2 part paper, will need the same tudor for both parts


Interpersonal Communication in the Workplace

Learning Objectives

In this chapter, readers will explore interpersonal communication in business and professional settings. By the end of this chapter, readers will be able to

• Identify workplace communication behaviors • Explain how interpersonal communication can enhance professional success • Understand the different types of formal and informal workplace relationships • Describe how new and emerging technologies continue to change workplace

communication • Apply suggestions for successful interpersonal business and professional communication to




Introduction Chapter 6

Introduction To illustrate the intricacy of communication in a business and professional setting, consider the following scenario that takes place between two coworkers, Patrick and Megan, and their boss, Suzanne:

Patrick and Megan work as lawyers in a mid-sized law firm in Memphis, Tennessee. Neither of them is from the area, so once they were hired, they immediately forged a close friendship. They found that they both had common interests, such as watching football, baking, and talking about their partners and kids. Because Patrick and Megan do not practice the same type of law, they do not work together very frequently; however, they attend many of the same meetings and are both sometimes a part of cases that their firm takes on. Though they do not collaborate at work very often, they do frequently talk about their coworkers, the policies at the firm, and their boss, Suzanne.

Suzanne is actually a frequent topic of conversation between Patrick and Megan. Sometimes, they do not understand her managerial style, and they find themselves commiserating with each other about decisions that she has made or policies that she has introduced. They feel that talking to each other is better than complaining to Suzanne because, overall, they do enjoy their jobs. Patrick and Megan are also careful to rarely have these conversations at work; instead, they will e-mail, text, instant message, or chat on the phone about Suzanne.

Suzanne, however, has picked up on the fact that Patrick and Megan are very close and believes that their friendship is actually a detriment to the organization. She sees their close- ness as reducing overall employee morale, such as when she (and other employees) notice them rolling their eyes at each other during meetings, or when she finds them frequently talking in each other’s offices with their doors closed. Because of this, Suzanne has cautioned newer attorneys in the firm from getting too close to Patrick and Megan, because she does not want them to engage in the types of behaviors that they do.

Think about this situation from both sides. Patrick and Megan see their friendship as harmless. It does not directly affect their work, and it offers them something to look forward to when they go to work each day. They enjoy having someone else at work who understands and can empathize when things get stressful or overwhelming. But from Suzanne’s perspective, Patrick and Megan’s friendship is a threat to her and to the organization. She views them as talking about her behind her back and as undermining her leadership. Who is right? How can this issue be best resolved? Should Suzanne talk about this issue with Patrick and Megan?

In this situation, we see the importance of a number of business and professional communica- tion concepts, including formal and informal communication, conflict management, relationship maintenance, and expressing negative emotion. We will touch on each of these specific aspects of business and professional communication, and many more, in this chapter.

In this text, you will have the opportunity to examine interpersonal communication in a range of contexts, including everyday conversations, friendships, family interactions, romantic relation- ships, and mediated settings. In Chapter 6, we focus specifically on interpersonal communication in business and professional settings such as in the workplace and in the classroom. We examine the requirements for effective communication in this environment, consider the types of formal and informal relationships that we can have, and we explore how communication in such envi- ronments differs from interactions in your personal life. This chapter will end with a discussion about suggestions for successful interpersonal business and professional communication.

Business and Professional Communication Chapter 6

6.1 Business and Professional Communication Almost everyone will be employed at some sort of job during his or her lifetime. It may be a part-time summer job between school semesters, a volunteer position with a charity or nonprofit organization, or a full-time career. Consider the various types of jobs available to you, how would you respond if someone asked you, “Why do you work?” Many people would say, “I work because I have to,” or, “I work to pay the bills.” Although these are our primary reasons for working, and are certainly important, most of us derive additional, important benefits from our work. The non- monetary rewards from our jobs fall into two main categories: self-fulfillment—the feelings of competence, recognition, and personal reward from knowing a job and doing it well—and social interaction—the feeling of being part of a team and the social relationships with coworkers. We maintain these business relationships through communication, which we also use to seek and share information, make decisions, coordinate and complete tasks, and influence and motivate others in business and professional contexts (Myers, Seibold, & Park, 2011).

Business and professional communication (BPC) is a broad communication context that includes all of the different forms of messages exchanged in the workplace or in a professional setting. This definition can include written and oral communication, both verbal and nonverbal, and can also take place in digital or mediated contexts. BPC also encompasses the gathering and dissemination of information that is relevant to that particular business setting, as well as the promotion of a specific product, service, or organization. Advertising, public relations, market- ing, crisis and reputation management, human resources, event planning, and corporate com- munications are all areas of BPC, and BPC in all of these specific areas involves how coworkers or members of a professional organization interpersonally relate to one another.

Communication in these professional settings is not solely about the work that we do. We also communicate with our colleagues at work because we like them. We build interpersonal rela- tionships with them that we wish to maintain, and we want to give and receive social support from them. In fact, the interpersonal component of our business and professional relationships is vital. For example, a study examining the demands of work found that support from peers in the workplace buffered employees from the negative health effects of job stress and strain, which then reduced employee mortality (Shirom, Toker, Alkaly, Jacobson, & Balicer, 2011). Arie Shirom and colleagues also found that this colleague support, which involved immediate coworkers being friendly and helpful with solving problems, reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety (Shirom et al., 2011). Our interpersonal relationships in the workplace thus can positively impact our health in multiple, important ways, and this chapter will focus on this and other interper- sonal aspects of BPC.

The Importance of Interpersonal Communication in the Workplace

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013), Americans age 25–54 who have children spend an average of 8.8 hours working during a typical workday. This significant time devoted to working drives home the importance of competent communication in business and profes- sional settings. Interpersonal and written communication skills are some of the most important skills you can develop to help you achieve your academic and professional goals. In business, government, and other professional fields, people communicate to share information, to per- suade others, to reach goals and obtain results, and to form positive relationships with clients and customers (Picardi, 2001). A number of career and employer organizations conduct surveys of employers to determine which skills are particularly important for employers and find that various forms of communication are consistently rated as important. For example, each year,

Business and Professional Communication Chapter 6

the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) surveys its employer members to project the job market for new college graduates. Each year employers rate the most in-demand bachelor’s degrees. The 2013 survey indicates that communication degrees, as a broad category, are the fifth most in-demand degree, with almost 33% of employers surveyed indicating that they would hire individuals who majored in communication (NACE, 2012).

In addition, NACE employers are asked to rate the importance of 10 skills and qualities on a scale of 1 through 5, with 1 representing “not important” and 5 representing “extremely important.” The top two skills are verbal interpersonal skills and teamwork skills, both abilities that are directly related to interpersonal communication (NACE, 2012). The skills of obtaining and processing information, writing reports, and selling or influencing others are also an integral part of inter- personal communications with others in the workplace. Time and again employers also report that they value listening, leadership, management of others, and multicultural awareness and sensitivity (Hansen & Hansen, n.d.). A similar employer survey asked business executives about the top 10 soft skills, or the intangible interpersonal qualities and personal attributes that job seekers need, in addition to the hard skills, or the technical knowledge and expertise, required for a particular job (Robles, 2012). Three of these 10 most important soft skills directly involve interpersonal communication skills: communication (ranked second), interpersonal skills (fifth), and teamwork skills (ninth) (Robles, 2012).

