Why Are Some Employees More Stressed Than Others?

Stress is something every employee faces no matter what industry they are a part of. The level of stress an employee experiences throughout the day can fluctuate and can be affected by a number of factors including the number of tasks they must complete, traffic getting to work, speed work must be completed in, level of skill needed to complete tasks, competitiveness, receiving emails from a disgruntled coworker or customer, and the list goes on. Some of the top rated stress jobs include police officer, fire fighter, U.S. president, and senior corporate executives.

What is less known is that there are two main kinds of stressors; work hindrance stressors, and work challenge stressors.Some examples of work hindrance stressors are role conflict, role ambiguity, role overload, and daily hassles. Examples of work challenge stressors include time pressure, responsibilities relating to work, and complexity of work assigned.

Taking a look at work hindrance stressors it can be seen that certain roles can cause pressure on employees, and can inhibit their work and performance. Daily hassles always come into play. Management can play a key part in removing some of the conflict, ambiguity, hassles, and overload that occurs. For example, at a dispatch center management can decrease role ambiguity for employees by how they handle their dispatch scheduling.One way they can accomplish this is by including a defined set of tasks during shifts. This way dispatch employees know after they arrive to the center what their tasks are between calls. However, leaders must consider a realist amount of time it should take to compete tasks so that overload can be avoided. Unfortunately, role overload is becoming a problem across industries.

Looking at challenge stressors one that can impact employees both positively and negatively is responsibility. Jobs that have high risk factors can cause stress on workers. For example a SWAT team many experience a lot of stress during a hostage situation, but they also know that their responsibility to save lives is worth the risk and rewarding when they are able to accomplish safe removal of the hostage. Complexity of tasks also helps employees feel fulfilled and utilize their skills to the best of their abilities. Being able to use multiple skills for a task that stretch abilities and create development are associated with being worth the periodic discomfort.

Beyond the work hindrance and work challenge stressors, employees may also be affected by at home and out of the office stressors. Employees who may have been able to handle more work stressors may suddenly have a lower capacity to handle work stress due to more stress outside the office. One example is personal development. If someone is going to school to develop new skills this may add to their stress level due to having to perform outside of work.

Some ways that employers can assist employees in coping with stress include creating break rooms that are made for resting or meditating. For example, Google has been known to have resting pods for employees to “turn off” in while they take a break from computers and electronics to give their brains a break. It is important when managers are employee scheduling to include the break periods necessary to recharge during shifts especially in fast past jobs.

In the end, stressors can’t be avoided. They are a part of business and being a member of the workforce. However, management can play a key role in decreasing or eliminating work hindrance stressors, and incorporating work challenge stressors where available.

 

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How To Improve Business Communication For Greater Success

In the age to steaming gadgets that govern your business it gets necessary to use the right way to communicate in business, that is, proper business communication. Today we send fewer letters than we used to do earlier but the speed and low cost of email has pushed the letter to extinction.

A primary role of emails, memos, letters, reports and proposals is to maintain good, relevant and timely follow of information within an organization and with its external publics. It plays a key role in business communication.

Any business writer can write emails, memos, letters and letters that communicate clearly and have impact. But that is not the actual business communication that prevails in the business world. Business people do not pay heed to the ethics of business communication. They write emails as thoughts occur to them and send emails without revising the words into coherent messages. As a result, business writing has come to excuse writing that is fragmented, incomplete, and full of careless language errors.

Here are certain tips to improve business communication:

1. Plan and organize:

One should have clear objectives while writing an email or a business letter. It should include everything that you are intended to write to give information to the reader in order to attain your objectives of proper and clear business communication.

2. Build the business communication infrastructure:

In business communication through emails, letters and memos write thanks, commendation and genuine statements of good that will build teams and partnership with clients. Use the tone and level of formality that fits the objectives and the reader, and convey your thoughts straight and firmly.

3. Prepare the reader for proper business communication:

Write the email or letter subject lines using words that alert the reader to contents, required action or critical information in the email. In the introduction explain everything readers need to know to understand fully why they are receiving the document. Describe all actions the reader is expected to perform, actions you will perform and any critical information that reader is expected to know. Summarize conclusions at the beginning. Write clear statements of contents at the end o introduction so that readers know what to expect and prepare them for reading, which will transform it from just communication to business communication.

