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Business Communications

1. Describe the Barriers to Effective Communication that exists in the situation.

Communication exists when two parties enact in any behaviour, non-verbal or graphic, that is perceived by another argues Dwyer (1999). It does not necessarily mean the presence of dialogue, or even acknowledging body language. “Communication” can occur when as Dwyer (1999) referenced from Watzalawick, et al. (1967) thought that people can not communicate. Even when a person ignores another person, something is being communicated. This is one of the barriers to communication in the case study, where Mary Ong is not getting the response or help she requested from Tom Ballard.

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Mary Ong, Supervisor of in-flight services Kuala Lumpur Division was trying to obtain various statistics and figures from Tom Ballard, Passenger Services Kuala Lumpur Division was met with an “ignore response” from Ballard. This communicates to Ong a sense of disapproval from Ballard and a sense of what she has the initiative of improving is not worthy of Ballard’s time. Ong was met with a degree of unresponsiveness and in-cooperation that held her back from her task.

Failure to meet expectations also leads to the disruption in communications in the case study. As Ong grew too frustrated at Ballard’s lack of response, she had to direct a memo at Harry Lee, the Vice-President of Inflight Services for Kuala Lumpur about the behaviour of Ballard. Van DerWall (2000) describes a possible loss of morale in cases of non-communication. Ong was trying to make the system more efficient and fluid for personnel and passenger alike. Ballards’ behaviour was not fitting to the effective and productive communication aspect of group culture that firms support in their culture.

Effective and productive communication occurs as defined by Dwyer (1999) when a party can transmit their ideas/values to another through verbal, non-verbal or graphic means. Communication on the receiver’s part is then defined as the process by which people select, organize and interpret data in order to give a message meaning.

Select, Organize and Interpret. In this example, Ballard has received the request, assessed it and then interpreted it to be unimportant. This created intra-organizational conflict by the means of a break in communication between the different divisions of the airline.

Intra-organizational conflict occurs whenever people or divisions inside that organization perceive different or even incompatible goals to a given situation. Cyert and March (1963) defined organizations as a series of interdependent units with often competing interests. In the case study, this is held so because of Tom Ballards’ excuses during the meeting held the Vice President of In-Flight Services, Harry Lee about why he did provide Mary Ong with the requested information.

Ballard held that it was generally not his job description to report to Mary Ong and that he had not the time to process her request. His interests’ were not in the same way as Ongs’ interests and so he did not aid her in her project. Ballards Division was not ultimately answerable to Ongs’ Division and hence, did not aid Ong in her initiative of change. This then promoted another barrier to effective communication: task conflict.

Jehn (1995) defined task conflict as existing “when there are disagreements among group members about the content of tasks being performed, including differences in viewpoints, ideas, and opinions” (p. 258). In the case study, Ballard held a different opinion to Ong about the ways one can go about in the organization attempting to gather information to facilitate a change. He held to Harry Lee that he himself had ideas about ways to change the system to better streamline it, “You know I’ve also had ideas on how to improve the system for quite some time.”

The barrier to Effective Communication in this area of the case study is the apathy of Ballard to put forward his motions of change to the establishment or even go about in the correct channels. His retort of “Any way, she’s going about it all wrong” also serves to further demonstrate his diminutive viewpoint of Ongs’ initiative. VanDer Wall (2000) on conflict described unresolved conflict can lead to litigation, strikes, poor morale, loss of important relationships, reduced opportunities for learning and change or all of the above.

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It was a very discouraging attitude that can lead to further heightening of Barriers to communication by discouraging Ong and other people like her searching for information internally to not request Ballard for help, even though he may be the only person that has the information.

Therefore, there were four barriers to effective communication in the case study. One, the sense of unimportance and irrelevance of her work that Ong received through the “ignore” communication response Ballard was projecting. Two, Failure to Meet Expectations, which lead to Ong sending a memo to Harry Lee that suggests a fall in Ong’s morale of the company. Three, communication on the receiver’s part not in the interests of group productivity. Four, task conflict. There was no division of labour that was recognized by Ballard. Five, Ballard’s apathy in instigating a change of his own ideas to Lee and creating an intra-organization awareness that work on this project was being undertaken already.

What can Harry Lee do negotiate a successful resolution to this conflict?

Kennedy (1997) wrote that negotiation is about the management of movement from conflicting positions towards an agreement, which often means getting beyond the positional posturing of some of the people with whom we must negotiate. Kennedy discusses a great deal in work about negotiating not only on the professional level but also how the other party’s personalities come into play.