Though employers consistently rate com- munication as an important skill, job seek- ers, especially Millennials (between the ages of 19 and 26), may not be doing an effective job presenting such skills to prospective employers. A recent survey conducted by an online career network, Beyond.com (2013), polled 6,000 job seekers and veteran human resource (HR) professionals, finding a sub- stantial difference between how members of the Millennial generation view themselves as employee prospects and how HR pro- fessionals perceive such prospective candi- dates. Though 66% of the Millennials rated themselves as team players, only 22% of HR people agreed that the Millennials would work well in a team (Beyond.com, 2013). In addition, 65% of the Millennials felt that

their interpersonal communication skills were strong, but only 14% of the HR professionals agreed with this assessment. These perceptual differences may be discouraging for job seekers, but one way to overcome such hurdles is to learn more about interpersonal communication, which can give job seekers an important advantage because they will know how to better communicate who they are and what skills they can offer employers. The simple fact is that employers need and want peo- ple who have good communication skills and are competent communicators in a variety of ways.

Workplace Communication Behaviors

BPC research aims to identify and understand the types of communication that occur in the workplace. A recent study (Keyton et al., 2013) helped pinpoint four routine forms of work- place communication that can help evaluate employee effectiveness. The researchers sought to


▲▲ Employers need and want employees who have good communications skills in a range of interpersonal and group situations.

Business and Professional Communication Chapter 6

determine which communication behaviors individuals use frequently in the workplace and how these messages are evaluated by coworkers (Keyton et al., 2013). This study defined workplace communication behaviors as social behaviors that employees engage in with coworkers, which then create connections between the individual employees and the larger organization. There are a few key purposes of such behaviors. Workplace communication behaviors

• Serve important functions • Are undertaken to accomplish goals • Are interactive because they involve other individuals • Are learnable • Are observable

Joann Keyton and her colleagues (2013) argued that it is important to identify these behaviors because they are relevant to how organizations evaluate employee performance, competence, and skill.

To identify these behaviors in the workplace, Keyton and colleagues (2013) conducted two stud- ies. The first study helped researchers generate a list of workplace behaviors that were commu- nicative in nature. The second study then allowed researchers to organize the list of behaviors into broader categories and examine each category in relation to effectiveness—an employee’s perceived ability in that particular area—and communication competence. Four broad workplace communication behavior categories emerged from Keyton and colleagues’ analysis:

• Information sharing: task-related behaviors such as explaining, solving problems, giving feedback and advice, and asking and answering questions

• Relational maintenance: interpersonal relationship-focused actions such as creating rela- tionships, engaging in small talk, and being humorous

• Expressing negative emotion: complaints or frustrations about work or the workplace frustration

• Organizing: administrative-type behaviors such as scheduling and planning, personnel management, and problem solving

There are elements of each of these four behavior categories in the scenario that was described at the beginning of the chapter. Patrick and Megan each share information about the policies of the firm where they work, and each also expresses negative emotions about their boss, Suzanne. Suzanne is organizing as she attempts to understand the friendship between her two employees and its possible influence on their coworkers and the organization. Throughout the scenario, Patrick, Megan, and Suzanne are also independently attempting to maintain workplace relation- ships by trying to work through the situation (though it might be more constructive if they com- municated and worked through concerns as a team). Of these four workplace communication behavior categories, information sharing, relational maintenance, and organizing were associated with increased self-reported communication competence, whereas expressing negative emotion was unrelated to self-reported competence (Keyton et al., 2013). In other words, engaging in information sharing, maintaining relationships, and organizing were perceived by participants as appropriate and effective workplace communication behaviors. Further, though information sharing and maintaining relationships are often viewed by researchers as important factors in workplace communication processes, organization behaviors and the expression of negative emo- tion are important additional behaviors that help communication scholars understand how indi- viduals in business and professional settings communicate. Everyday Communication Challenges elaborates on expressing feelings in the work environment.

How Interpersonal Communication Can Enhance Professional Success Chapter 6

6.2 How Interpersonal Communication Can Enhance Professional Success

Though BPC tends to focus on how colleagues communicate with one another about business and professional matters, interpersonal messages and relationships among colleagues are also integral to workplace success. As we have seen, social support from our colleagues helps buf- fer against negative health effects that stem from work, and employers recognize and seek out the value of interpersonal communication when hiring new employees. In addition, maintaining relationships with colleagues is also an important aspect of BPC. The next sections will explore additional ways that interpersonal communication can enhance your success at work and your career advancement.


Expressing Feelings in the Workplace

Every day you are surrounded by people who interact in ways that are different from yours. You col- laborate with them and share informal and formal messages with them. Have you ever been frus- trated by something a coworker said? Has your boss not paid attention to you when you thought he or she should? Has a client made your life a little more difficult? As you just read, workplace communication behaviors that express negative emotions by complaining or venting frustration are unrelated to communication competence. This means that consistently expressing feelings that are negative does not contribute to how effective and appropriate you are in your business and profes- sional communication.

Most people do want to build and maintain good relationships with their coworkers, so a well- thought-out conversation about your experiences may make the workplace more pleasant for everyone. First, be sure not to respond too hastily. The best way to deal with a strong emotional response is to let that emotion die down so you can approach the topic rationally. Second, try to figure out why you felt that emotion in the first place. Was it because you didn’t feel respected? Was it because you felt frustrated because you had to say or do the same thing over and over again? Was it because you felt like no one listened to you? Identifying the source of the emotion can help you figure out what to do to alleviate it. Third, jot down a list of things you might want to say, and then reread it after a short break, imagining that you were on the other side, hearing those things about yourself. Does your list make sense? Does your list make you mad? Does your list say what you really want to say and assist you in doing so in a competent manner? Finally, ask the person involved for a good time to discuss your feelings. It’s never helpful to spring a difficult con- versation on someone, particularly when he or she is busy doing something else. If you follow these rules and keep your complaining and venting to a minimum, everyone will hopefully be happier in the long run.

Critical Thinking Questions

1. Do you think that expressing negative emotions is an essential form of informal communication in the workplace? What potential functions might this form of communication serve?

2. Have you had a similar experience in a business or professional setting? If so, how did you handle it? What information from this chapter may have altered how you responded?

3. How might you consider the situation and approach the person involved differently if this was a situation that occurred in a mediated setting (i.e., over e-mail or during a videoconference)?

How Interpersonal Communication Can Enhance Professional Success Chapter 6


The term professional is applied to occupations or activities related to work or career that require certain skills, competence, or character. The related concept of professionalism refers to the principles of behavior and communication that are appropriate and effective in these more formal settings. Professionalism is an important soft skill in the workplace (Robles, 2012). The Center for Professional Excellence (CPE), which conducts an annual survey on professionalism in the work- place, reported in 2012 that HR professionals and managers designate a number of components of professionalism, including interpersonal skills, communication skills, appearance, time man- agement, knowledge, confidence, ethics, and productivity. Many of these components are directly related to verbal and nonverbal communication skills necessary to communicate with others in business and professional settings.

The communication skills discussed thus far in this text apply to professional settings just as much as they do to other environments. However, the context of a professional environment, such as the college classroom or the workplace, imposes some specific requirements on the ways that individuals communicate. Some of the most important requirements for conveying profes- sionalism to others are outlined in the following sections. Many of the elements are central in business and professional settings but are important in our personal lives as well.