Not only emails and letters but meetings also play a vital role in business communication. In any organization, meetings are a vital part of the organization of work and the flow of information. They act as a mechanism for gathering together resources from many sources and pooling then towards a common objective. They are disliked and mocked because they are usually futile, boring, time-wasting, dull, and inconvenient with nothing for most people to do except doodle while some opinionated has-been extols the virtues of his/her last great (misunderstood) idea.

Your challenge is to break this mould and to make your meetings effective. As with every other managed activity, meetings should be planned beforehand, monitored during for effectiveness, and reviewed afterwards for improving their management. A meeting is the ultimate form of business communication. One can organize the information and structure of the meeting to support the effective communication of the participants.

Thus proper business communication whether through writing or verbal i.e. through meetings can do wonders to the business. All that is needed is a skillful, flawless and
effective way of business communication.

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Stop, Collaborate and Engage – Small Business Communication and Social Media Tools For Entrepreneurs

From smoke signals and carrier pigeons to smartphones and their ubiquitous apps, the way people interact across distances has drastically evolved. With each passing year, innovation appoints a new form of communication as revolutionary while decrying another form as passé.

During the past six months, you’ve probably learned what a “tweet” is and what it means to “friend” someone. Though both are interesting new forms of interaction, their applications to small business communication are less clear.

Twitter and Facebook are, at their most basic levels, additional channels aiding in small business communication. Like print or broadcast advertising, these social media initiatives allow a company to directly communicate with consumers. Though unlike advertising, these services allow for two-way communication where your audience – which includes customers, prospects, advocates, government entities and the general public – can respond. It is this engagement where many companies fall flat.

Kicking Off Your Social Media Initiatives

Simply setting up a Twitter handle and Facebook page does not plug you into the social media ether. Managing these accounts and consistently updating them is vital, so much so that many large companies are hiring full-time employees to man their social media initiatives. For entrepreneurs with limited time, there are many applications that can help you manage content for both services in one place, like Digsby (which has instant messaging integration as well), Brizzly or TweetDeck.

For entrepreneurs new to Twitter or other social media initiatives, the best approach is to do a few searches on words that are relevant to your business and try to find a handful of experts in your field to follow. Then, spend your first few days just “listening” to the conversation from these experts, resisting the urge to start singing the praises of your product or broadcasting your message. Once you get a feel for the kinds of things people talk about and how they do it on Twitter, start with the 2, 2, 2 rule. Post 2 original things, re-tweet two posts you find interesting or useful, and reply to two people about something they tweeted. This is a good way to be a valuable participant and to increase your “followers” number as people find the things you have to say to be useful.

For most entrepreneurs, a significant investment of time and resources strictly for social media initiatives is not feasible. Depending on a company’s level of commitment to increasing its small business communication efforts, social media may not be the right channel, right now. But, for those companies that can invest resources to examine the social media landscape, determine if it is right for their business and actively engage in dialogue, Twitter and Facebook can be powerful tools to grow their small business communication strategy.

Though Twitter and Facebook are good starting points, if these social media darlings are where your social media knowledge ends, you need to know about the many other small business communication technologies that allow entrepreneurs to interact with customers and engage prospects.

Oldies but goodies…

The social media landscape has significantly changed the face of small business communication, but it does not mean previous technologies have been rendered useless. “Old” technologies, such as e-mail newsletters, instant messaging and message boards are still active and can still increase productivity (and sales!). Many entrepreneurs already have a strong understanding of these technologies and have probably used them in the past. Consider dusting off that old e-mail newsletter you belong to – you know, the one you haven’t read in 2 years – or do a quick search of what message boards are out there. You may be reminded of and surprised at how useful these seemingly out-of-date services can be.

Some you’ve probably heard of, but may not know the full power of…

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has become the platform for business-focused social networking. By setting up a LinkedIn profile, users are able to post their work history and professional profiles for others to see. This tool presents opportunities for generating new business, reconnecting with old colleagues, and finding a job.

