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Human Relations in the Organization:Communication Study Guide

Updated on May 25, 2015

3.1 Communication

  • Consider the following scenario: You are the branch manager for a regional distributor, and upper-level management has informed you that you must let an employee go. Which of the following is a factor you should consider when determining how to communicate the information to your employee?

Preparing for your meeting in advance is a good practice when determining how to communicate to your employee that you must let him or her go. Other factors to consider include telling the employee in private, telling the whole truth, being sensitive, and avoiding strong terms like “you're fired.”

  • Downsizing and layoffs have an unintended effect on the organization as a whole. What is that unintended effect?

According to Jeffery Pfeffer, layoffs generally lead to negative effects such as poor stock returns, while companies that have increases in productivity may have added employees rather than removing them.

3.2 Understanding Communication

  • Which of these statements is TRUE regarding communication within an organization?

Communication is how we convey information to one another using a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior, and is important in every area of life and at every level of an organization.

  • According to a recent study cited in the text, what do most recruiters at business schools primarily look for?

According to the study, communication and interpersonal skills were ranked as the highest qualities that recruiters look for, with 89 percent of recruiters saying that they are important.

3.3 The Communication Process

  • Which of the following organizational processes does communication fulfill?

Communication creates shared emotions and feelings that bond and unite teams of people in coordinated efforts. In addition to this, communication can also create rapport, transmit information, and facilitate consensus.

  • Sally is struggling in her Freshman Composition class and sends the following text to her father, complaining about the situation: “OMG, i h8 my prof. He is so mean and I can't w8 2 get outta there.” Sally's father calls her, noticeably upset because he has not understood the text and thinks she is in trouble. Sally did not consider her audience when she wrote the message. What kind of communication error did Sally make?

Sally made an encoding error because she did not consider her audience (her father) when she composed the text message. As a result, her father was unable to decode the message, and the feedback he provided demonstrates the confusion that can be created by an encoding error.

  • Jimmy has been dating Sarah for a long time, and they talk on the phone constantly. Jimmy even writes his papers for his history class while on the phone with Sarah. He got a D on his most recent paper, as it had many grammatical errors and was generally not well written. Jimmy’s failure to write a good paper was due to which communication error?

Jimmy allowed the noise of the conversation with his girlfriend to degrade his writing. His decision to write his paper while on the phone with Sarah allowed the conversation’s noise to sully the message of the paper, and his professor was unable to successfully decode the message.

  • Anthony overslept and has three voicemails on his phone from his boss telling him to come into work immediately for an emergency planning meeting. In this scenario, what part of the communication process does the voicemail play?

The voicemail is the medium through which the message from Anthony’s boss is relayed. Anthony decodes it and provides feedback by going to the emergency meeting after returning his boss’s call.

  • Anthony has finished the emergency meeting and sits down at his desk, exhausted. After logging in to his computer, he sees an instant message from one of his coworkers who was not at the meeting: “What is going on? Everything ok?” Anthony responds quickly and carelessly: “No worries, g2 wrk nw.” Anthony’s message to his coworker is unclear because of which communication issue?

Anthony is having an encoding issue, as he is not being clear in his communication with his coworker. It could be that he is instructing his coworker to “go back to work now,” or that he has “got to work now.”

3.4 Communication Barriers

  • Amy just met with her boss, James, who praised her for her hard work and record-setting sales for the past year. However, James has chosen to not mention her inattention to detail and her habit of coming into the office late. James is experiencing what communication barrier?

James is filtering information so that Amy will not be mad at him for his criticisms. If James had respectfully discussed these two issues with Amy, she might be able to improve in the future. As it is, she may not change at all.

  • Jill is angry with Jack because he made a disparaging comment to another male coworker about women during the team meeting. Jack is attempting to go over last year’s sales figures with Jill, but she is not able to forget what Jack said earlier. Jack and Jill are experiencing what communication barrier?

Jack and Jill are experiencing an emotional disconnect. Jill is unable to listen to what Jack is saying at the moment because of his previous remark. She should seek to address this conflict with another coworker present so that they can move past it and get work done. Jack may need to attend sensitivity training as well.