Formal Language Formal language is more careful, articulate, and mannered than everyday speech. It is used to express serious thought and is clear, accurate, and not overly emotional. Formal language is the standard speech of the academic world and the appropriate language in most professional workplaces, with clients or customers, in professional writing, and in public speaking situa- tions. Formal language avoids colloquial- isms, slang, verbal fillers such as “like,” and biased language. In these ways, using for- mal language conveys professionalism.

If we have established a familiar relation- ship with someone, we often use slang expressions in our conversations, e-mails, and text messages, and we worry less about using correct punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure. It can be argued that everyday conversations, social network posts, text messages, and personal e-mails have conditioned us to respond quickly and briefly to messages via both mediated and face-to-face channels. Specifically, Larry Rosen and his colleagues (Rosen, Chang, Erwin, Carrier, & Cheever, 2010) found that individuals with no or some college educa- tion who used more brief language in their electronic interactions created formal writing that was of lower quality. This was also the case for individuals who had some college education and who also sent more text and instant messages. As a result, when we must deliver an oral presentation at work or send a well-written letter or e-mail to a customer, we may be unsure how best to proceed. Failing to recognize the necessity of a more formal communication style in a professional setting is a significant mistake that people

James Woodson/Photodisc/Thinkstock

▲▲ We often use informal language when we have a familiar relationship with someone, but formal language should be used in academic and professional settings.

How Interpersonal Communication Can Enhance Professional Success Chapter 6

make in the classroom and the workplace. However, formal communication matters: Poor verbal skills during an interview, including incorrect grammar, often have negative consequences for job candidates (Center for Professional Excellence, 2012).

Integrity Plagiarizing, providing false or incomplete information to others (either in writing or orally), lying, and cheating are behaviors that demonstrate a lack of integrity. So are missing deadlines and not doing what you say you will do. Crucial for both personal and professional success, integ- rity involves behaving and communicating honestly and ethically, being true to your word, and honoring your commitments. Business executives ranked integrity as the most important soft skill in the workplace (Robles, 2012). Lack of integrity affects your reputation and undermines others’ trust in you, and thus negatively affects your professionalism. It is extremely difficult to restore trust in a relationship once it is broken.

Respect for Others Respect for others is also imperative for success in your personal and professional life. Be con- siderate of others by using respectful language, being polite, and being encouraging. Someone who is respectful also appreciates diversity, values differences among coworkers, avoids biased language and attitudes, and calls people by the terms and names that they prefer to be called. Over the past few decades, for example, language in professional settings has evolved to replace sexist and other biased terms with more inclusive language (see examples of alternative terms outlined in Table 6.1). Using more inclusive language demonstrates respect for others, which in turn reflects professionalism.

Table 6.1: Replacing sexist or biased language with inclusive terms

Sexist or Biased Term Inclusive Term businessman business owner, business executive, or business person

cancer victim; AIDS victim cancer patient; person with AIDS

chairman chairperson or chair

confined to a wheelchair uses a wheelchair

congressman congressperson

Eskimo Inuit or Aleut

fireman firefighters

freshman first-year student

Indian (when referring to U.S. indigenous peoples) Native American or specific tribe

policeman police officer

man or mankind people, humanity, or the human race

man hours working hours

man-made manufactured, machine made, or synthetic

manpower personnel or workforce

Negro or colored African American or black

old people or elderly senior citizen, mature adult, older adult

Oriental Asian, Asian American, or specific country of origin

postman or mailman postal worker or mail carrier

steward or stewardess flight attendant

suffers from diabetes has diabetes

to man to operate, to staff, to cover

waiter or waitress server

How Interpersonal Communication Can Enhance Professional Success Chapter 6

Personal Responsibility Responsibility is yet another important soft skill for business executives and that is evidence of one’s professionalism (Robles, 2012). In professional settings, you alone are responsible for motivating yourself, for getting your work done effectively and efficiently, for making sure that you meet your obligations and deadlines, and for avoiding distractions or wasting time. To say that someone is professional implies that the person is highly skilled, competent, works indepen- dently, and gets the job done on time.

Collaboration People in professional environments often work together to achieve goals, and in the previous section the importance of teamwork in the workplace was verified in multiple surveys of impor- tant job skills (e.g., NACE, 2013; Robles, 2012). To be successful in these team efforts requires good interpersonal communication skills, and the ability to collaborate, or to work cooperatively with others to accomplish goals. It is common in classrooms and in the workplace to form work groups, project teams, task forces, committees, and other groups to accomplish tasks. The suc- cessful outcome of the effort often depends on each person performing his or her specific tasks well. Thus being collaborative is a final integral component of professionalism.

Professional Reputation

The verbal and nonverbal messages that you use in the workplace or the classroom can affect your reputation. Emily Bennington and Skip Lineberg (2010), authors of Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job, state that in many instances, people’s professional reputations are not destroyed by one or two major errors. Instead, their reputations are chipped away over time by continual communication mistakes. Some of the specific mistakes that can negatively impact your professional reputation, or how much professionalism that you are perceived to have by your clients and colleagues, are discussed in the following sections.

E-Mail Errors Although e-mails are often used in the workplace as a substitute for letters or memos, they are also used in professional settings in place of face-to-face or telephone conversations. Professional reputations are frequently harmed by the errors people make with e-mail messages. Everyone makes an occasional mistake, but consistent errors in punctuation, grammar, spelling, and sen- tence structure create negative impressions among people who read your e-mail. Sending per- sonal messages such as jokes or chain letters, using biased or offensive language, and including abbreviations that may not be understood by others are other common e-mail problems that can affect an employee’s professional reputation. Sending inappropriate messages on work computers can be harmful to your career as well; they are usually a violation of organizational policies.

Misunderstandings are also frequent in e-mail communication because the tone of the commu- nication is often difficult to determine. The short, informal style of many e-mail messages can be interpreted by a recipient as terse or rude. It is best to carefully proofread each e-mail that you send to your professional recipients and ensure that the e-mail’s content is clear and easily understood.

Communication in Meetings When you communicate in workplace meetings, you must be sensitive to the organizational culture, or how an organization’s mission, values, and attitudes are translated into communica- tion policies and practices (Eisenberg & Riley, 2001), know when it is prudent to speak up or to remain silent, and know how much information to share. When the meeting leader asks, “That’s about it; any questions?” it might be an invitation to ask about anything you did not understand. However, it might also be a ritual to end the meeting, and no response is expected or appreciated.

How Interpersonal Communication Can Enhance Professional Success Chapter 6

New employees are often ambitious or eager to make an impression and may think that they will be judged negatively if they sit through a meeting without saying anything. To be useful, how- ever, contributions in meetings need to be thoughtful and relevant and have a strong foundation (Wolgemuth, 2010). When you are in a meeting, be attentive and ask questions when critical issues need clarification, but be wary of interjecting unless you have something important to add. In a new work environment, analyze the responses of others to determine the type of response that is effective and appropriate in each situation. Some organizations encourage open and hon- est dialogue about issues; others do not. Knowing the expectations of your workplace will help you assess how to behave in meetings.