While many business users may have a LinkedIn profile, they may overlook the other small business communication tools LinkedIn provides. For example, LinkedIn Groups are a simple way to create an online forum where customers, prospects and industry insiders can exchange ideas. Similar to an e-mail newsletter, the Group allows invited LinkedIn users to interact with one another and for a company to communicate key messages. With some simple work on the front-end to get the group moving, an entrepreneur can then take a back-seat to let the patients run the asylum – while still maintaining his or her position as the group leader.

Wiki

A wiki (rhymes with tricky) is a website that allows users to edit the content that is posted on the page; the trick to wikis is ensuring the edits are accurate. Wikipedia, for example, is an editable online encyclopedia in which users can edit the content. The reason the information remains accurate is Wikipedia has designated individuals to monitor updates.

From a business perspective, a wiki is a great small business communication tool for companies with geographically distributed offices or teams. Users can post a document or other materials on an internal wiki and allow a group to review and edit the material in one place. Beyond the team collaboration, the wiki also helps with “version control,” a problem that occurs when some users do not have the most up-to-date version of a document. Microsoft’s SharePoint offers companies the ability to make internal wikis, as well as discussion boards.

Some small business communication tools you may not have heard of…

Yammer

Yammer is an enterprise microblogging service – think of it as Twitter for internal business communication. The service allows businesses to create their own internal communication channel and limit use to those who have a valid company e-mail address.

Yammer allows users to post questions, share news, ideas and documents, and post status updates to the entire group. This service allows short messages to be sent and for users to filter the messages they receive so they aren’t bombarded with information that is not relevant to them. Much like a wiki, Yammer allows distributed companies to communicate in a private community, only in shorter bursts.

Ning

Ning lets users create social networks around topics about which they are passionate. Do you love cheese? If so, you can create a cheese lovers community. Do you fear bunnies? Then you can connect with others who share your phobia. With Ning, you create the network that matches your life.

Why should an entrepreneur care about all these different social media initiatives? If your company produces gourmet cheese, that cheese lovers group is a new business goldmine. Are you a psychiatrist just out of med school looking to build a client base? The bunny-phobic network is a breeding ground for potential patients. Whether setting up a targeted social network or joining one already in existence, Ning can connect your business with others that share your unique passions.

What’s more, Ning has one of the more quantifiable ROI models of all social media. Ning’s premium service allows the administrator to run ads on its network (this service does require a fee, though). Not only could you run your own ads, you could potentially run ads from other members of your community, creating a quantifiable revenue stream from your network.

When it comes to social media initiatives, there is no magic bullet to grow your business. But there is a unique combination that is right for every entrepreneur. By balancing time and resources, and examining the social media habits of its customers and prospects, a business can develop a small business communication strategy that will accelerate growth.

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Intercultural Aspects of Business Communication

The most important aspect of any business relationship is communication. Today our world seems to develop into a really global marketplace, there are more and more international firms and organizations that deal with other companies throughout the world. The aim of the article is to study the nature of cross-cultural communication and the intercultural skills that can be useful in any kind of international business relationships. So it is very important to communicate the right way with the representatives of different cultures and nations as the simplest mistakes can cause terrific problems in understanding. There are many scientists and economists who worked at the field of business communication.

Among the foreign scholars we can name Fred Luthans, Larry A. Samovar, Margaret H., De Fleur and many others. The native scientists who devoted their works to the subject of business communication are N. Formanovskaya, V. Goncharov, N. Moskovcev, V. Derkachenko etc. Analyzing business as the sphere of social relations psychologists believe that success here depends on 85% on the person’s ability to communicate. While communicating we use together with some logical tools things we don’t often really understand and pay attention to. Among such subconscious phenomena we can point out the first type of communication which is non-verbal. It can be defined as “non-word human responses and the perceived characteristics of the environment through which the human verbal and nonverbal messages are transmitted”.

Non-verbal communication differs from verbal in some fundamental ways. For one thing, it is less structured, that makes it more difficult to study. Some types of non-verbal communication, such as the meaning of colors and certain gestures, can vary from culture to culture. Thus, it becomes obvious that learning, understanding and following the traditions of different cultures make it much easier to find the right direction on communication with their representatives. While words can carry just the message, non-verbal communication expressed by intonation, gestures, and even facial movements can let the opponent know the attitude of the person. Also it helps to establish credibility and leadership potential in business. For successful communication all the forms must be paid much attention to. More thoroughly we come to the approach that there are no forms of communication to be omitted. We come across the idea that all the forms must be used to get better and more completed results of communication and transferring thoughts and information.

