Overcoming Communication Barriers in Organizations

Although all communication is subject to misunderstandings, business communication is particularly difficult. The material is often complex and controversial. Moreover, both the sender and the receiver may face distractions that divert their attention. Further, the opportunities for feedback are often limited, making it difficult to correct misunderstandings. The following communication barriers in organizations and ways to overcome them will be the main topic of this article.

1. Information Overload. Too much information is as bad as too little because it reduces the audiences ability to concentrate effectively on the most important messages. People facing information overload sometimes try to cope by ignoring some of the messages, by delaying responses to messages they deem unimportant, by answering only parts of some messages, by responding inaccurately to certain messages, by taking less time with each message, or by reacting only superficially to all messages.

To overcome information overload, realize that some information is not necessary, and make necessary information easily available. Give information meaning rather than just passing it on, and set priorities for dealing with the information flow. Some information isn’t necessary.

2. Message Complexity. When formulating business messages, you communicate both as an individual and as representative of an organization. Thus you must adjust your own ideas and style so that they are acceptable to your employer. In fact, you may be asked occasionally to write or say something that you disagree with personally. Suppose you work as a recruiter for your firm. You’ve interviewed a job candidate you believe would make an excellent employee, but others in the firm have rejected this applicant. Now you have to write a letter turning down the candidate: You must communicate your firms message, regardless of your personal feelings, a task some communicators find difficult.

To overcome the barriers of complex messages, keep them clear and easy to understand. Use strong organization, guide readers by telling them what to expect, use concrete and specific language, and stick to the point. Be sure to ask for feedback so that you can clarify and improve your message.

3. Message Competition. Communicators are often faced with messages that compete for attention. If you’re talking on the phone while scanning a report, both messages are apt to get short shrift. Even your own messages may have to compete with a variety of interruptions: The phone rings every five minutes, people intrude, meetings are called, and crises arise. In short, your messages rarely have the benefit on the receivers undivided attention.

To overcome competition barriers, avoid making demands on a receiver who doesn’t have the time to pay careful attention to your message. Make written messages visually appealing and easy to understand, and try to deliver them when your receiver has time to read them. Oral messages are most effective when you can speak directly to your receiver (rather than to intermediaries or answering machines). Also, be sure to set aside enough time for important messages that you receive. Business messages rarely have the benefit of the audiences full and undivided attention.

4. Differing Status. Employees of low status may be overly cautious when sending messages to managers and may talk only about subjects they think the manager is interested in. Similarly, higher-status people may distort messages by refusing to discuss anything that would tend to undermine their authority in the organization. Moreover, belonging to a particular department or being responsible for a particular task can narrow your point of view so that it differs from the attitudes, values, and expectations of people who belong to other departments or who are responsible for other tasks.

To overcome status barriers, keep managers and colleagues well informed. Encourage lower-status employees to keep you informed by being fair-minded and respectful of their opinions. When you have information that you’re afraid you boss might not like, be brave and convey it anyway. Status barriers can be overcome by a willingness to give and receive bad news.

5. Lack of Trust, Building trust is a difficult problem. Other organization members don’t know whether you’ll respond in a supportive or responsible way, so trusting can be risky. Without trust, however, free and open communication is effectively blocked, threatening the organization’s stability. Just being clear in your communication is not enough.

To overcome trust barriers, be visible and accessible. Don’t insulate yourself behind assistants or secretaries. Share key information with colleagues and employees, communicate honestly, and include employees in decision making. For communication to be successful, organizations must create an atmosphere of fairness and trust.

6. Inadequate Communication Structures. Organizational communication is effected by formal restrictions on who may communicate with whom and who is authorized to make decisions. Designing too few formal channels blocks effective communication. Strongly centralized organizations, especially those with a high degree of formalization, reduce communication capacity, and they decrease the tendency to communicate horizontally thus limiting the ability to coordinate activities and decisions. Tall organizations tend to provide too many vertical communication links, so messages become distorted as they move through the organization’s levels.

To overcome structural barriers, offer opportunities for communicating upward, downward, and horizontally (using such techniques as employee surveys, open-door policies, newsletters, memo, and task groups). Try to reduce hierarchical levels, increase coordination between departments, and encourage two-way communication.

7. Incorrect Choice of Medium. If you choose an inappropriate communication medium, your message can be distorted so that the intended meaning is blocked. You can select the most appropriate medium by matching your choice with the nature of the message and of the group or the individual who will receive it. Face-to-face communication is the richest medium because it is personal, it provides immediate feedback, it transmits information from both verbal and nonverbal cues, and it conveys the emotion behind the message. Telephones and other interactive electronic media aren’t as rich; although they allow immediate feedback, they don’t provide visual nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, eye contact and body movements. Written media can be personalized through addressed memos, letters, and reports, but they lack the immediate feedback and the visual and vocal nonverbal cues that contribute to the meaning of the message. The leanest media are generally impersonal written messages such as bulletins, fliers, and standard reports. Not only do they lack the ability to transmit nonverbal cues and to give feedback, they also eliminate any personal focus.

