Book Title
M: Business Communication 3rd Edition

978-0073403229 Chapter 1 Text Summary, Lecture Outline

April 5, 2019
Text Summary, Lecture Outline
The Role of Communication in Business
Slides 1-1, 1-2, 1-3
This chapter puts business communication in context. It explains the importance of business
communication skills, describes large and small factors that affect business communication, identifies the
main types of communication, and describes the problem-solving approach that is essential to effective
business communication.
Slides 1-4, 1-5
Communication is important to you and to the business you will work for.
For you, good communication skills can lead to advancement.
Your performance will be judged largely by your ability to communicate.
The higher you advance, the greater your need for communication skills will be.
For the business for which you will work, communicating is important because it is a major part of the
work of the business.
Communication is essential for organized activity.
Much of the work done involves the processing of information.
Unfortunately, many businesspeople do not communicate well. You might share highly publicized
communication blunders that companies have made, or ask students to share stories they may have
about how good or poor communication in a company had a significant result, either for a particular
communicator or for a company in general.
Slides 1-6, 1-7
The nature of work today presents special communication challenges.
Media literacy: Since the arrival of email in the late 1980s, business communication has been
experiencing a revolution. Now more than ever, there’s a need for expanded media literacy in the
Increased globalism and diversity: According to a panelist for a recent webinar on workplace trends, we
are seeing “the emergence of the truly globally integrated enterprise,” which means that the likelihood
of working on a global team is increasing, as is the importance of “global social networks.
Strong analytical skills: Adapting to a quickly changing business landscape requires being able to assess
information quickly, focus on whats relevant, and interpret information reliably and usefully.
Ethics and social responsibility: Meanwhile, since ethical scandals have hurt many businesses,
generating trust through ethical behavior has increased in importance, and social responsibility has
become a buzzword and marketing strategy for many companies.
You can have good conversations with your class about technological innovations that your students
have seen in their own lifetimes, about the international nature of business these days, about diversity in
places where students have worked, and about the growing presence of ethics and
corporate-responsibility-related issues in the news. During the discussion of each trend, ask how it might
influence business communication practices.
Some of the richest conversations you can have with students involve technology and social media. Here
are some ideas for discussion.
Much has been wri6en about the differences between the Millennial, Gen-X, and Baby Boomer
generations in the workplace, and these often include their uses and understandings of technology. You
may ask students: Have you personally experienced these differences? Do you think “growing up” with
technology gives Millennials an advantage in the workplace? How might you use this experience to your
advantage during an interview?
Here are some related questions:
1. How are apps, Skype, tweets, social networking, and virtual meetings changing business? How might
apps and Skype be employed for internal and external communication?
2. How are telecommuting situations, where your first meeting takes place over email, and you never
meet in person, changing business interaction? How does this change “the stakes” of your first email and
subsequent emails? Is it really possible to form a professional relationship over email? Have you ever
experienced a business relationship like this? Was it successful?
3. Also, some companies that hire out of state are hiring people strictly over Skype, without ever
meeting in person. Is this wise? Do you believe it’s possible to really know a person or a company
through one Skype interview? How would you prepare for such an interview?
Slide 1-8
Despite all the changes we’ve seen in the last 25 years or so, most communications in business still fall
into one of three basic categories.
Internal-operational communication is all the communication that occurs in conducting work within the
business. It is the work done to carry out the operating plan (the business’s plan for doing whatever it
was formed to do).
It takes many forms—orders and instructions from superiors; oral exchanges between workers; wri6en
reports, emails, memorandums, proposals . . . and the list goes on.
Much of it is conducted through the business’s computer network. (Here you can call a6ention to the
Intranet example provided and discuss other contemporary communication media that businesses are
using internally.)
External-operational communication is all the communicating businesses do with people and groups
outside the business. Because businesses are dependent on outside people and groups,
external-operational communication is necessary for success.
This category includes direct selling (sales presentations, advertising, public relations activities, mailings),
correspondence with other businesses, and communication with such external parties as community
representatives, non-profit and/or government organizations, and more.