Culture surrounds us all the time. A person may not realize it, but he constantly belongs to several cultures. Making attempt to explain what exactly culture is we can define it as system of shared symbols, beliefs, attitudes, values, expectations, and norms for behavior. Thus all members of any culture have and tend to act on similar assumptions about how people should think, behave and communicate. Cultures may vary widely. It is no wonder that most of us need special training before we can become comfortable with a culture that differs from our own. And it is apparent that any business person dealing with a foreign partner for successful communication must first of all pay attention to the cultural sphere his partner belongs to. Accepting the regulations of the partner’s culture it is always easier to build and correct the process of negotiations that way that the partner feels some comfortable.

When there appears the necessity to deal with foreign partners a manager has to learn about another culture, and there are two main approaches to choose. The first one is to learn as much as possible – the language, cultural back ground and history, social rules, and so on – about the specific culture expected to deal with. The other one is to develop general skills that will help to adapt in any culture. To become a successful multicultural communicator Margaret H. De

Fleur proposes a set of guidelines for achieving maximum results:
1. Recognize that every individual has emotions, needs, and feelings that are as sensitive as yours.
2. Try to understand the cultural norms of the partner who you communicate with.
3. Respect the customs and traditions of the others.
4. Listen actively in a co-cultural communication encounter.
5. Learn to cope with uncertainly.
6. Avoid stereotyping people who are different from you.
7. Be aware of your own ethnocentrism.

The more differences there are between the people who are communicating, the more difficult it is to communicate effectively. Among the main problems in cross-cultural business communication the scientists circle out language barriers, cultural differences, and ethnocentric attitude. More significant problems arise in forms of written communication that require translation.

As it was stated above, misunderstandings are especially likely to occur when the partners who are communicating have different cultural backgrounds. For example, one side of negotiations makes a message in one context, using assumptions common to people in his or her culture. The other side of negotiations decodes the message using absolutely different set of assumptions. The result is confusion. Such problems arise because of our unconscious assumptions and non-verbal communication patterns. Often the fact that people from different cultures differ from each other in many ways is ignored.

According to the recommendations of scholars such as I. Kuznetsov, V. Goncharov, V. Suharev and others it is possible to circle out certain rules to follow while communicating: try to eliminate “noise”; look for feedback; rephrase your sentence when necessary; use objective, accurate language; let other people finish what they have to say. Culture and communication are inseparable. Culture influences the way people behave, the language they use and gestures they employ. In its turn, all this makes an impact on the traditions of dealing with business partners. That’s why in recent years the interest of communication theorists, scholars, scientists, and researchers was engaged with cross-cultural communication. Anyway, when engaging in any form of communication, a speaker must take into account the possibilities of misunderstanding. That’s why it is so important for a business person to develop skills with the help of which it becomes possible to control and correct the communicational situation with cross-cultural partners. Nowadays, intercultural communication difficulties have become a source of misunderstanding in business relations of our multicultural world society.

The process of globalization makes modern businessmen pay more attention to developing skills of running a business with foreign partners. That’s why the ideas on both organizational behavior and norms of communication stated in the article have become one of the most essential approaches to the successful running of business in the modern world community.

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Business Communication

INTRODUCTION

Any business would rely and rest on communications be they for official purposes or for enhancing and upgrading their client base and support to flourish their business. For ANY business to develop there has to be a regular, proper as well as a transparent channels of communication hierarchy so that the work flow does not in any manner get hampered and the business happens as a regular occurrence. And business communication is a continuous and an ongoing process- one that speaks volumes about the How’s as well as the Why’s of communication and communication hierarchy both within as well as outside the business enterprise so as to facilitate and augment the work flow even better and faster. As, without an effective, efficient and eloquent channels of communication between the Managers and the staff, or the employees and the external clients, the very business matrix would get null and void. So, in other words, Business Communications form the fundamental edifice of any business functionality.

HOW DO WE ENSURE A GOOD BUSINESS COMMUNICATION IN BUSINESS?