  • Kate just had her performance review from her boss, Jamal. She is livid because he said she lacks attention to detail and is always coming in late. However, Jamal also gave positive feedback, praising her record-setting sales for the past year, and gave an overall balanced performance review. Kate is experiencing what communication barrier?

Kate is experiencing selective perception by focusing only on the negative feedback that Jamal gave her.

  • Stacy is Jennifer’s executive assistant and has been out sick for three days. She returns to work, even though she is not fully recovered, and is immediately given seven new tasks. Stacy already has 23 voicemails to listen to, 11 letters to open, and 157 unread email messages. Stacy sits down, overwhelmed. She is the victim of what communication barrier?

Stacy is experiencing information overload and will need to establish a process for dealing with the tasks, voicemails, letters, and emails as quickly as possible without making mistakes.

  • Jane walks into her job interview and sits down. The HR rep welcomes her and tells her that it will be a relatively painless process. Jane responds by quipping, “Well, as long as you don’t torture me!” The HR rep looks at her, confused. What communication barrier is Jane experiencing?

Jane is experiencing a lack of source credibility. She uses jocularity and sarcasm to defuse a tense situation, but this is inappropriate because she does not have a relationship with her interviewer.

3.5 Workplace Gossip

  • Which of the following statements about gossip in the organization is TRUE?

Employees typically turn to each other for important information rather than obtaining it from their bosses. This grapevine can be effective, but it can also be a communication barrier under certain circumstances. Managers must be aware of this and use it accordingly.

  • Which of these terms demonstrates biased language?

The term “chairman” suggests that only men can hold this position. “Chair” or “chairperson” is a gender-neutral term that represents the position without the gender of the person holding it.

  • Claire has just listened to her manager, Charlie, give a speech about the new product development project. She has been asking lots of pointed questions, and Charlie is getting increasingly frustrated because he thinks Claire is stalling the project’s start with questions. Which of the following aspects of communication BEST describes Charlie’s situation?

Charlie is experiencing a gender difference. Women typically present readiness to begin by finding out as much as they can about the project through queries, while men are more likely to simply dive in and begin working.

  • “I work for Google in their development department and work mostly with Ruby on Rails, S3, Python, Java, and iOS.” What barrier to communication is represented in this statement?

This is an example of semantics, or jargon, a specialized language for a particular job or discipline that often uses acronyms or slang. The semantics mentioned in the statement include various types of programming languages.

3.6 Poor Listening

  • Which of the following statements about listening is MOST accurate?

Listening skills can be improved through practice and concentration.

  • Which of the following BEST describes a way to listen actively?

Active listening involves listening for content and feelings, being aware of nonverbal and verbal cues, and responding to feelings. Also, when it’s your turn to speak, paraphrase the message back to the sender.

  • You are a manager known for listening well to your employees, and now the time for your retirement is approaching. You’re training your replacement, and while she is eager, motivated, and caring, she doesn’t listen well. What advice should you give her to improve her listening habits? Choose the BEST answer.

Acknowledging that you have heard what the speaker is saying is an important component in good listening, so this would be a good piece of advice to give to your employee.

  • Which of the following statements would freeze a conversation?

“Now, here’s your problem: you just need to communicate with the boss and let her know your situation.” This is a statement that would freeze a conversation. Telling someone what to do is a conversation freezer, as well as blaming, judging, criticizing, shaming, threatening, or lecturing the other person.

3.7 Different Types of Communication and Channels

  • You are a manager in HR and you often use storytelling with employees. Which of these situations would be the MOST appropriate time to use storytelling?

Stories would be most appropriate during onboarding of a new employee. Stories can help the new employee understand the organizational culture and important values of the organization, as well as how particular tasks are performed.

  • Which of the following is an example of a crucial conversation?

Requesting a salary increase is an example of a crucial conversation. Crucial conversations involve high stakes, varied opinions, and charged emotions, and requesting a salary increase is a high-stakes conversation that can be emotionally charged with the potential for disagreement.

  • Kristen is applying to different colleges all over the country, and her mother is giving her advice as she prepares for the in-person interview. What advice should her mother give her?

“Make eye contact and smile!” This would be good advice; eye contact and smiling convey engagement, trustworthiness, and openness.

3.8 Self-Assessment 6: Communication

What did you learn about yourself from this self-assessment?