Interrupting others, embarrassing them, or focusing on issues that are relevant just to you in a meeting can also negatively affect your professional reputation in the workplace. It is crucial to support your boss and coworkers when you are in public settings. Make sure your loyalty is thoughtful and deliberate, however, not just blind allegiance (Wolgemuth, 2010). (The Web Field Trip feature offers tips for learning workplace communication.)

Job Satisfaction

Our professional success not only depends on how professional we are to others, but also on how we feel about our jobs. One way to assess your perception of your job is via job satisfaction, which is defined as the emotional response one has regarding multiple aspects of his or her pro- fessional environment (Wheeless, Wheeless, & Howard, 1984). In other words, job satisfaction is your personal evaluation or appraisal of how much you enjoy and are content with your employ- ment situation. Any number of factors can contribute to how satisfied you are with your job, including the number of hours that you work, the amount of money that you make, and the num- ber and type of job responsibilities that you have. In addition, research has found that a major component of job satisfaction is the business and professional communication in which you take


Leadership Skills and Communication

Observing others can help you understand what language and which behaviors are appropriate and effective in different interactions. For example, you can observe the communication of business leaders and other professionals as they interact. If you would like to learn how to be an effective and professional public speaker, consider attending a meeting of Toastmasters International, which is an international organization with local chapters all over the world. Founded in 1924, it is a non- profit group dedicated to helping people improve their speaking and leadership skills. You can find meeting locations, learn more about Toastmasters, and find free resources and speaking tips and techniques on the website (www.toastmasters.org). Under the Video Resources tab, click “view gal- lery 2” found under the heading “Toastmasters Time-tested Communication Tips on Video.” Locate and view the Gestures and Body Language video, which provides specific communication tips, and consider the following questions.

Critical Thinking Questions

1. What are the main suggestions provided in the video? How can you apply this to improve your workplace interactions?

2. How does the presenter in the video use nonverbal communication to convey his message? Do you think his gestures are appropriate and useful?

How Interpersonal Communication Can Enhance Professional Success Chapter 6

part, including both verbal and nonverbal messages. We explore how some of these messages are related to job satisfaction in the next sections.

Verbal Messages What is said in business and professional settings can increase or decrease an employee’s job sat- isfaction. In general, organizations that stress open communication and that are willing to share information have more satisfied employees. In addition, communication between superiors and subordinates is one major verbal communication contributor to subordinates’ job satisfactions. For example, when supervisors used positive or prosocial messages—such as being friendly and showing that they like their subordinates—to convey their power, subordinates were more satis- fied than when antisocial power messages, such as those that control or punish the subordinate, were employed (Teven, 2007). Further, satisfaction with one’s supervisor was the only one of six components of job satisfaction that was negatively related to oral communication apprehension (Gibbs, Rosenfeld, & Javidi, 1994).

Conflict is also an influential element in the workplace (De Dreu, van Dierendonck, & Dijkstra, 2004). For example, unresolved conflict is a major reason that employees leave their jobs (Chen, Zhao, Liu, & Wu, 2012). How we engage in conflict with our colleagues at work is also associated with job satisfaction. The following items reveal specific research findings about employees’ job satisfactions:

• Job satisfaction was higher in companies that encouraged their employees to cooperate and collaborate with one another in conflict situations (Choi, 2013).

• Job satisfaction was lower in businesses where conflict was dealt with via active confronta- tion (Choi, 2013).

• Compromising when in conflict is positively related to job satisfaction (Chen et al., 2012). • Constructive conflict cultures may reduce employee burnout, making the employees more

satisfied with their jobs (Choi, 2013). • Employees are less satisfied with their jobs in destructive conflict cultures, which may then

increase employee burnout (Choi, 2013).

Nonverbal Messages In addition to verbal communication, a variety of nonverbal mes- sages have been associated with job satisfaction in business and pro- fessional communication research. Nonverbal immediacy involves a collection of specific nonverbal messages such as eye contact and smiling that together increase your feelings of closeness with another person. We tend to be drawn to those who use nonverbal immediacy, and this can contribute to job satisfaction. For example, when supe- riors communicated higher nonverbal immediacy to their subordi- nates, the job satisfaction of subordinates increased (Teven, 2007).

Time, or chronemics, is another nonverbal message that is related to job satisfaction. Dawna Ballard and David Seibold (2006) found that multiple elements of time predicted employee job satisfaction. Specifically, individuals with more of a future time focus, where future developments and long-term goals were emphasized, and

▶▲Nonverbal immediacy and chronemics are two specific non- verbal communication concepts related to job satisfaction.

Maria Teijeiro/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

Types of Workplace Relationships Chapter 6

employees with higher punctuality experienced greater job satisfaction. In contrast, employees who were expected to keep a faster pace were less satisfied with their jobs. Together, time orienta- tions combine to help employees feel as if they are capable of meeting the demands of their jobs, thus contributing to their job satisfaction (Ballard & Seibold, 2006).

6.3 Types of Workplace Relationships One person can serve any number of the roles that are possible in business and professional contexts. We have bosses, and we may also supervise other employees. We work in teams with other individuals. We assist the clients that the company serves and collaborate with individuals at other organizations. We represent our workplace or organization to individuals, groups, and the community at large. In addition, we have friendships and even romantic relationships with those with whom we work. Americans work an average of 35 to 40 hours per week, so forming personal relationships with work colleagues is inevitable; in turn, these workplace friendships can contribute to an organization’s effectiveness. We examine different categories of workplace relationships in this section.

Formal Relationships

The primary relationship in business and professional settings is the formal relationship, which involves the many associations and networks that are designed and dictated by the business or organization. The formal relationships in a business setting should be clear to every employee, whether there are 3 employees or 300,000. Formal relationships allow employees to know who they need to communicate with in order to accomplish a particular task, and who is responsible for which other employees. These relationships are defined by each employee’s job title or posi- tion and can be depicted visually in an organizational flowchart. The interactions that occur in formal relationships are what keep a business or organization going; they could be considered the lifeblood of an organization.

These formal relationships can be further broken down according to the power differentials between each employee, or whether the work-related communication is vertical (downward and upward) or horizontal in nature. In a business or professional context, vertical formal com- munication occurs between individuals of different power differentials. When a business’s CEO sends an e-mail to all of her employees about a new company policy or when a professor talks to a student about a grade, these are both examples of vertical communication. Vertical formal communication can be broken down further based on who initiates the interaction. When a superior begins an interaction with a subordinate (someone lower in the company hierarchy), it is an example of vertical downward communication. This type of communication could occur in the scenario at the beginning of the chapter if Suzanne, their superior, initiated a conversation with Patrick and Megan about their workplace friendship. Conversely, when a subordinate starts communicating with a superior, they engage in a vertical upward communication interaction. In the scenario, for example, Patrick and Megan could communicate their concerns directly to Suzanne.

Horizontal formal communication, in contrast, takes place between employees who are at identical or similar levels of hierarchy in a business or professional context. Two students who talk to each other about a class assignment or a group of salespeople who discuss their monthly quotas are each examples of horizontal formal communication. Work interactions between Patrick and Megan also constitute horizontal communication because they are both lawyers at

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the same firm. Whether there is a power differential that is dictated by the organizational struc- ture determines whether formal communication is vertical or horizontal. Both types of formal communication can also occur simultaneously, such as in a classroom setting or a meeting where superiors and subordinates are both present.