Communication is said to be an art and especially so, if it were Business Communication as this is pivotal for any enterprise to function as well as flourish. Here are a few ready pointers this to happen easily, effectively as well as empathetically:

• ANY business communication, be it oral, written, or a mailer should be logically structured which means that it needs to possess a good opening, a logical content that supports the opening and a proper as well as an apt conclusion- one that summarizes the entire written as well as the spoken topic presented. It has also to be reckoned with that the language spoken has to be lucid and the jargon needs to be easily comprehended and appreciated by the audience of all genres and they get to fathom what is expected of them and they participate thoroughly and comprehensively and get to understand the jist of the entire presentation delivered or written.

• Communication especially Business communication needs to be simple, precise and concise as if it is not articulated properly and if there is an ambiguous usage of words then, it dents the whole meaning and purpose of communication as well as communicating. Choice of words would have to be such that they overcome the cultural barriers and topographies and do not slander the sentiments and the sensibilities of the audience on the whole.

• Business communications should be comprehensive, influencing, persuasive, cogent as well as cohesive. One that follows a set pattern and is sequential apart from being one that is simplistic and easily appreciated.

• One other aspect of Business Communications is that the language adopted be polite, courteous, empathetic apart from being succinct, so as not to offend the sentiments of either their staff as well as their clients.

• It also needs to be remembered that the body language during presentations needs to be positive and approachable. Simple etiquette like maintaining the eye contact during the entire presentation, smiling genuinely and warmly and maintaining a general atmosphere of bonhomie and camaraderie would go great lengths in spreading a positive cheer around.

• Any Business Communication would be negated IF the feedback given would be left unsaid as well as unspoken. For feedback is the ONLY yardstick that would assure the presenter whether the message had reached the audience as it was meant to be intended to reach.

• The usage of more of “You’s” as well as “Why’s” during presentations more than the “I’s”, makes the audience understand that they have been given more value and importance and would also help in facilitating them in participating better during future presentations apart from being more involved.

• One of the most important components of Business Communications is listening. Some of them have this as an intrinsic and innate trait and some others adapt and acquire it over a period of time. Whichever way we look at it, this is again another art that we are either born with or, could cultivate over a period of time. Feedback and Listening go on most occasions hand on glove. The more patient the listening, the more positive that we would accept the feedback as ‘Listening’ jumbled would give us the other simple word ‘silent’. And the more silent we are, the better the listeners that we would be and the more positively we would accept and appreciate the feedback. It goes without saying that, a good speaker would always be a good listener and vice versa.

• The other important factor to be remembered is that we should divest ourselves from being biased, prejudiced and parochial while placing our facts as any biased or partial statement would cloud the entire facts and the receiver could get mired in confusion and the powers-that-be might end up taking a wrong action if the facts are or do not seem complete and comprehensive.

IMPORTANCE OF EFFECTIVE BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS:

Communication forms the crux of any business functions as well as functionalities. All areas be they Marketing, Human Resource, Business Development, Sales need very good as well as glib talkers who possess the gift of the gab to convince and communicate with the customers as well as the clients and acquire the business for their respective organizations. When the Managers fail to communicate with their employees, then it results in a great deal of miscommunication apart from there being serious lacunae in their staff’s understanding and performance leading to under performance or worse no performance by the employees.

Ineffective or retarded communications would lead to the employees becoming isolated from the Management and this then paving the way for conflict and crisis. As the Managers would find it increasingly difficult to communicate with their ideas, circumstances as well as demands cogently as well as cohesively, it would become increasingly irksome as well as difficult for the employees to continue or perform better at their jobs.

A FEW POINTERS FOR EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION AT WORKPLACE:

• BETTER PERFORMANCE BY THE TEAM:
If the leader is able to perform better and is both cogent as well as cohesive in his communication, then the team would be able to analyze as well as assess what is expected of them to do and how best to reach there more faster and with a little more clarity of thought and action.

• INCREASES THE PERFORMANCE LEVELS
Effective communications augment the process of better performance levels, enhancing client as well as customer loyalty thereby increasing the revenues as well as the client support and base for the organization. This clarity of communication between the different levels of hierarchies fosters the attainment of the short term as well as the vision, mission as well as the goals of the organization.