Nowadays, much of this communicating is technology assisted. Ask students what types of
computer-assisted messages businesses are sending out these days in addition to email and faxes.
Personal communication is the exchange of information and feelings among the workers.
People will talk when they come together. Much of this talk is personal. But this communicating can
affect the workers’ aGtudes—and thus their job performance.
Too much or too li6le personal communication, or the wrong type, can adversely affect productivity. Ask
students to discuss the types of personal communication that went/go on in a workplace they are
familiar with. Bring out the benefits and drawbacks and see if you can draw some conclusions about how
much and what kind of personal communication is appropriate in a workplace or develop rules of thumb
for personal communication in business.
Slides 1-9, 1-10
The formal network consists of communication along established channels in the business.
Every business has a formal network. It may be completely hierarchical, meaning li6le can be
communicated to the company unless it goes through the CEO and internal communications team first.
Or it may be less hierarchical and “4at,” meaning that every employee can call a team meeting or has
access to “company wide” email and can send any notice out as required. In larger companies, the
former is generally true, while in smaller companies the la6er is often true.
In general, communication 4ow can be downward, upward, or lateral (with this la6er type growing in
importance as hierarchies in organizations become 4a6er).
Each business develops its own forms (or genres) of communication to get its work done. Whether it’s
formal work requests and progress reports, weekly/monthly staff meetings, or an internal project
management/communications system, such as Basecamp, every organization has its own formal,
traceable way of disseminating work information internally.
The informal network consists of all the personal communicating that goes on in the business.
The informal network includes those employees you have professional and personal relationships with
within your company. Its also the external network you interact with outside of work and within your
social media networks, when talking about your company.
It follows no set pa6ern and may link any of the workers in the business. Its structure is ever changing
and may be extremely complex.
Known as the grapevine, it carries rumors and gossip but can also spread information and insights that
enhance an organization’s culture, cohesion, and performance.
It cannot be outlawed or controlled—so wise executives work with it rather than against it.
The informal network also includes the social media networks you interact with outside of work, through
Facebook and other venues. Many companies, such as Procter & Gamble, have extremely detailed social
media policies and lengthy internal courses on how to use social media effectively. For instance, as of
2010, P&G employees could not promote a P&G product on their own Facebook pages without
disclosing first that they were employees of the company. Many companies will also fire employees for
sharing proprietary information or speaking negatively about their companies and other employees on
their Facebook pages.
Here, you can invite students to share their experiences with formal and informal networks in places
where they or those they know have worked. Ask them who the “talk leaders” were in their examples of
grapevines, and point out that even those without a great deal of formal power can have considerable
informal power.
You can also invite students to share the diLculties they’ve encountered with Facebook and work
situations. Have they seen a coworker write something negative on a page or share proprietary
information? Did they feel the need to react? How did they deal with the situation ethically?
Or you can discuss a news article on a well-known social media case covering a workplace issue.
If you have time for a brief, in-class writing assignment you may want to invite students to remember a
time when they found out confidential company information from an informal communication. How did
they deal with it? Did they share it? You may also ask them to write about the most powerful
professional relationship they’ve experienced, and how the relationship contributed positively or
negatively to their careers. Helping them understand the influence relationships have on their careers is
critical to helping them understand the influence of communication.
Slide 1-11
How much and what kind of communicating a business does depends on the type of business, its
environment, and the nature of the people involved.
Nature of the business: Some industries have more communication needs than others.
Size and complexity: Relatively simple businesses, such as repair services, require far less
communication than complex businesses, such as automobile manufacturers.
Industry environment (relation to environment): Some industry environments are more stable than
others, leading to more strategic and less impromptu communication processes.
Geographic dispersion: Obviously, internal communication in a business with multiple locations differs
from that of a one-location business.
Organizational culture: Some organizations have stronger cultures than others. Are the employees
supporting the culture’s values and mission with their internal and external communications or
undermining it?