Employees need to seek and share information. Thus formal communications in business and professional settings helps employees accomplish the professional tasks that a business needs to exist and thrive. The importance of formal BPC also goes beyond such tasks. In one study, employees’ satisfaction with how much they interacted with their superior strongly predicted their commitment to the organization (Postmes, Tanis, & de Wit, 2001). In other words, vertical, formal relationships, such as those between superiors and subordinates, strongly contributed to how much the subordinates identified with, felt involved in, and were emotionally attached to their organization. In addition, verbal formal communication was a better predictor of employ- ees’ organizational commitment than horizontal, informal workplace interactions (Postmes et al., 2001). Thus, formal relationships are not only important for accomplishing the tasks that comprise one’s job description, but they also influence employees’ attachment and involvement with the organization.

Informal Relationships

As opposed to the formal relationships that are defined by a company or organization, infor- mal relationships are relationships based on shared interests, mutual regard, and friendship. Informal relationships occur between employees in a business and professional setting, but such interactions have little to do with the company. Nonetheless, informal communication between colleagues is important. Forging interpersonal relations and being familiar with other employees in the workplace helps coworkers feel comfortable, allows them to feel they have the social and emotional support of others, and creates a general sense of community (Myers et al., 2011). It is for these reasons that Patrick and Megan enjoy a close informal friendship with each other.

These informal relationships are enjoyable for those involved and can also benefit the company in a number of ways. For example, informal relationships can increase employees’ enjoyment of work and solidify their place in the organization, reducing the likelihood of employee turnover (Myers et al., 2011). Further, employees who feel more familiar with one another are more will- ing to engage in communication related to the company, including problem solving, discussions, and decision making (Myers & Oetzel, 2003). Despite these benefits some communication issues can arise that make these informal relationships problematic; a few of these are described below.

Inappropriate Topics Many of us spend as much time at work as we do with our families or loved ones. We often become so comfortable with coworkers that we sometimes forget we must maintain profession- alism in our interactions with them. Personal disputes in the workplace can make it difficult for people to work together to achieve organizational goals. To keep these disputes to a minimum, it is best to avoid discussing topics that deal with personal and moral values. The top three topics to steer clear of are sex, politics, and religion.

Charles Purdy, senior editor of job site Monster.com and author of the book Urban Etiquette (2004), states that “if you make gender differences an issue at work, or if you let water-cooler discussion head toward a sex-related topic, you do so at great peril” (p. 84). Some people may be comfortable discussing topics of a sexual nature; however, many people are not. Discussing such topics may offend some people, cause them to be uncomfortable, or create an environment that

Types of Workplace Relationships Chapter 6

they feel is offensive or hostile. Your comments might also be considered sexual harassment, which is a behavior that is against the law.

Politics and religion are also emotional issues for most people. A survey by the American Management Association (AMA) revealed that only 39% of senior executives, managers, and employees said they were comfortable discussing their political views with their colleagues (AMA, 2008). Likewise, off-color jokes have no place at work; not only can they be offensive to many people, but they can also violate company policies and create a hostile work environment, which can have legal ramifications for you and for your company. Laughing and telling elaborate stories about your weekend escapades, bodily functions, and other personal issues also detracts from your professional image and reputation. The safest course, suggests Purdy (2004), is to keep your conversations positive. Resist the temptation to spread negative rumors, to complain about your job, and to speak negatively about anything or anyone.

Workplace Networks It is a mistake to ignore your manager’s or supervisor’s point of view on an issue, but it is also a mistake to continually agree with him or her. Always siding with the boss can cause trouble for you with your coworkers. You were hired to be a contributor to a team effort, and your success depends as much on your associations with your coworkers as it does on your relationship with your boss. Roy Cohen, executive coach and author of the book The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide, reminds us of the importance of good working relations with coworkers. It is important, he states, not to be a lone ranger. Make sure to be an integral part of the team and to socialize with your colleagues at office functions (Cohen, 2010).

As we have discussed throughout this chapter, it is also important in professional settings to pay attention to the informal communication networks that exist in every organization. The grape- vine is one of these informal networks; the term refers to the way information is passed from per- son to person in an organization through casual conversations rather than via formal channels. The grapevine is an important way to find out what is happening throughout the organization, and you should ensure that you are a part of that conversation pathway. But not everything you hear via the grapevine is true. Gossip, which is not necessarily accurate or appropriate informa- tion, is often transmitted via the grapevine. However, this informal network can still serve as an early warning system about possible changes or issues and give you an opportunity to check the information to determine if it is accurate.

Other informal networks might be the Friday night happy hour, the company softball team, the annual company picnic, and similar voluntary events or leisure activities that encourage employ- ees to come together and interact outside of the office. A great deal of information and relation- ship building occurs during these events, and it is important to participate in these opportunities and to socialize with people throughout your organization, when possible.

Why Relationships Are Central to Job Satisfaction

Informal relationships and networks are not only important for your own career advancement and ambitions, but they also contribute to your job satisfaction. Research on informal, interper- sonal relationships in business and professional settings has found that a number of factors are associated with job satisfaction. One variable is the biological sex of the employee. For example, for males, but not females, there was a strong, positive relationship between having strong friend- ships in the workplace and job satisfaction, as well as cohesion with colleagues (Morrison, 2009). Females, on the other hand, were less likely to leave their jobs when they had formed strong work- place friendships, a study finding that did not exist for males (Morrison, 2009).

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How we maintain our workplace friendships is a second concept that is related to job satisfaction. Relationship maintenance, which we will also discuss in more detail in Chapter 8, is accomplished in workplace friend- ships via a number of specific communication strate- gies, including these seven: being positive or upbeat, sharing tasks, managing conflict competently, sharing social networks, being open, giving advice, and assur- ing coworkers about the friendship (Madlock & Booth- Butterfield, 2012). Over 80% of employees in one study reported that they used positivity, conflict manage- ment, and sharing tasks strategies (Madlock & Booth- Butterfield, 2012). Further, each of the above seven relationship maintenance strategies was positively related to job satisfaction in this study, with conflict management and positivity being the best predictors of job satisfaction.

A third way to assess the relationship between infor- mal workplace relationships and job satisfaction is by considering the centrality of an employee in a work- place friendship network. Network centrality focuses on how much an employee participates in and is connected with other individuals in a friendship network (Raile et al., 2008). This concept can be further broken down into three related factors:

• Degree, or the extent to which a coworker is connected to other individuals in the network • Closeness, or the extent to which a coworker can be in contact or communicate with all

other members of the network • Betweenness, or the extent to which a coworker mediates or becomes involved in interac-

tions between two other network members (Raile et al., 2008)

The coworker who organizes happy hours and birthday celebrations for the colleagues that she spends time with socially would be considered fairly central to that friendship network. Of the three aspects of network centrality, Amber Raile and her colleagues (2008) found that only close- ness was positively related to employee job satisfaction at a Korean organization, possibly because closeness reflects an employee’s ability to access organizational resources efficiently. Similarly, behaving in ways that benefit one’s colleagues, such as helping someone who has a particularly heavy workload, is positively related to network centrality in an international Taiwanese bank (Liu & Ipe, 2010).

