DOCUMENT FOR ANALYSIS
Read the following document, then (1) analyze whether the
document is effective or ineffective communication (be sure to
explain why); and (2) revise the document so that it follows
this chapters guidelines.
It has come to my attention that many of you are lying on
your time cards. If you come in late, you should not put 8:00 on
your card. If you take a long lunch, you should not put 1:00 on
your time card. I will not stand for this type of cheating. I simply
have no choice but to institute a time-clock system. Beginning next

Monday, all employees will have to punch in and punch out


whenever they come and go from the work area.
The time clock will be right by the entrance to each work
area, so you have no excuse for not punching in. Anyone who is late
for work or late coming back from lunch more than three times will
have to answer to me. I dont care if you had to take a nap or if you
girls had to shop. This is a place of business, and we do not want to
be taken advantage of by slackers who are cheaters to boot.
It is too bad that a few bad apples always have to spoil things
for everyone.

Exercises
For live links to all websites discussed in this chapter, visit
this texts website at www.prenhall.com/thill. Just log on,
select Chapter 1, and click on Student Resources. Locate the
page or the URL related to the material in the text. For the
Learning More on the Web exercises, youll also find navigational directions. Click on the live link to the site.
1.1

1.2

1.3

Effective Business Communication: Understanding


the Difference Bring to class a memo that you received
at work or a sales letter that you received in the mail.
Comment on how well the communication
a. Provides practical information
b. Gives facts rather than impressions
c. Clarifies and condenses information
d. States precise responsibilities
e. Persuades others and offers recommendations
Internal Communication: Planning the Flow For the
following tasks, identify the necessary direction of
communication (downward, upward, horizontal), suggest an appropriate type of communication (casual
conversation, formal interview, meeting, workshop,
videotape, newsletter, memo, bulletin board notice,
and so on), and briefly explain your suggestion.
a. As personnel manager, you want to announce
details about this years company picnic.
b. As director of internal communication, you want to
convince top management of the need for a company newsletter.
c. As production manager, you want to make sure that
both the sales manager and the finance manager
receive your scheduling estimates.
d. As marketing manager, you want to help employees
understand the companys goals and its attitudes
toward workers.
Ethical Choices An old college friend phoned you out
of the blue to say, Truth is, I had to call you. Youd better keep this under your hat, but when I heard my company was buying you guys out, I was dumbfounded. I
had no idea that a company as large as yours could sink
so fast. Your group must be in pretty bad shape over

1.4

1.5

1.6

there! Your stomach suddenly turned queasy, and you


felt a chill go up your spine. Youd heard nothing about
any buyout, and before you could even get your college
friend off the phone, you were wondering what you
should do. Of the following, choose one course of
action and briefly explain your choice.
a. Contact your CEO directly and relate what youve
heard.
b. Ask co-workers whether theyve heard anything
about a buyout.
c. Discuss the phone call confidentially with your
immediate supervisor.
d. Keep quiet about the whole thing (theres nothing
you can do about the situation anyway).
Ethical Choices In less than a page, explain why you
think each of the following is or is not ethical:
a. Deemphasizing negative test results in a report on
your product idea
b. Taking a computer home to finish a work-related
assignment
c. Telling an associate and close friend that shed better
pay more attention to her work responsibilities or
management will fire her
d. Recommending the purchase of excess equipment
to use up your allocated funds before the end of the
fiscal year so that your budget wont be cut next year
The Changing Workplace: Always in Touch
Technological devices such as faxes, cellular phones,
electronic mail, and voice mail are making businesspeople easily accessible at any time of day or night, at work
and at home. What kind of impact might frequent
intrusions have on their professional and personal lives?
Please explain your answer in less than a page.
Internet As a manufacturer of aerospace, energy, and
environmental equipment, Lockheed Martin has developed a code of ethics that it expects employees to
abide by. Visit Lockheed Martins website at www.
lockheedmartin.com/about/ethics/standards/print.html,
and review the six important virtues and the companys

Chapter 1

Achieving Success Through Effective Business Communication

code of ethics (scroll down). In a brief paragraph,


describe three specific examples of things you could do
that would violate these provisions. Now scroll down
and study the list of Warning Signs of ethics violations
and take the Quick Quiz. In another brief paragraph,
describe how you could use this advice to avoid ethical
problems as you write business letters, memos, and
reports. Submit both paragraphs to your instructor.
1.7 Communication Process: Know Your Audience Top
management has asked you to speak at an upcoming
executive meeting to present your arguments for a
more open communication climate. Which of the following would be most important for you to know
about your audience before giving your presentation?
(Briefly explain your choice.)
a. How many top managers will be attending
b. Your audiences preferred management style
c. How firmly these managers are set in their ways
1.8 Ethical Choices Your boss often uses you as a sounding
board for her ideas. Now she seems to want you to act as
an unofficial messenger by passing her ideas along to the
staff without mentioning her involvement and informing
her of what staff members say without telling them youre
going to repeat their responses. What questions should
you ask yourself as you consider the ethical implications
of this situation? Write a short paragraph explaining the
ethical choice you will make in this situation.34
1.9 Formal Communication: Self-Introduction Write a
memo or prepare an oral presentation introducing
yourself to your instructor and your class. Include such
things as your background, interests, achievements,
and goals. If you write a memo, keep it under one page,
and use Figure 1.2 on page 6 as a model for the format.
If you prepare an oral presentation, plan to speak for no
more than two minutes.
1.10 Teamwork Your boss has asked your work group to
research and report on corporate child-care facilities.
Of course, youll want to know who (besides your
boss) will be reading your report. Working with two
team members, list four or five other things youll want