• Communication style as well as the channels has to be both positive, effective apart from being encouraging.
The channels of communications or the hierarchies of communications have to be straight, circumspect as well as transparent so that the immediate hierarchy to resolve the outstanding issues and turn the problems to solutions.

• Any urgent problems of the company should be communicated to both the staff as well as the managers as everyone is involved in the process of decision making or giving their opinions. This process would also make the employees appreciate the simple fact that the employee’s opinions are paid heed to by the Management and that they have a say in the decision making process.

• Organizations must encourage effective communications at all times and at all levels of hierarchy. This would foster and make the employees understand as well as appreciate the need, role as well as the importance of communication especially in the business contexts.

• Any communication is a two way process. Transparency would only be made possible when employees are encouraged to ask questions as well as participate in the problem resolving the problem solving process asking questions and suggesting ideas to resolve issues.

• Effective Business Communications help companies in increasing their productivity and thereby avoiding delays and leads to successful business practices.

CONCLUSION

Life is all about communicating and communication. This could be made possible in business environments only through articulation, free speech and a hierarchy that is welcoming of accepting both ideas as well as suggestions from the employees and one that encourages a pro-active participation between both the employees as well as the Managers to facilitate a faster business growth and an ever increasing and expanding client base that would fetch the organizations both revenues as well as reputation.

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Teaching English for Communicative Performance and Business Communication

It is a challenge to us English teachers to manage with our own widely differing linguistic competence the large classes of mixed ability students. Non-availability or high cost of books and instructional material are the challenges just as tests and exams seem to have become the only goal in themselves. In addition, lack of students’(and even teachers’) motivation, administrative apathy, inaccessibility to electronic media, journals and books, balance between the use of mother tongue and English to ensure acquisition of communication skills, or perhaps, a better teaching-learning situation in the mother tongue and other languages, and dissemination of best English Language Teaching (ELT) practices internationally, with an e-culture interface are the new problems teachers have to cope with.

As teachers we need to work on our own affirmative action programmes, despite constraints of our situation. In order to do something new, we may have to give up the old. As John Swales says, “We may need to recycle not only our projects and our programmes but also ourselves.” In fact a practical teacher should be able to operate within, what may be called, “here and now” state of affairs. It is with some sort of inbuilt flexibility and utilitarian purpose that one can practice ELT in the days ahead.

NEGOTIATING DIFFERENCES

With sensitivity for the language (to me, language use is more a matter of pleasure and beauty than of rules and structure), I would like to assert that the yardsticks of the British or American native speakers, or their standards as reflected in GRE, TOEFL or IELTS etc, or their kind of tongue twisting, are simply damaging to the interests of non-native speakers. We have to develop our own standards, instead of teaching to sound like Londoners or North Americans. Pronunciation must be intelligible and not detract from the understanding of a message. But for this nobody needs to speak the so called standardized English (that makes inter- and intra-national communication difficult). David Crystal too appreciates this reality and favours ‘local taste’ of English in India and elsewhere. The problems of teaching, say spoken English, relate to lack of intercultural communicative competence.

Many of the misunderstandings that occur in multicultural or multinational workplace are traceable to inter-group differences in how language is used in interpersonal communication rather than to lack of fluency in English. In fact native speakers need as much help as non-natives when using English to interact internationally and inter-culturally. It is understanding the how of negotiation, mediation, or interaction. We need to teach with positive attitude to intercultural communication, negotiating linguistic and cultural differences. The focus has to be on developing cultural and intercultural competence, tolerance (the spread and development of various Englishes is an instance of grammatical and lexical tolerance), and mutual understanding. Rules of language use are culturally determined. I doubt all those who talk about spoken English, or communication skills, care to teach or develop intercultural communicative abilities. This presupposes a good grasp of one’s own culture or way of communication, or the language etiquette, gestures and postures, space, silence, cultural influences, verbal style etc.

Understanding and awareness of non-verbal behavior, cues and information is an integral part of interpersonal communication in many real-life situations, including business and commerce. Though research is needed to understand the role of visual support in our situations, it does seem relevant in making students aware of the context, discourse, paralinguistic features and culture. This can be advantageous in teaching soft skills which are basically life skills, or abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour, so necessary for successful living.