Challenges of Romantic Workplace Relationships

As we discussed, we often form friendships at work and can forge lasting bonds with people through our professional associations. Because work consumes a great deal of our life, we spend a vast amount of time with coworkers on the job. It is also likely that you will become romantically attracted to the people at work with whom you interact most frequently. From this attraction, a workplace romance might blossom. Workplace romances occur “between two members of an organization where sexual attraction is present, affection is communicated, and both members recognize the relationship to be something more than just professional and platonic” (Horan & Chory, 2011, p. 565).


▲▲ A coworker who organizes happy hours and birthday celebrations for colleagues is central in the office’s friendship network.

The Influence of New and Emerging Technology Chapter 6

Unlike non-workplace romantic relationships, workplace romances often involve two employees who must continue to interact with each other and perhaps even depend on each other to com- plete job tasks even after their romance has ended (Pierce, Byrne, & Aguinis, 1996). These types of relationships are quite common: A survey by Careerbuilder.com found that 40% of workers had dated someone they worked with during their career, and 30% reported that they went on to marry someone they met in the office (“Nearly one-in-five workers,” 2011).

Workplace romances may be common, but they can also be complicated and problematic. They can affect not only the relationship participants but those around them in the work environment. At the minimum, the romantic relationship may be a source of gossip among coworkers. It can also have a negative effect on coworker morale and productivity. Further, workplace romance can negatively impact the credibility of the individuals involved. For example, participants in one study reported that they would perceive individuals who are dating a superior at work more negatively than colleagues who are dating a peer; specifically, there is less trust, solidarity, and caring, and less accurate and honest self-disclosure when interacting with someone who is dating a superior (Horan & Chory, 2009, 2011). Another study found that those dating superiors at work were viewed as being more likely to receive unfair advantages than those dating a peer, a subor- dinate, or an outsider (Malachowski, Chory, & Claus, 2012). Women, in particular, were viewed as less credible by their coworkers if they dated someone above them in the company hierarchy (Horan & Chory, 2011).

Another important issue to consider before you get involved in a workplace romance is that many businesses and organizations have rules or policies that discourage, prohibit, or restrict their employees from having a romance with someone who works in the same organization or the same unit. In a 2013 poll conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 405 human resource professionals and 5,004 employees responded to questions concerning whether their company has such policies (SHRM, 2013). Results from the survey indicate that 58% of the people polled reported that their organizations did not permit or discouraged work- place romances, a decrease from 79% in 2005 (SHRM, 2006). Be sure to check your company’s policies and consider your colleagues’ perceptions of you and your potential partner before enter- ing into a relationship with someone where you work.

6.4 The Influence of New and Emerging Technology on Interpersonal Communication in the Workplace

Thirty years ago, people came to work in the morning, checked their telephone answering machine to retrieve voicemail messages, and read the letters, memos, and notes stacked in the physical “In” boxes on their desks. Most of these voice and printed messages have been replaced by text mes- sages and e-mails. In the office of yesteryear, interpersonal communication took place from 8 to 5 when you met your coworkers at the water cooler, in the break room, or over lunch. While you still see people at work today, you can also form long-lasting relationships online with colleagues you have never physically met and know only through telephone conversations or online interactions.

Mediated communication has dramatically changed almost every aspect of our culture, includ- ing how we interact in business settings. It has changed the way in which we communicate with friends, families, colleagues, and customers. Mediated communication allows people to com- municate over distances and time spans that are not possible in face-to-face communication. Smartphones, for example, allow people to be highly mobile, to work without being physically present in the office, and to be connected to others 24/7 through different media such as e-mail,

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telephone, and instant messaging. Mediated communication often interrupts face-to-face com- munications, however, and forces you to make choices, such as engaging in a face-to-face con- versation with someone or answering a ringing cell phone. It can also affect your interpersonal relationships and require you to increase your awareness of communication contexts and modify your communication behavior for personal and professional success.

Many of the elements of interpersonal communication in the workplace that we have discussed in this chapter apply to mediated business and professional communication as well. Like face-to- face communication, mediated communication at work may be formal or informal, and feedback, which may be immediate or delayed, is a crucial element in the communication process.

Gregory Berry (2006) reviewed 25 years of research that has compared face-to-face and medi- ated business and professional communication. The study notes that mediated communication is beneficial because it affords multiple individuals with the opportunity to interact with one another, at any time and across great physical distance. Mediated communication also alleviates issues that are typical with face-to-face interactions, including managing large groups, assisting in leveling the playing field for employees of different statuses, reducing geographic and time difference difficulties, and inaccuracies in group recollections of information. Mediated interac- tions, such as via e-mail, also may embolden employees who are shy about speaking up in group situations, and the lack of visual cues when communicating via e-mail could assist employees in being more focused on their task rather than on the interaction’s personal or social compo- nents. Finally, mediated interactions offer the option to take time and reflect on what is said (Berry, 2006).

Unlike face-to-face communication, however, mediated communication is often permanent. Voicemails and e-mails can be saved and retrieved later; they become a permanent record of your communication. Therefore, in professional situations, it is important to change a short, informal, and grammatically incorrect personal e-mail style to a more formal writing style that uses com- plete sentences, proper capitalization, and correct grammar and punctuation. A good guideline for workplace communication is do not put anything in an e-mail that you would not want your boss to read.


Technology has dramatically changed the way people interact. In business and professional set- tings, technology offers employers and employees the option to telecommute. Technology makes the virtual office and telecommuting, or telework, possible by allowing people to do their jobs from home, in an airport, or across the globe. Telework is a “work arrangement in which employ- ees perform their regular work at a site other than the ordinary workplace, supported by techno- logical connections” (Fitzer, 1997, p. 65). Telecommuting, in which an employee works remotely one or more days a week, grew 73% from 2005 to 2011 and now includes 20 to 30 million U.S. workers (Global Workplace Analytics, 2012).

Although working from home, avoiding a daily commute, making your own hours, and being able to do your job in your pajamas might seem desirable, the importance of the interactions and relationships you have with your coworkers should not be underestimated. Across research studies, the most frequent concern about telecommuting or working from home is feeling socially isolated from coworkers (e.g., Marshall, Michaels, & Mulki, 2007). People missed the spontaneous interactions and discussions they had with others at work, the opportunities to get together with friends and coworkers for lunch, and the ability to keep tabs on what was going on in the organization. Interpersonal communication is an important element of our working lives.

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Indeed, one main reason that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer put an end to the company’s telecommuting program in February 2013, prompting much outcry from employees and the general public, was to increase interaction among her employees. In her keynote speech at the Great Place to Work Conference in Los Angeles in April 2013, Mayer defended her decision, saying that employees “are more collaborative and innovative when they’re together. Some of the best ideas come from pulling two differ- ent ideas together” (Tkaczyk, 2013, para. 6).

However, despite these perspectives, research has also revealed that there are many benefits to telecommuting and that this arrangement does not always lead to a

deterioration of informal work relationships. Here are some findings related to the organization and individual benefits of telecommuting:

• Telecommuters reported that the more they liked their coworkers and engaged in infor- mal conversations with their coworkers, the higher their commitment to the organization (Fay & Kline, 2011).

• Coworker liking was positively linked to telecommuters’ job satisfaction (Fay & Kline, 2011).

• Those who telecommute experienced greater job satisfaction than those who work in a traditional office environment, in part because telecommuters experienced less work–life conflict and exchanged information with colleagues less frequently (Fonner & Roloff, 2010).

• Telecommuters experienced less stress related to meetings and engaged in less office poli- tics behavior than office-based employees (Fonner & Roloff, 2010).

