What is the Impact of Communication on Organizational Culture?

Every organization has a culture.  Culture is defined by the way people communicate, interact, how information is shared and how decisions are made.

Organizational culture is something that is created by the leadership of the organization and can become ingrained into the core fabric of the way things are communicated and business is done on a day-to-day basis.

Positive work cultures can influence productivity and a healthy work environment; however a culture that is less than positive can have the opposite effect and can actually stifle worker productivity and have an impact on the bottom line.

A key characteristic of culture is good communication and how information is shared and exchanged within the organization. Effective communication is what keeps internal processes running smoothly and helps to create positive relations with people both inside and outside the organization. Successful communication is a two-way street, allowing for exchange of ideas.

I’ve always said that wars are fought because of cultural communication misunderstandings.  This is a sad truth because it need not be that way.

CultureWhen there are communication breakdowns within an organization, it can lead to conflict in the workplace.  This conflict is often caused from lack of communication or distorted or inaccurate information.

Often these breakdowns are caused from ineffective communication channels within an organization.  When information is not shared, or not shared in a structured way, it results in those who need the information to fill in the blanks.

Organizational leadership needs to be cognizant of what information needs to be shared, when it should be shared and what process should be used to share information.  When employees don’t have all the information, they tend to fill in the blanks and often are not correct in their assumptions.  Being proactive in communicating minimizes the productivity gaps when employees are trying to figure it out.

Some misconceptions that leadership has about sharing information:

  • Employees don’t understand difficult issues or don’t have an interest in them;
  • There is no need to communicate information unless it is major;
  • Employees only need to hear good news;
  • Employees should be protected from bad news;
  • Middle managers share information timely and appropriately;

Employees, no matter what level, should not be underestimated.  Most employees are very savvy and can understand difficult issues more than leadership gives them credit for.  It is always better to get employees involved in the difficult issues and to solicit their help in addressing the problem.  Employees are the ones who do the day-to-day work and have more of an understanding than we sometimes give them credit for.

Successful organizations have figured out how to keep employees engaged and involved in the process and take advantage of their perspective and experience in identifying and resolving organizational issues.  Sharing and celebrating successes and using employees to help solve problems is a best kept secret of successful organizations.  This not only helps the organization move forward but gives the employee a sense of value and worth.

Do you have examples of good communication processes you’d like to share?

This article was originally published on January 8, 2010 and updated October 17, 2013.

photo by:  qburst