For discussion, you can draw on students’ own experiences as employees and consumers to help them
understand the significance of these factors. Compare students’ experiences working for large and small
companies and companies in different industries. Get them to volunteer stories about the organizational
culture of places where they’ve worked or shopped and to discuss how the culture probably influenced,
and was in4uenced by, the companys communication practices.
You can relay that if the company culture is formal—for example, you need to set up an appointment to
see the CEO, rather than dropping by his or her oLce—you can probably assume that the
communication will be formal as well (perhaps having strict communication channels you must follow
and not as much access to information).
If the CEO is wearing jeans when you meet him or her—now common in many industries, especially if
the company is a start-up—you’ll probably find an informal and conversational writing style, particularly
internally and possibly externally.
Companies with the strongest cultures—shared values/mission, company-sponsored team-building
events/retreats, etc.—are often the most successful. You may ask students why they think this is true.
However, the “unoLcial culture”—what the employees really believe and what theyre really
doing/saying behind closed doors—is often considered the true culture. When the company-sanctioned
culture and the unoLcial culture are aligned, you often have success. When they aren’t, the company
struggles more. You may ask students if they’ve ever worked for an organization where the oLcial
culture was different from the unoLcial culture.
You may also want to ask students what they feel are “tip-offs” to a companys culture. You can also
share these signs of an organization’s culture recognized by researchers and ask them to contribute
What kind of stories does the company tell about its past—the living history? What a culture chooses to
share says a lot about its values.
Do they have certain “heroes” that they elevate (or even make fun of in a friendly way) because they’ve
had such an impact on the success of the company? This says a lot about the professional contributions
the company values.
Do they have rituals? Burgers or happy hours on Friday? Ba6le of the bands every year? Community
clean-up day? When the company gives employees tickets to events are they tickets to NASCAR or tickets
to the ATP? This says a lot about the type of culture it is.
Does the team seem like a cohesive group with shared values or are theydoing their own thing” and
confused about where the company is going?
Ask students how important an organizations culture is to them. Should they ask questions about it
during an interview? For instance, if a company has “ba6le of the bands” every year and employees are
supposed to participate and expected to perform, would this be an issue for them? Or would they enjoy
this type of culture?
The Business Communication Process
Slide 1-12
To understand the business-communication process, its important first to understand the nature of
business communication. Business communication is best understood as complex problem solving. This
means that, for most situations, the business communicator will need to take a unique set of
circumstances into account and generate a unique solution that will achieve the desired business goals.
That is why being a successful business communicator requires:
Research (interview the players and understand the history of the communications situation)
Careful analysis (to gather and interpret the relevant information)
Creativity (to think of possible solutions)
Judgment (to pick the solution that will fit this situation best)
You might ask your class how it’s possible that, when there’s no single “correct” answer to any
business-communication problem, its still possible to say that some solutions are be6er than others. If
you’re not lucky enough to have a savvy student who “gets” this, you can make the point by showing
them different handlings of a simple business situation and discussing what makes some be6er than
You might also share examples of how analysis, creativity, and judgment work during the
business-communication process. For instance, in addition to gathering and interpreting the relevant
information, analysis often involves analyzing the culture’s expectations for communication (formal vs.
informal), considering the current climate (are there sensitive/hot bu6on issues, such as limited
resources, that shouldn’t be brought up?), and looking at the individual audience’s needs and fears. For
example, if you’re asking your boss for a vacation day via email, and you know that he or she is already
afraid a project isn’t going to be completed on time, at some point in the email you need to mention
this, reassuring your boss that you’ll still meet the project deadline. Many factors go into analysis.
Creativity often means looking at a communications issue from multiple angles. At its most basic level,
the following questions need to be asked: What is the correct medium for this communication? What is
the correct venue? For instance, if you’re in internal communications for a major company and rolling
out a new company brand internally, a memo is probably not the most creative execution. But having the
IT department turn every employee’s computer background into the companys new logo and look, so
theyre greeted with it in the morning when they come to work, is a surprising and fresh way to make
the announcement. To make the communication even more effective, the communications department
might hold a company-wide meeting that a:ernoon, revealing the new brand on the big screen,
explaining strategy, and handing out T-shirts.