Such results indicate that telework is a credible form of work that can alleviate distractions and stress and can be positively related to job satisfaction (Fonner & Roloff, 2010; Fay & Kline, 2011).

Crafting a Professional Online Reputation

The first impressions people form of you are often created by your online self, before they even meet you face-to-face. These impressions can affect your ability to get or keep a job. Many employ- ers search the Internet for information about job applicants, either before or immediately after interviews, and what they find in the search results can influence their hiring decisions (Weisser, 2011). Today, many employers are also visiting job applicants’ Facebook pages and reading their posts on Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram to learn more about the personalities, attitudes, interests, and characters of the employee candidates. The website CareerBuilder.com reports that, in 2013, 43% of employers who used social networking sites to research job candidates found information that caused them not to hire a candidate, an increase of 9% from 2012 (“More employers find- ing reasons,” 2013). This information included provocative or inappropriate photos, information about the candidate using drugs or drinking, bad-mouthing of a former employer, lying about their qualifications, making discriminatory comments, or showing evidence of poor communica- tion skills. A study by Microsoft (2010) found that 70% of employers chose not to hire job certain

Mike Watson Images/moodboard/Thinkstock

▲▲ Although telecommuting may offer more work and sched- ule flexibility, some telecommuters miss the spontaneous interactions and discussions that can occur at the office.

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candidates based on information that they found about them online. However, 85% of these employers were also positively influenced by candidates’ online reputation, or their “publicly held social evaluation of a person based on his or her behavior, what he or she posts, and what others (such as individuals, groups, and Web services) share about the person on the Internet” (Microsoft, 2010, p. 3). This information emphasizes that there is a balance between creating an online reputation and ensuring your online reputation is appropriate and professional.

Whenever you put information online, it becomes public and can be used by other people in ways you might never imagine. When you post your activities online in real time, anyone who has access to your posts can discover personal information about you. Information you share online might even come back to haunt you years later. Words you have written or photographs you have shared that you think are humorous now might not be so funny 5 or 10 years from now when they can be embarrassing or professionally damaging. Once information is posted online, even if it is later removed, it can be recovered or others may have saved it before you removed it. So you should consider all Internet postings to be permanent correspondence, and think carefully about what you disclose and how you communicate online.

Websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are often highly valued social networking sites where you can interact with friends near and far and build online personal relationships. These sites and business and professional networking sites such as LinkedIn can be useful avenues for building career relationships as well. You can use such social media sites to enhance your profes- sional image. One way is to create a positive online persona. You can generate digital content that emphasizes your work experience, marketable skills, and community volunteer efforts and post that information on social networking sites. Of course, it is imperative that the information you post be true and accurate. Your goal is to highlight positive aspects of yourself as you would in a resume and to enhance your image, not to fabricate it. Maintaining a well-written blog, writing articles, or posting well-reasoned responses to forums on serious topics can also enhance your image as a potential employee. Many employers today even expect those with established careers to have an online presence. Sites for professionals such as the website LinkedIn provide an oppor- tunity for exposure and have networking and recruiting benefits for both the employee and the company. IPC in the Digital Age offers some tips for preparing your online reputation before a job search.


Cleaning Up Your Online Self before an Interview

Sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter allow you to share information in new ways. People can see your photos, read your recent thoughts, and see what others say about you. Many companies have hired individuals to specifically spend the bulk of the hiring season looking through social media sites, “friending” or following potential employees, and finding out about their fit with the company through online searches. To that end, when you are looking for a job, it’s a good idea to filter through your online self. The following are some useful steps to accomplish that:

1. First, create a LinkedIn account and use it to showcase your professional qualifications and to connect with potential business contacts, including current and former professors and colleagues and friends and family.

2. Conduct an Internet search of yourself to ensure that there is no inaccurate or compromising information about you online.


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6.5 Strategies for Successful Communication at Work Throughout this chapter, we have discussed important aspects of business and professional com- munication. The final section offers a number of strategies that you can use to improve your com- munication competence in business and professional settings.

Be Aware of Your Professional Communication Behaviors

One of the most important steps to becoming a better communicator in business and professional settings is to increase your awareness of your formal and informal communication behaviors. Pay attention to the online and face-to-face messages you send in the workplace. For example, don’t send e-mails complaining about or disparaging your boss or your company using your work e-mail account; these accounts are often monitored. In addition, never make comments or jokes of a sexual nature to your fellow employees, as these could be perceived as harassment. It is also a good idea to be mindful of how you present yourself (and are presented by others) online, as someone from your organization, or a company that you want to work for might consider cer- tain details inappropriate. Remember that how you maintain your formal and informal profes- sional relationships can be just as important as being competent at task-related behaviors such as information sharing and organizing. Also, similar to your workplace, the academic classroom is a professional setting, so be sure that your contributions, both online and offline, represent who you are in the most positive and professional manner.

3. Set all your Facebook photos (except your current profile picture) to private. Delete or untag yourself from any online photos that show you engaging in unprofessional behaviors. Remove online references to smoking because some companies screen out smokers due to health plan costs.

4. Set all your Facebook status updates to private, and then go through all your status updates, removing controversial content. Remember, things can be taken out of context and potentially offensive or insensitive statements can cause problems.

5. If someone that you do not know sends you a friend request on Facebook or starts to follow you on Twitter or Instagram, conduct an online search of that person to see if he or she is affiliated with a company where you have applied for a job.

6. Finally, monitor your Twitter and Instagram feeds, and think carefully about what you are saying or posting during the hiring process. Some individuals have separate professional and personal social media accounts, with their personal accounts set to the most stringent privacy settings. This may be an option you want to pursue.

These are all useful tips for your professional life in general, so don’t be too quick to return to old online behaviors after you get hired!

Critical Thinking Questions

1. Have you had difficulty keeping your personal and professional selves separate online? Why or why not?

2. Can you identify any additional suggestions that would help create a more professional online persona?

3. Have you changed your opinion of a professional colleague based on what you saw about their online behaviors?

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Create and Maintain a Professional Reputation

In the workplace, make sure that you present and maintain a professional image with your writ- ten, oral, and mediated communication. Switch from informal to more formal language when you write and speak professionally, and use the strategies outlined earlier in this chapter for participating appropriately in meetings and building a positive reputation in the workplace. You have all the skills you need for success. Keep working to hone these skills and to enhance your professional image.

Build and Maintain Informal Relationships with Your Colleagues

Throughout this chapter, we have discussed the importance of having positive informal, as well as formal, interactions with coworkers. Maintaining these relationships benefits your health, increases your commitment to the organization and your job satisfaction, and is associated with higher communication competence. Informal coworker relationships are even important for those who telecommute. Thus try to frequently engage in interpersonal communication behav- iors that will help maintain these relationships, such as sharing tasks, managing conflict con- structively, and being positive.

Consider Your Online Reputation and Communication

Just as you work to craft a professional reputation in the workplace, you must also monitor who you are online. As we saw, many employers are turning to the Internet to learn about and vet prospect job candidates. A quick search of your name could be enough to put you out of the running for a job if you post or share inappropriate, overly personal, or biased or derogatory information online.