To overcome media barriers, choose the richest media for no routine, complex message. Use rich media to extend and to humanize your presence throughout the organization, to communicate caring and personal interest to employees, and to gain employee commitment to organizational goals. Use leaner media to communicate simple, routine messages. You can send information such as statistics, facts, figures and conclusions through a note, memo or written report

8. Closed communication climate. Communication climate is influenced by management style, and a directive, authoritarian style blocks the free and open exchange of information that characterizes good communication.

To overcome climate barriers, spend more time listening than issuing orders.

9. Unethical Communication. An organization cannot create illegal or unethical messages and still be credible or successful in the long run. Relationships within and outside the organization depend or trust and fairness.

To overcome ethics barriers, make sure your messages include all the information that ought to be there. Make sure that information is adequate and relevant to the situation. And make sure your message is completely truthful, not deceptive in any way.

10. Inefficient Communication. Producing worthless messages wastes time and resources, and it contributes to the information overload already mentioned.

Reduce the number of messages by thinking twice before sending one. Then speed up the process, first, by preparing messages correctly the first time around and, second, by standardizing format and material when appropriate. Be clear about the writing assignments you accept as well as the ones you assign.

11. Physical distractions. Communication barriers are often physical: bad connections, poor acoustics, illegible copy. Although noise or this sort seems trivial, it can completely block an otherwise effective message. Your receiver might also be distracted by an uncomfortable chair, poor lighting, or some other irritating condition. In some cases, the barrier may be related to the receiver’s health. Hearing or visual impairment or even a headache can interfere with reception of a message. These annoyances don’t generally block communication entirely, but they may reduce the receiver’s concentration.

To overcome physical distractions, try to prepare well written documents which are clear, concise, and comprehensive. When preparing oral presentations try to find a setting which permits audience to see and hear the speaker clearly.

Where Does Advertising Fit Into the Marketing Mix?

Many people get confused about the role of advertising in the marketing mix so here’s a simple view of where it fits in.

In the traditional marketing model, we talk about the 4 P’s

o Product

o Pricing

o Place

o Promotion

The last section – Promotion is what we mean when we say you are “doing your marketing”. It’s your communications or your actual marketing activities.

But first, let’s get clear about the PURPOSE of marketing and why you want to get good at it.

“The PURPOSE of marketing or it’s biggest task is to

persuade prospects to visit you online or offline so you

can present your offer. Done well they come waving their

credit card and ready to buy so there’s no need for hard sell.”

Whenever and wherever you get in front of your potential market is your marketing opportunity – you are communicating or getting your message across.

You could say this started as far back as Babylon when the Town Crier was the only delivery method! They went around town shouting out to people to go to the marketplace and you went to the marketplace with your goods to “present your offer”.

With the invention of print and other technologies you now have a smorgasbord of delivery methods or media to reach people such as

o Print – newspapers, magazines, catalogues, newsletters

o Phone, mail, fax

o Radio & TV,

o Internet – through websites, blogs, social networking sites, email, video & Audio podcasts

o Teleseminars & webinars

o Mobile media – Blackberrys and mobile or cell phones

o And lets not forget in person public speaking and networking

Now that range adds a level of complexity. But choice is good and you don’t have to use all of these but they are available to you.

In any event you’ll either be speaking or writing. Simply narrow down what makes sense for you and your business and use your strengths to work out a plan.

JUST remember the marketing principles remain the same no matter the medium – so the PURPOSE of your marketing is still the same. To persuade prospects to visit you online or offline so you can present your offer.

So where does advertising fit into this?

Advertising is simply a subset of your marketing activities it’s the SALES function when you make the sales pitch or “present your offer”. This could be verbal or written in all the same media you use for your marketing communications. What adds to the confusion is sometimes big companies use image based ads for awareness so the “sales pitch” isn’t obvious.

But the primary purpose of advertising is to SELL.

So you create ads in one form or another and get them in front of your audience.

Small businesses can’t afford to waste money on image advertising that is designed for the masses to promote a well known brand. It simply isn’t designed to sell, NOW.

What I do and recommend is Direct Marketing which is based on one-on-one relationships and uses proven direct response advertising techniques instead of mass advertising.

The purpose of a direct response advertisement is to get a response, NOW! Which means these ads actually ask the prospect to DO something.

Whether you’re building a list, selling a product or service, an appointment or even something you are giving away – you still need to “sell” it to your prospect. And ask them to take the action you want them to take to move them through the sales process.

In a nutshell, advertising is a subset of marketing and direct response marketing and advertising is the champion for small business.

How To Read A Credit Card Merchant Statement – 5 Ways To Categorize Fees

Reading your merchant statement and finding the rates and fees you’re being charged can be like playing “Where’s Waldo?”. One reason is because there are nearly as many different statement formats as there are merchant acquiring companies. Also, because of how competitive the industry has become, many monthly statements don’t completely disclose the rates being charged. And sometimes they are completely hidden.