31

to know about the situation and about your audience


before starting your research. Briefly explain why each
of the items on your list is important.
1.11 Communication Process: Analyzing Miscommunication Use the six phases of the communication
process to analyze a miscommunication youve recently
had with a co-worker, supervisor, classmate, teacher,
friend, or family member. What idea were you trying to
share? How did you encode and transmit it? Did the
receiver get the message? Did the receiver correctly
decode the message? How do you know? Based on
your analysis, identify and explain the barriers that prevented your successful communication in this instance.
1.12 Ethical Choices Youve been given the critical assignment of selecting the site for your companys new
plant. After months of negotiations with landowners,
numerous cost calculations, and investments in ecological, social, and community impact studies, you are
about to recommend building the new plant on the
Lansing River site. Now, just 15 minutes before your
big presentation to top management, you discover a
possible mistake in your calculations: Site-purchase
costs appear to be $50,000 more than you calculated,
nearly 10 percent over budget. You dont have time to
recheck all your figures, so youre tempted to just go
ahead with your recommendation and ignore any discrepancies. Youre worried that management wont
approve this purchase if you cant present a clean,
unqualified solution. You also know that many projects
run over their original estimates, so you can probably
work the extra cost into the budget later. On your way
to the meeting room, you make your final decision. In
a few paragraphs, explain the decision you made.
1.13 Communication Barriers: Eliminating Noise Whenever you report negative information to your boss, she
never passes it along to her colleagues or supervisors,
even though you think the information is important and
should be shared. What barriers to communication are
operating in this situation? What can you do to encourage more sharing of this kind of information?

Expand Your Knowledge


LEARNING MORE ON THE WEB
Check Out These Resources at the Business Writers Free
Library www.mapnp.org/library/commskls/cmm_writ.htm
The Business Writers Free Library is a terrific resource for
business communication material. Categories of information
include basic composition skills, basic writing skills, correspondence, reference material, and general resources and advice. Log
on and read about the most common errors in English, become
a word detective, ask Miss Grammar, review samples of common forms of correspondence, fine-tune your interpersonal
skills, join a newsgroup, and more. Follow the links and
improve your effectiveness as a business communicator.

ACTIVITIES
It takes plenty of practice and hard work to become an effective communicator. Start now by logging on to the Business
Writers Free Library and expand your knowledge of the topics
discussed in this chapter.
1. How do the objectives of professional writing differ from
the objectives of composition and literature?
2. What is the purpose of feedback?
3. What are some basic guidelines for giving feedback?

32

Part I

Understanding the Foundations of Business Communication

EXPLORING THE WEB ON YOUR OWN


Review these chapter-related websites on your own to learn
more about achieving communication success in the workplace.
1. Netiquette Home Page, www.albion.com/netiquette/
index.html. Learn the dos and donts of online communication at this site, then take the Netiquette Quiz.
2. You Can Work from Anywhere, www.youcanworkfrom
anywhere.com. Click on this sites Info and Tech Center

and follow the links. Review the tips, tools, articles, ideas,
and other helpful resources to improve your productivity
as a telecommuter (a mobile or home-based worker).
3. Internet Help, www.city.grande-prairie.ab.ca/h_email.
htm. Learn the ins and outs of e-mail at this comprehensive site so that your e-mail will stand out from the
crowd.

Learn Interactively
INTERACTIVE STUDY GUIDE
Visit the Companion Website at www.prenhall.com/thill. For
Chapter 1, take advantage of the interactive Study Guide to
test your chapter knowledge. Get instant feedback on whether
you need additional studying. Read the Current Events articles to get the latest on chapter topics, and complete the exercises as specified by your instructor.
This sites Study Hall helps you succeed in this course.
Talk in the Hall lets you leave messages and meet new
friends online. If you have a question, you can Ask the
Tutor. And to get a better grade in this course, you can find
more help at Writing Skills, Study Skills, and Study Tips.

PEAK PERFORMANCE GRAMMAR


AND MECHANICS
To improve your skill with nouns, use the Peak Performance
Grammar and Mechanics module on the web. Visit www.
prenhall.com/thill, click Peak Performance Grammar and
Mechanics, then click Nouns and Pronouns. Take the Pretest
to determine whether you have any weak areas. Then review
those areas in the Refresher Course. Take the Follow-Up Test to
check your grasp of nouns and pronouns. For an extra challenge or advanced practice, take the Advanced Test. Finally, for
additional reinforcement, go to the Improve Your Grammar,
Mechanics, and Usage section that follows, and complete
those exercises.

Improve Your Grammar, Mechanics, and Usage


The following exercises help you improve your knowledge of
and power over English grammar, mechanics, and usage. Turn
to the Handbook of Grammar, Mechanics, and Usage at the
end of this textbook and review all of Section 1.1 (Nouns).
Then look at the following 10 items. Underline the preferred
choice within each set of parentheses. (Answers to these exercises appear on page AK-3.)
1. She remembered placing that report on her (bosses,
bosss) desk.
2. We mustnt follow their investment advice like a lot of
(sheep, sheeps).
3. Jones founded the company back in the early (1990s, 1990s).
4. Please send the (Joneses, Jones) a dozen of the following:
(stopwatchs, stopwatches), canteens, and headbands.

5. Our (attorneys, attornies) will talk to the group about


incorporation.
6. Make sure that all (copys, copies) include the new addresses.
7. Ask Jennings to collect all (employees, employees) donations for the Red Cross drive.
8. Charlie now has two (sons-in-law, son-in-laws) to help him
with his two online (businesss, businesses).
9. Avoid using too many (parentheses, parenthesises) when
writing your reports.
10. Follow President (Nesses, Nesss) rules about what constitutes a (weeks, weeks) work.
For additional exercises focusing on nouns, go to
www.prenhall.com/thill and select Handbook of Grammar,
Mechanics, and Usage Practice Sessions.