Because the role of manager is so similar across industries and communication is at the heart of the managerial role, it stands to reason that the communication challenges faced by managers are common to the majority of them and stem from similar issues. By grouping the manager’s various roles into “interpersonal, informational and decisional,” (Mintzberg, The Nature of Managerial Work) we can evaluate the specific challenges as they apply to each communication channel.
In addition to the overall managerial role, the manager must also assume a number of sub-roles on any given day including “figurehead, leader, liaison, monitor, disseminator, spokesperson, entrepreneur, crisis handler, resource allocator and negotiator” regardless of whether they are managing an interpersonal, informational or decisional situation. Each of these sub-roles must carry themselves and express themselves in a unique fashion and so the shape and scope of the communication must also be catered to fit each posture. The roles themselves are often entirely different and sometimes conflicting and one only needs to consider the group monitor role vs. the group leader role to understand the difference. A manager acting as a monitor may need to sit back and observe while communicating with limited verbal interaction and sometimes body language alone. A leader alternatively might be the one at the forefront of the group leading them in the discussion or taking control of the meetings direction and role assignments.
With the constant switching in and out of these management scenarios and roles, it is easy to understand why it is difficult for a manager to always be appropriate and effective in their communication and it is here that the various job challenges arise.
When managing interpersonal situations within an organization, the manager may most rely on their “relating” skills as a way to overcome the challenges of effectively communicating with the employees. He or she must first listen and understand the situation, empathize with the various parties while at the same time maintaining a professional demeanor, and then help to guide the relevant parties to a mutual agreement if possible or a firm resolution if not. For those more comfortable in the technical or conceptual arenas, developing their relating skills may be a big challenge because it requires a degree of sensitivity and personal confidence that cannot easily be taught in a text book. It also means that the manager must be able to communicate the solution in a clear manner and fashion that is simple enough to leave little room for interpretation and firm enough that the issue will hopefully not arise again.
Informational management, alternatively, requires an entirely different set of communication skills that revolve more around the comprehension, analysis and dissemination of information to the relevant parties in a way that it can be clearly understood and applied. The informational manager may rely more on their technical skills which are “most valuable at the entry level; less valuable at more senior levels.” Strong writing skills tend to be important in these situations and some managers may find it challenging to efficiently communicate the most important information points without using language that the employees cannot understand.
When a manager first starts at the organization or first moves into a managerial role, they need to be able to understand what everyone on their team is doing to a degree whether it be scientific, artistic, service oriented, etc. The challenge is in learning their team’s strengths and being able to answer questions that employees have. Later, as they reach more senior levels, their technical skills may become less important and knowing who on their team is an expert in what and facilitating proper communication may become more important.
Finally, the role of the decisional manager has its own unique set of challenges that revolve around the manager having good technical skills and relating skills, but most importantly good conceptual skills as a top down decision from management must include a bird’s eye view of the situation and resist the urge to micromanage. Developing an efficient process and having the writing and oratorical skills to communicate the managers vision can certainly be considered challenges. Also, the manager must be constantly improving themselves and keeping up with forward industry thinking to make sure they are steering their team in the appropriate direction.
All of the major challenges mentioned above require that the manager be constantly aware of themselves and the role they are assuming for the company. The manager must be willing to constantly reevaluate their own methods and have the oral and written communication skills and efficient decision making abilities that are needed to express their vision and inspire their audience, whoever they may be that day.