Harry Lee is in a position as such where he has to negotiate a successful resolution to the conflict. He must also calculate as Kennedy (1997) argues how the party’s personalities affect the situation. Lee must make an assessment of the situation and personalities to better facilitate the resolving of the conflict. For example, Lee could find out if one of the reasons why Ballard was so uncooperative in providing information was that he feared that if Ong’s proposals were used and his ones rejected, it would put his job in danger.

Perhaps Ong and himself were competitors for an upcoming promotion and this particular issue could swing it either way. Kennedy (1997) wrote, “It helps when resolving disputes to focus on the interests of the parties concerned.” Harry Lee should, in the name of good management, pay attention to the issues undercurrent to the face value of improving an aspect of passenger service.

Goldsmith (1999) suggests a technique of being able to negotiate collaboratively rather than aggressively, look for values, standards, or rules that will help resolve the dispute fairly, to mutual satisfaction. Adler (1989) also agrees with the addition of how the mediator must always be assertive and not choosing between their needs and others.

Harry Lee, in this difficult conflict situation, must be able to follow these guidelines to help resolve the problem.

An aggressive approach to negotiation, Goldsmith (1999) argues, will only lead to further conflicts involving personalities and a situation will arise where people will be further away from the effective dialogue and further away from a mutually acceptable resolution. Aggressive approaches to conflict resolution only ever lead to a further spiralling away from mutual resolution.

A more “Collaborative” angle of conflict resolution where parties involved work together to collaborate a mutual ground and then finding an acceptable solution in this middle ground is a much more successful technique. All parties involved will participate in the drawing up of the final solution and hence, all peoples’ concerns may be discussed when it arrives in the collaborating.

Looking for values entails also what Kennedy (1997) argues in that the people involved in the conflict must take into account the interests of the other party involved, not only their professional interests and angles but their personal agendas or nuances.

Standards and Rules in helping to resolve conflict are also an aid. If the Airline has a memo or a manual defining the proper process and channels of how one goes around requesting information and/or aid outside their division, Harry Lee may be the objective voice of the airline and apply the rules to the fact and solve the conflict thereby applying the rules of engagement to Ballard and Ong! In addition, if a precedent has already been set in the organization concerning the same facts, then the precedent should also be taken into consideration when resolving the conflict.

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Jameson (1999) found in her research on Kolb and Glidden (1986) findings that third parties sometimes take on a problem-solving role. In their study, they used the term “problem solver” to refer to a collaborative strategy where third parties encouraged the open sharing of information to settle conflicts in a way that promoted understanding and prevented the recurrence of the conflict.

Such an application into this scenario where the resolution of this conflict is as such that Ong and Ballard would be at a mutual understanding would be invaluable. Lee would have to undertake the role of the “problem solver” and resolve the conflict.

Actual steps to Conflict Resolution include the general guideline set out by Goldsmith (1999). This guideline was designed to be an overall layout of how conflicts in the workplace can best be resolved. Goldsmith discusses the stages of a conflict, that the first stage is that of an “impasse”, where people are stuck in the problem from which they would like to escape and “transformation” how it is possible to move out of the conflict by understanding what got us stuck in the first place. Eight steps are detailed.

1. Understanding the context and culture of conflict. Discovering the meaning of the conflict yourself and your adversary leads not simply to settlement, but awareness, acceptance and resolution of the reasons for the conflict.

2. Listening with your heart. Listening actively, openly, empathically, and with heart takes you to the centre of your conflict, where paths to resolution and transformation converge.

3. Embracing and acknowledging emotions. When intense emotions are not suppressed but communicated openly and directly to the person to whom they are connected; invisible barriers are lifted to resolution and transformation.

4. Searching below the surface for the hidden meaning of the conflict. Beneath the issues lie hidden fears, desires, interests, emotions, histories, and intentions that tell us what is wrong and become a source of liberation and transformation.

5. Separating what matters from what’s in the way. The road to resolution lies not in a debate over who is right, but dialogue, where our focus shifts from competition over positions to collaboration to satisfy our mutual needs.

6. Learning from difficult behaviours. In every conflict, we confront difficult behaviours that provide us with chances to improve our skills and develop empathy, patience, and perseverance.

7. Solving problems creatively and committing to action. Creative problem solving helps resolve conflicts, but transformation requires the energy, uncertainty, and duality of an enigma, paradox, and contradiction. Solving our problems means committing to action.

