As the workplace becomes a more complex place with myriad of inter-relationships and work being assigned mostly in teams rather than to individuals, the significance of communication is perhaps more significant than ever (Fielding, 2006). However, when we consider communication, the focus tends to be too much on the verbal aspects which are where all the training is majorly focused on. In the process, a major aspect of communication which constitutes of non-verbal communication is ignored. However, it is noteworthy that majority (i.e. about 80%) of the communication that a person engages in is through non –verbal communication. Here essentially no words are spoken but essentially through the use of gestures, symbols and body language pivotal communication is facilitated (Bonaccio et. al., 2016). The objective of the given essay is to highlight the significance of non-verbal communication or cues and how potentially this mode of communication is more critical than the verbal aspect of communication in the workplace context.
As highlighted above, a large majority of the communication an individual typically indulges is in the form of non-verbal communication facilitated primarily through the use of body language. Further, in the workplace, the non-verbal communication is given more importance than the verbal communication. This is primarily because while the verbal communication is controlled by the conscious mind, the non-verbal communication is highly more spontaneously and at times the gestures an individual engages in, even he/she may not be aware of the same but it communicates vital information to the other party (Means, 2009). Hence, it is a common practice at workplace when there is lack of consistency between the verbal and non-verbal aspects of communication; it is the latter which is accorded more weightage. This is primarily because the verbal communication is often driven by diplomacy and other factors and thus is comparatively much easier to manipulate in comparison with the non-verbal communication which as mentioned before tends to take place spontaneously and hence less prone to conscious manipulation. As a result, in various situations, individuals tend to be driven more by the non-verbal communication rather than the verbal communication (Lunenburg, 2010).
Consider for example, an HR manager is taking an interview for a potential recruit. It is a common practice on the part of the candidates to claim that they have all the requisite qualities and to endorse themselves. However, there are subtle non-verbal clues which the interviewers tend to grasp which indicates that the claim made by the candidate may not be entirely true and provides avenues for further probing so as to recruit the right candidate for the available vacancy. This interaction between the verbal and non-verbal modes of communication is frequent at the workplace and plays a critical role in the manner in which the messages are interpreted at the workplace. Usually, the message communicated through verbal communication need requisite support of non-verbal communication in order to make sense to the receiver and hence ensure that communication is effective (Mcintosh and Luecke, 2008).
Further, as a supervisor or manager, it is imperative to pay attention to the non-verbal communication which more often than not is more vital than the verbal communication. One of the situations that non-verbal communication is of particular importance is contradiction (Fielding, 2006). For instance, the manager floats a new proposal based on which, certain employees every week would be required to come on weekends to the office. When the supervisor asks for the suggestion from the employees, it is possible that due to the higher authority that he/she represents, the employees may be resultant to voice their dissent and thus may agree to it. But the manner in which this agreement is communicated coupled with various other cues such as the body language after the proposal has been floated around would provide key indicators as to whether there is actual consent or not (Guffey and Loewy, 2009). Usually, this is imperative as taking initiatives would typically involve costs and resource allocation and hence it is imperative that the same should have backing of the underlying subjects for whose benefit it is being done. This could be true for various training initiatives that may be taken for the employees which do not yield much improvement in performance since from the beginning there might have been lack of enthusiasm but still for fear of repercussions, no concern would have been raised by any employee (Bonaccio et. al., 2016).
Additionally, non-verbal communication plays a critical role in reinforcement which is critical when a given individual is presenting a new proposal to a client. Through non-verbal communication, the extent of conviction that the person concerned presenting the idea has can be indicated which goes a long way in convincing the client (Lunenburg, 2010). If on one hand, there is a sales pitch for a product, service or business idea but an inconsistent body language shows reluctance or doubts with regards to critical aspects of the underlying good, then it is highly likely that sale would not happen as reinforcement was missing from the end of the presenter. Non-verbal communication also plays a vital role in ascertaining the level of understanding the employees or team members are experiencing without actually disturbing the group (Mcintosh and Luecke, 2008). For instance, imagine a situation where the project manager is briefing the team members about a particular new project whereby the team members can be nodding indicate to the project manager that they are actually able to understand what is being said by the project manager and in the process there is no interruption for the project manager. This is also applicable in case of various presentations that may be made to senior management or clients where the concerned individual may look for subtle non-verbal clues to ascertain if he/she is one the right track or not and whether the intended audience is able to resonate with the viewpoints captured by the speaker (Fielding, 2006).