Good judgment is making sure you always pick the solution that will fit the situation and the long-term
goals and values of the culture. It also means always sending a message at the right time, in the right
tone, to the right audience, and never sharing inappropriate or proprietary information. You may let
students know that, believe it or not, this can be tricky in a business environment. It’s common to
inadvertently slip up or step on someone’s toes, but they’ll learn strategies for exercising excellent
judgment in this course.
Slide 1-13
Because the communicating that goes on in business is done by people, it is helpful for us to know how
communication between businesspeople occurs. This model shows both process and contexts. Refer to
Exhibit 1-4 in Chapter 1 for a complete illustration and explanation of the process.
A fun exercise for illustrating this process in action is to divide the class up into two opposing teams.
Team 1 must recommend a surprising change to the syllabus to Team 2. Team 2 then has to follow the
process of responding to this recommendation as laid out in Exhibit 1-4. Do they agree? Will they
propose a different recommendation and argue their case? Will they respond at all? If the class is large,
you may break it up into smaller competing groups.
Slide 1-14
With this slide you can take a closer look at the contexts in which business communication takes place:
The larger business-economic, sociocultural, historical context
The communicators’ relationship
The communicators’ individual contexts (organizational, professional, personal)
As the text says, communication is not simply about moving information from point A to point B. Anyone
who neglects the specific contexts in which communication takes place is likely doomed to be an
unsuccessful communicator. Factoring these multiple contexts into communication decisions is a large
part of treating business communication as a problem-solving process.
Slide 1-15
Here are the steps that usually occur when people are solving business problems and communicating
about them.
1. Senses a communication need. You can emphasize that a “need” can be either a problem to
solve or an opportunity to take advantage of.
2. De/nes the problem. Here, the writer/speaker gathers information about the situation—about
what has happened or what might be achieved, about possible audiences, about prior similar
situations, about organizational goals and possible means for achieving them.
3. Searches for possible solutions. Given the situation, in what different ways might the
communication challenge be tackled? What strategies could best further the interests of the
parties involved?
4. Selects a course of action. Here the writer/speaker decides not only what to say but also how to
say it. He or she makes basic decisions about the type of message that will be sent—which also
involves choosing the communication channel (phone? email? texting?) that will best support
the goals of the message.
5. Composes the message. You can preview the advice in Chapter 2 about the writing process. Help
students realize that whatever writing style works best for them is the one they should use, but
emphasize the importance of all three main composing stages (planning, dra:ing, and revising).
6. Delivers the message. Students often do not realize how important message timing is, or how
important it is to imagine the hectic work context in which the recipient will receive the
message. This step deserves some careful thought.
7. Receives the message. Now we’re over on the recipient’s side of the process. If the sender has
made wise decisions (about timing, channel, format, and framing of the message), the odds of
the recipients actually reading and/or hearing the message are promising. (Otherwise, as you
can remind your students, the message might get thrown away, buried under other messages, or
8. Interprets the message. As the recipient processes the message, he or she will be forming all
sorts of impressions—about the writer/speaker, about the writer/speakers company, about the
goal of the message, about the message’s specific contents, about why the message is significant
(or not).
9. Decides on a response. If the recipient attend to the message, he/she will have a response,
whether its the one the sender intends or not. If the message has been tailored carefully to the
recipient’s interests, the recipients response—whether a return message, an action, or simply a
change in aGtude—will have a good chance of being the desired one.
10. Replies to the message. Here the recipient becomes the sender, and the communication cycle
begins again. And it may lead to another cycle—and another. The cycles may continue as long as
the participants wish to communicate. In oral communication, you can point out, the cycles tend
to happen quickly as the communicators work to create a mutual understanding, whereas the
communication cycles in written communication tend to occur more slowly.
There are no guarantees that any message will be successful—but the analytical process presented in the
communication model will make the odds of success as high as possible.
Slide 1-16
The last slide suggests the three key features of business communication: its about sharing information,
its about building relationships, and its about solving workplace problems.