8. Exploring resistance and mediating before you litigate. All resistance reflects an unmet need and is a request for authentic communication. Exploring resistance helps us unlock our conflicts and overcome the impasse. Mediation encourages collaboration, dialogue, and solutions that meet mutual needs without the pain and expense of litigation.

Lewis (1999) succinctly argued in the area of intra-organizational conflict to plan well. Plan to eliminate as many of the impediments to cooperation as you can. Lee can take this advice into account by planning out a document that clearly defines the channels of information gathering on the Vertical Channel. This would erase most of the basis for the impediments to cooperation as there is a manual or a guidebook that clearly states the responsibilities of the party that made the request for information and the responsibilities of the person responding to the request for information.


TO: Alan Brock Vice President of Passenger Services-K.L.

Tom Ballard Passenger Services Representative- K.L.

Mary Ong Supervisor of In-flight Services-K.L.

FROM: Harry Lee Vice President of In-flight Services-K.L.

DATE: 1st May 2000

SUBJECT: Communication and Organizational Goals

To the above mentioned

This Transmittal/Announcement Memo regards the importance of Horizontal and Vertical Communication in achieving Organizational Goals. This memo is being sent out in light of the recent misunderstandings concerning information tabulation and collation between departments regarding several aspects of passenger information.

Omega Airlines’ Organizational Goals include harmonic communication between departments. This will lead to better productivity, better customer service and better profits. By allowing internal Communication Channels to go, we cannot hope to meet these goals. Productivity will go. Customer Service will go. Profits will go. And ultimately, your jobs will go. This memo will describe the importance of vertical and horizontal channels of communication with respect to organizational goals.

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Vertical Communication

Defined as the channels of communication that move communication up to and down betwixt different levels in the organization in Dwyer (1999), this means of communication is very important in the organization. Primarily, this form of communication allows one area of the organization to tap into another’s pool of records and information.

This would allow for the speedier, more efficient and more productive way of doing things. In turn, the quicker all the theory is sussed out, the sooner we can make recommendations on when we can begin to start the practical implications. And this would lead to the better functioning of Omega Airlines.

In this case, once the proper information has been collated, we may begin assessing the theory and if held practical and indeed, money and time saving, a start date for the practical side of the paper will commence soon.

Horizontal Communication

Defined under Dwyer (1999) as a communication channel that operates between colleagues at the same level within the organization’s structure, this means of communications is important too, as it is the basis for work within ones division. If no one in the organization talked to their co-workers, then nothing would get done.

Horizontal Communications has the application of increasing “in-house productivity”. An open, unobstructed stream of “in-house” or “in-divisional” communication will increase the division’s productivity and efficiency rate. Proper means of procedure may be discussed between the lowest of the Divisions’ Hierarchy to the upper echelons of the same division can only lead to a better understanding of how to get the job done right.

Overall, the more clear a picture a person has of their placer in the Division’s scheme of things, the better they may be able to work and even contribute if they see a problem in one part of the Division affecting another as they have a cohesive picture of the whole Division Framework and not just their own cubicle.

Please feel free to memo back your any questions on this memo. If further clarification is needs, please contact my secretary for a meeting on the extension 0312.

Yours sincerely

Harry Lee

Vice President

In-Flight Services –K.L.


Reference List

Journal Articles

Jameson, J.K., 1999, “Toward a comprehensive model for the assessment and management of intra-organizational conflict: Developing the framework.: International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol 10., issue 3, pp 268-294.

Goldsmith, M., 1999,“Conflict Resolution,” Executive Excellence Vol. 16, issue 10,pp 17-18

Jehn I.C, 1997, “A Qualitative Analysis of conflict types and dimensions in Organizational Groups,” Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 42, pp 530-557.

Kennedy, G., 1997, “Shake and Attack” Supply Management, Vol. 2, issue 25, pp 32-34.

Lewis,B. 1999, “Don’t plan to reorganize but instead, vow to make the most of what you have” Infoworld, Vol. 21, issue 2, pp 91.

Van DerWall, S, 2000,”Resolving Conflicts at Work: A Complete Guide for Everyone on the Job” HRMagazine, Vol. 45, issue 3, pp 172-173.


Text Books:

Adler, R.B., “Principles and Practices for Business and the Professions, 3rd ed,”Random House, New York, United States

Cyert, R.M. & March, J.G. 1963, “A Behavioural Theory of the Firm,” Prentice Hall , New York, United States

Dwyer, J.,1999, “Communication in Business: Strategies and Skills,” Prentice Hall, Sydney, Australia

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