In addition, the Center for Professional Excellence (CPE) survey (2012) found that one major way to damage your professional reputation is to abuse the Internet and emerging technologies at work, including excessively tweeting or visiting social media sites, texting at inappropriate times, and using your work cell phone for personal phone calls. In this survey, the percentage of HR professionals and managers reporting these abuses by their employees markedly increased between 2011 and 2012: from 67.3% to 82.5% (CPE, 2012). Abusing technology is also a frequent reason that employees are fired (CPE, 2012). Thus be aware of how you are using computer- mediated communication in professional contexts, and limit your usage to work-related tasks whenever possible.

Summary and Resources One of the most important benefits of working is the network of social interactions and rela- tionships you form with colleagues. Some of these workplace relationships may last a lifetime. Communication is an important characteristic of professional settings, but the professional envi- ronment also has specific requirements for behavior and communication.

First, it is important to recognize that professional settings require the use of more formal lan- guage. When you communicate in the workplace or the classroom, you must remember to mod- ify your communication to this more formal style. Second, communicating with others honestly and ethically, in both oral and written communication, is essential to your personal and profes- sional integrity. Plagiarizing, providing false information to others, lying, cheating, and avoiding

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deadlines all demonstrate a lack of integrity. They negatively impact your professional reputation and can cause others to distrust you. Respect for others and personal responsibility are also crucial requirements for both professional and personal interactions. Respect is demonstrated by using respectful language, by being polite, and by encouraging others. It also involves appre- ciating diversity; valuing differences in race, ethnicity, gender, age, and physical ability; avoiding biased language and attitudes; and calling people by terms or names that they prefer to be called. To be a professional, you must have job skills, perform your job well, be able to work indepen- dently, and get the job done on time. People in professional environments must also be able to work as members of a team and to collaborate well with others to meet organizational goals. It is also important to understand and adhere to the policies and norms of an organization concern- ing workplace relationships.

Good communication skills are highly valued by employers, and your professional reputation is built and maintained through your communication. Mistakes in interpersonal and online com- munication can erode your reputation over time and affect your career progression. Sending inappropriate e-mail messages and other e-mail errors, having inappropriate communication in meetings, discussing inappropriate topics at work, and ignoring workplace social and communi- cation networks such as the grapevine and company activities and events have contributed to the demise of many careers.

Technology has dramatically changed the ways in which we communicate with others. Mediated communication is similar to face-to-face communication in many ways. However, it has several important differences as well. Mediated communication changes the communication process by introducing technology as the communication channel. The features and capabilities of this tech- nology must be taken into consideration; the technology can introduce additional types of noise into the communication process, and the communicators are operating in different communica- tion contexts. The absence of the nonverbal cues of face-to-face communication is one of the most important ways mediation changes the communication environment. There are also different norms concerning what is proper and improper in mediated communication situations. Mediated com- munication requires you to make the same decisions regarding the appropriate degree of formality; however, mediated communication is often more permanent than face-to-face oral communication.

Mediated communication also provides an opportunity to remain anonymous, to conceal or disguise identity, and to disclose information that others can use against you. For these reasons, mediated communication can have implications for your safety. Be sure to think carefully about what personal information you disclose online, and take the precautions suggested in this chap- ter to protect yourself from people who might use the information you post online for malicious purposes. While you can remain anonymous when you communicate online, you can also use mediated communication channels to enhance your personal and professional image and to cre- ate a favorable online impression. Many employers search online and visit social networking sites and other websites to learn more about people they might consider hiring. Your online image can be an important aspect of your professional success.

Key Terms

betweenness A factor of network centrality that emphasizes the extent to which a coworker mediates or becomes involved in interactions between two other network members.

business and professional communication (BPC) A broad communication context that includes all of the different forms of messages exchanged in the workplace or in a professional setting.

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closeness A factor of network centrality that emphasizes the extent to which a coworker can be in contact or communicate with all other members of the network.

collaborate To work cooperatively with others to accomplish goals.

colleague support Connections with immediate coworkers who are friendly and helpful with solving problems.

degree A factor of network centrality that emphasizes the extent to which a coworker is con- nected to other individuals in the network.

downward communication A type of vertical formal communication that occurs when a superior begins an interaction with a subordinate.

expressing negative emotion Workplace communication behavior that involves complaints about work or workplace frustrations.

formal relationship The primary relationship in business and professional settings, which involves the many associations and networks that are designed and dictated by the business organization.

grapevine An informal communication network among employees in the workplace that car- ries messages, including gossip, throughout an organization.

hard skills Technical knowledge or expertise required for a particular job.

horizontal formal communication Communication in a business and professional context that occurs between individuals who are at identical or similar levels of hierarchy.

informal relationships The relationships in business and professional settings that are based on shared interests, mutual regards, and friendship.

information sharing Workplace task-related behaviors such as explaining, solving problems, giving feedback and advice, and asking and answering questions.

integrity A term applied to someone who practices honest and ethical behaviors and communications.

job satisfaction An individual’s personal appraisal of how much he or she enjoys and is con- tent with an employment situation.

network centrality The extent to which an employee participates in and is connected with other individuals in a friendship network.

nonverbal immediacy A collection of specific nonverbal messages such as eye contact and smiling that increase one’s feelings of closeness with another person.

online reputation The social evaluation of a person’s character and behavior as presented in online settings.

organizational culture The way that an organization’s mission, values, and attitudes are translated into communication policies and practices.

organizing Workplace communication administrative-type behaviors such as scheduling and planning, personnel management, and problem solving.

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professionalism Principles of behavior and communication that are appropriate and effective in business and professional settings.

professional reputation The amount of professionalism that one is perceived to have by one’s clients and colleagues.

relational maintenance Workplace interpersonal relationship-focused behaviors such as cre- ating relationships, engaging in small talk, and being humorous.

soft skills Intangible interpersonal qualities and personal attributes that employers consider when hiring employees.

telework An arrangement in a business and professional context that allows employees to per- form their regular work, via mediated technology, at an offsite location.

upward communication A type of vertical formal communication that occurs when a subor- dinate begins an interaction with a superior.

vertical formal communication Communication in a business and professional context that occurs between individuals of different power differentials.

workplace communication behaviors The social behaviors that employees engage in with coworkers, which then create connections between the individual employees and the larger organization.

Critical Thinking and Discussion Questions

1. Consider your own employment experiences. What behaviors and messages contribute to your professional reputation at work and online? How do you work to craft your professional reputation?

2. According to the information presented in the chapter, which communication messages and relationships at work are most important for your job satisfaction? Do your own experiences mirror such assessments?

3. Review the relationship maintenance behaviors identified in the chapter that are specific to business and professional settings. Which behaviors do you use and which are most beneficial for your interpersonal relationships at work? Do such behaviors work well in certain situations but not in others?

4. As you read, technology makes telecommuting a more accessible option for companies and employees. If you have worked as a telecommuting employee, what aspects of this option worked well? What aspects were more challenging? Based on what you have read in this chap- ter, do you think telecommuting is helpful or harmful for a company? If you were a company CEO, what would your policy on telecommuting be?

5. Revisit the section of this chapter that discusses workplace relationships. If you have ever been involved in a workplace romance, do you think it made a difference in terms of your cred- ibility at work and your professional reputation? Why or why not? Now consider how you might respond if you knew two of your colleagues were in a romantic relationship. Would this relationship alter your assessment of their professional reputations? Would it influence your workplace interactions with them?