I learned a lot about myself as a communicator from the communication skills self-assessment. I learned that while I am a capable communicator, I still have room for improvement. My score of 40 on the communication skills self-assessment taught me that I may experience communication problems in the future due to my medium skill level as communicator. I need to take more time to think about my approach to communication and focus on receiving and sending messages effectively.

3.9 Written Communication

  • You’ve written a memo to your department regarding the importance of coming in on time. You decided to email the memo to your subordinates, since it is not important when they read it. What type of written communication did you use when you sent the email?

You used asynchronous communication. Asynchronous communication means that the receiver can read the message at any time, as opposed to oral communication, which occurs in real time (and is synchronous).

  • Which of the following comparisons between written and verbal communication is correct?

Verbal communication typically has one speaker, while written communication can be authored by many. Verbal communication takes less time to construct, is better at carrying an emotional message, and usually takes place in real time. Written communication is better at conveying complex ideas and is important to use if you need a record of the conversation.

  • According to research, which of the following statements about written communication would be something a hiring manager at a large organization might say? Choose the BEST answer.

“I noticed that your cover letter was well written, concise, and conveyed your enthusiasm about the position.” This is a statement a hiring manager might say. Most jobs require some form of writing, from police officers filling out arrest reports to professors writing books, and according to research, most organizations take writing skills into account when hiring.

  • Which of the following statements BEST reflects Thomas Jefferson’s advice for effective written communication?

Based on Jefferson’s advice, it would be a good idea to use clear action words instead of vague or unclear thoughts. It is also advisable to choose simple words, visualize the intended audience, and avoid redundancy.

3.10 Nonverbal Communication

  • Which of the following is TRUE regarding nonverbal communication?

The typical nonverbal signs of someone who is lying include an increased blink rate, antsy feet, and a shrugging motion of the shoulders. Fifty-five percent of communication is nonverbal, and this particular set of nonverbal cues points to lying.

  • Your friend says to you, “Well, you didn’t tell me THAT!” What does the tonal emphasis suggest that your friend is saying?


You told your friend something different the first time or left something out.The tonal emphasis of your friend’s statement suggests that she thinks that you left something out or told her something different the first time. She is acting under the assumption that this is new and different information.

  • What important aspect of nonverbal communication is conveyed in the New Yorker cartoon?

The employee is attempting to communicate through a dance, and the manager is impatient with him. The employee’s nonverbal communication is unsuccessful because the manager is not able to correctly interpret what he is suggesting with his movements. This implies that nonverbal communication, while important, is subject to interpretation by the receiver.

  • Which of the following statements about nonverbal communication is true?

Maintaining direct eye contact conveys integrity in the United States.

  • In the United States, a handshake is the cultural reference to the introduction of a new relationship. How is a handshake perceived in Asia?

In Asia, a woman must never shake a man’s hand. Nazir Daud suggests that it is “impolite for a woman to shake a man’s hand.” When engaging in business in other cultures, it is important to keep an open mind about different attitudes toward touch.

  • In the United States, when people are riding in a crowded bus or subway car, they tend to behave in a particular manner: they shrink inward by holding personal effects closely, keeping arms and legs close to the body, and not making eye contact or acknowledging others in the car. What type of space is being violated?

Intimate space is being violated. Americans reserve the space within about 18 inches from them for only those closest to them. This is a cultural dimension of proxemics.


3.11 Communication Channels

  • When should you choose to use verbal communication?

Verbal communication is best used when you need immediate feedback. It is also useful when you don’t need a record of the conversation or when you want to convey an emotional message or a simple concept.

  • When should you choose to use written communication?

Written communication is best used when you need to share facts with someone else. It is also useful when you need a record, when time is not a factor, and when the ideas are complicated.

  • Your company’s technology team is giving a quick seminar on emails and best practice tips. Which of the following is a piece of advice they would give?

Once something has been written and sent in an email, it can’t be taken back. Therefore, the technology team in the example would likely advise you to think of an email as a binding communication and only put things in emails that you would be okay with the world seeing.

  • Your company’s textile arm is being eliminated from the organization, which means terminating over 400 people. In this case, you have been tasked by the CEO to deliver the news to those involved with textiles. Since it isn’t practical to deliver this news to 400 people personally, what does your boss likely expect you to do?