Besides, non-verbal communication goes a long way in the expression of subtle emotions which are considered vital at the business place. This is particularly significant in dealing with the concerns and grievances of the employees (Bonaccio et. al., 2016).. As a result, non-verbal communication is highly critical for the role of a human resource manager. Irrespective of the final solution to the problem, it is essential that the HR manager must show sensitivity towards the employee and make attempts to understand the perspective of the employees. The sensitivity on part of the HR is usually indicated through the non verbal communication which would employ gestures during listening which essentially are meant to pacify the employee so that he/she can vent out the frustration (Means, 2009). Unlike personal relations, where emotions are expressed by a greater use of verbal communication, professional relationships are characterized by expressions of emotions more at the level of non-verbal communication. This makes the non-verbal communication even more vital for the workplace for it essentially becomes a humane place where gestures by individuals are considered critical for the overall communication (Lunenburg, 2010).
This empathy which is communicated through non-verbal communication is the lynchpin of service businesses whose success rests on the same. The employees intend to provide a superior service experience to the customers through the use of various friendly gestures such as greeting customers, having a smile while talking or otherwise also, voluntarily extending help to clients which help as key differentiators of service between rival firms. A service firm without the requisite non-verbal communication would be destined to fail as the requisite warmth would never been able to communicate to the client (Fielding, 2006). This is becoming more apparent with the advent of online shopping and services where customers tend to miss the personal touch and the non-verbal communication which the concerned person at the store would display through various gestures. Additionally, the lack of non-verbal communication tends to prove a hurdle in virtual teams where the communication is through verbal messages but are found to be less effective and results is greater issues of coordination since non-verbal communication provides appropriate context to the verbal communication by either reinforcement or contradiction (Guffey and Loewy, 2008).
Based on the above discussion, it is apparent that non-verbal communication plays a larger role than verbal communication at the workplace. One of the reasons that is responsible for the same is the fact that verbal communication is more open to manipulation unlike non-verbal communication which is more intuitive and spontaneous and hence more representative of the true feedback of the listener. Concentrating on non-verbal communication is pivotal for the managers so as to understand the reactions of their team members about various proposals which otherwise may not be represented in verbal communication. This also plays a crucial role for the HR manger who effectively relies on the same to placate the employees and thereby enhance the overall employee satisfaction. Also, with regards to clients or customers, non-verbal communication can be the key differentiator especially in the service business. Thus, it would be fair to establish while non-verbal communication can exist in isolation, it is typically not possible for the verbal communication to exist and make sense in the absence of non-verbal communication which is apparent in the case of virtual teams and the underlying issues faced.
Bonaccio, S., Reilly, J., Sullivan, S. and Chiocchio, F. (2016)Nonverbal Behaviour and Communication in the Workplace: A review and an Agenda for Research, Journal of Management, 42(6) pp.14-17.
Fielding, M. (2006) Effective Communication in organisations. 4th edn.Claremont: Juta and Company Ltd.
Guffey, E. M. and Loewy, D. (2014) Business Communication: Process and Product. 8th edn.Boston:Cengage Learning.
Lunenburg, C.F.(2010) Lounder Than Words: The Hidden Power of Nonverbal Communication in the Workplace. International Journal of Scholarly Academic Intellectual Diversity, 12(1), pp. 3-5.
Mcintosh, P. and Luecke, A. R. (2008) Interpersonal Communication Skills in the Workplace.2nd edn.New York: AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn.
Means, T. (2009) Business Communication.2nd edn.Boston: Cengage Learning.
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