I know of banks that don’t even send a statement out. If a merchant wants details of what they paid they have to logon to an online account to find it.

It’s War Out There!

One reason for this is the competitiveness. You have to remember that credit and debit cards make up part of a 2 trillion dollar industry. Money is like a magnet – it attracts Most merchants are being contacted continually by competing processors trying to get them to switch processors, by promising “lower rates”, etc.

So, to prevent a sales agent from another processing company from taking a merchant away – some processors make it as hard as possible for a competitor’s sales rep to walk in to a business, analyze a merchant statement, and do an ‘apples for apples’ comparison.

That being said, there are still some basic keys to look for when reading your statement. Here’s what I look for in analyzing a merchant statement, in order:

  • One: The pricing structure – how has the account been set up? Which pricing model does it employ? Is it using tiers (e.g. 3-tier; 4-tier, etc.) or – is it using “Interchange Plus”? (NOTE: most merchants are on a tier pricing model, which, in my opinion guarantees they’re being overcharged. Also, there are other pricing structures but tier pricing is by far the most common)
  • Two: The monthly fees (sometimes called “Other”) – next, I look to see what the monthly fees are. This can include: a statement fee; monthly service fee; account maintenance fee (normally, you’d only see one of these although I’ve seen two – or, you may see the equivalent fee but using a different term); PCI fee; batch fee; and gateway or access fees. Any miscellaneous, but not monthly fees can also show up here – e.g., an annual fee or semi-quarterly.
  • Three: Processing Fees – this is where the discount rates will be listed. If you are on tier pricing the best statements will print an itemized list showing the “qualified”, “mid-qualified”, and “non-qualified” (the 3 tiers) rate. If you are on Interchange Plus, you’ll see a list showing all the different cards you took, followed by the actual interchange rate for the card, the “dpi” (discount per item), plus the processors mark-up expressed as basis points and a transaction fee (or per item, depending on the term used to list it).
  • Four: Authorization Fees – here’s where you’ll find fees that go to VISA and MC. They’ll show up listed as access, authorization, and /or WATTS fees. You could also find here AVS fees (address verification); assessment fees; brand usage fee; risk fee; settlement fees, IAS fee (Issuer Access & Settlement).
  • Five: Third Party Fees – 3rd parties means networks other than VISA & MC that are included in your statement. This would include American Express, Discover, and the debit networks if you are using pin debit

Part of the problem in reading a merchant statement is different processors use different category names and different terms to identify charges. That’s why I began by saying it can be like playing “Where’s Waldo?” While there are common terms used for certain fees there is also a wide variation used, depending on the acquirer (the company you signed a merchant agreement with).

Again, part of this is due to an attempt to hide what’s being charged and make it difficult for a competitor to analyze a statement. While that’s ‘somewhat’ understandable – in my opinion it’s a disservice to the merchant. Integrity demands transparency. Maybe if processors were more merchant oriented they’d have a lower turnover and would not have to worry about competition so much. At least that’s my opinion.

Why Computer Hardware Is Important

In this day and age, it is hard to deny the influence of technology in our lives. We live in an era where pretty much is automated and computerized. And amidst all the technological advancement that humankind has achieved, one important device has been created that will only sure to become more relevant to our lives as technology progresses, the computer. No one can deny that computers are now an essential part of our lives, the same way a cell phone and television does. It is safe to say that in this day and age, having no computer would be an inconvenience. Which is why it is important that we know the how our computer works so that we would be aware of the things that we should do in case it stops working. The hardware of the computer is considered to be the most important because without it, it will simply not work.

Simply put if you know how to handle the hardware of a computer and know each of their function for the unit, then you can easily determine what the problem is in case the unit stops functioning. In order to be familiar with basic computer troubleshooting, then you also need to be familiar with computer hardware. A good example of this is the memory of the computer (RAM). All programs and applications that are ran in a computer needs memory. Without RAM it simply won’t function. Aside from that, even if you have a RAM but it does have the specifications to keep up with the programs that are being ran, then the operation would be slowed down to a crawl. So when it comes to computer hardware, you have to make sure that it is not obsolete, so you need to upgrade depending on what sort of program that you are usually using.

When handling computer hardware, you have to keep in mind some safety measures so you can manipulate the unit safely. Before opening any computer cases, you have to make sure that the unit is unplugged or you might risk electrocution or shocks. While checking your hardware components, always check for damaged parts because that is most likely the one that is causing problems. When inserting components and parts, you have to remember that if it doesn’t fit, then most likely you are inserting it on the wrong slot. If it does not fit, then do not force it or you will risk breaking the component. Before touching any parts inside the unit, make sure that you discharge yourself first by through a grounded metal object or you can use an anti-static wrist strap or mat which is sold in stores for cheap.

By knowing and analyzing every computer hardware part you will know about its importance and if it ever breaks down then you can perform the proper troubleshooting steps. Every hardware component is important for the computer’s operation. The performance of your computer largely depends on how good your hardware is, so be sure that they are always in good working condition.