Since this is likely an emotional message that requires immediate response and will not need a permanent record (though one could be made), an information-rich channel like videoconferencing is the best choice if face-to-face is not an option.

  • Casey is meeting with Felicity and will need a record of their meeting; however, they are located in two separate offices. Casey’s ideas are complex and will likely take Felicity a while to understand. Which communication channel is the MOST important one to be included in the meeting?

While Casey will likely choose multiple communication channels for the meeting, such as videoconferencing paired with a written report, the most important communication channel in this case is written communication due to the complexity of the information and the need to take some time to understand it.

  • You have a friend who just graduated from college and is seeking to start a new career. Which of the following is a piece of advice you would give her about her online presence?

It would be good advice to tell your friend to search for herself online and see what kind of information about her is out there, since her potential employers might come across the same information.

3.12 Direction of Communication Within Organizations

  • Based on the diagram, communication travels in a diagonal fashion to which receiver?

The diagram visually represents how communication flows from an individual diagonally to other departments. It also shows how communication flows downward to subordinates, upward to management, and laterally to coworkers.

  • Which of the following communication situations would elicit the most attentiveness from the receiver?

As a receiver, the subordinate would likely pay the most attention to a message from his manager. Likewise, a manager would likely pay the most attention to higher-ups, such as the CEO. When communication travels down the hierarchy, it receives more attention than when it travels up.

  • Managers spend most of their time talking to which group?

Managers spend most of their time talking to subordinates. According to the pie chart, managers spend 46 percent of their time talking to subordinates, 23 percent to external others, 27 percent to internal others, and 14 percent to superiors.

3.13 External Communications

  • You have just received the final draft of an external communication and the marketing department needs your final sign-off before it’s released. The release is styled like a magazine article, yet the content has the focus of an advertisement. What kind of external communication are you reviewing?

Advertorials combine the design of an article with the focused message of an advertisement.

  • Which of the following types of external communication often frames its message in the form of a news story or newsworthy announcement?

Press releases are usually framed as news stories or newsworthy announcements that invite editors and reporters to adopt and reprint them.

  • A famous football player was recently criticized in the news for being a real jerk to everyone around him, including other players, managers, and coaches. His agent decided to book him into several local events, including reading to kindergarteners, picking up roadside trash, and personally giving away free tickets at his home games. What type of external communication is the agent using?

Public relations campaigns work over time to send a certain message. The agent is attempting to create positive press and interest around his client so that he will not be vilified in the press but rather offered a new contract.

  • While watching a popular action movie, you notice that the logo on the front of the hero’s car is featured in several specific and pointed shots. What type of external communication is this?

This particular type of advertising is called product placement and is becoming increasingly popular as consumers become able to “tune out” standard ads.

3.14 Self-Assessment 7: Problem Solving

What did you learn about yourself from this self-assessment?

I did not learn a lot about myself from the problem solving self-assessment. I scored a 59 on the assessment which means that I am a confident problem solver. I learned that I take the time to understand problems and their criteria before I generate some good options which helps me to make a good decision.

3.15 The Role of Ethics and National Culture

  • Your company is facing a crisis situation that will cause its stock to plummet and ruin the reputation of the organization for years. What is the best way to communicate to the public that you are on top of the situation and will be working toward resolution?

As the CEO, you should become the public face of the response. This is one of the most difficult situations you will face as CEO. As the highest official, you can communicate trust, clarity, and honesty both inside and outside the firm.

  • Which statement regarding nonverbal gestures across cultures is true?

The “OK” gesture refers to monetary things in Japan, but watch out if you try to use this gesture to talk about money in France, Brazil, Russia, or Germany! As you come into contact with other cultures, it is important to remember the cultural significance that accompanies gestures.

3.16 Employee Satisfaction Translates to Success: The Case of Edward Jones

  • What is the primary reason why Edward Jones has been so successful despite the economic recession?

Edward Jones has been successful because of open communication internally and with customers. CEO Tim Kirley suggests that the organizational culture of honest and open communication is the bedrock upon which his company’s success is built.

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      Warren W 4 months ago

      The information was very helpful.