If one has to work abroad and use English with others there, one has to be sensitive to the culturally governed ways of speaking or talking to each other. The speech community’s (the language culture of the group of people) ways of communication cannot be taken for granted, when one seeks to learn or teach spoken English. People fail or suffer discomfort or embarrassment in negotiations in business or political affairs, or achievement of personal goals due to incompetence in persuasion, negotiation, mediation, or interaction. It is their performance, their intercultural interactional competence which matters; it lies in managing social interaction, and not just communication, in the narrow sense of the word, or use of right grammatical form, syntax, vocabulary, or even certain polite phrases. The goal is to enable one to express what one wishes to convey and make the impression that one wishes to make, using language with a sense of interaction and mutuality.

BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

In the context of Business Communication, it is not without a sense of social business for creating value and better business outcome. One needs to demonstrate social insights, too, in the use of, say, (social) networking sites, smart phones, mobile, tablet PCs, voice mail, electronic mail, and other e-business instruments such as computer network, teleconferencing and video conferencing that are being integrated to enterprise design. This means one needs to be able to share information, discover expertise, capitalize on relationship, and be collaborative in creatively solving business challenges. One needs to demonstrate leadership and management traits, innovation, and decision-making; one needs to be able to identify oneself with the shared values and beliefs of the organization one is associated with; and more importantly, one needs to demonstrate intercultural and interactive abilities with sensitivity for change and adaptation, if one is working in a foreign country or in a multinational company.

In short, one’s personal communication, both oral or written, needs to be in tune with the communication philosophy — goals and values, aspirations and pledges, beliefs and policies– of the organization one is working for, just as one should be able to blend with the host culture.

When I mention intercultural interaction, I point to the need for adapting to differences in life style, language, business philosophy as well as problems with finances, government, cultural shock, housing, food, gender, family etc. Although many of the people sent on foreign assignment know their (foreign) market, they are often unable to accept another culture on that culture’s terms even for short periods. Sensitivity for intercultural business environment, or being aware of each culture’s symbols, how they are the same, and how they are different, is important.

COMMUNICATIVE PERFORMANCE

The staff development programme of this kind provides us with an opportunity to revisit the issues related to ‘communicative’ teaching, in general, and business communication, in particular. If communication is the aim of English (or any other language) teaching and ‘communicative’ syllabuses fail to develop what Dell Hymes called ‘communicative competence’ and Noam Chomsky mentioned as communicative performance, we need to reflect on our classroom practices, research and materials production from time to time. Chomsky’s focus was on the sentence-level grammatical competence of an ideal speaker-listener of a language, and Hymes, as a sociolinguist, was concerned with real speaker-listeners who interpret, express, and negotiate meaning in many different social settings; he brought into focus the view of language as a social phenomenon and reflected on its use as units of discourse. Socializing competence and performance, Dell Hymes also mentioned ‘appropriateness’, that is, “when to speak, when not, and as to what to talk about and with whom, when, where, in what manner.” This concept of “appropriate use” as ‘communicative competence’ was accepted by Chomsky and called “pragmatic competence” (i.e. rules of use). Thus, Dell Hymes ‘communicative’ is Chomsky’s ‘pragmatic’ and includes knowledge of sociolinguistic rules, or the appropriateness of an utterance, in addition to knowledge of grammar rules. The term has come to negotiate meaning, to successfully combine a knowledge of linguistic and sociolinguistic rules in communicative interaction, both oral and written.

Michael Canale and Merril Swain in various papers on communicative competence have referred to “appropriacy” in terms of ‘sociolinguistic competence’. In fact, they offer another term “strategic competence”, that is, the ability to use communication strategies like approximation (or paraphrase strategy, using, for example, ‘pipe’ for waterpipe or ‘flower’ for leaf to come close to the intended meanings), word-coinage, circumlocution (i.e. describing objects or ideas using “It looks like…”, “It’s made of…” etc when one temporarily forgets an exact word), borrowing including literal translation and language mix, appeal for assistance, ie. asking for information appropriately using “Excuse me,” “Could you…?” “What’s the word for…?” “I didn’t know how to say it,” etc). mime and all that. Their strategic competence(Canale and Swain) refers to the ability to enhance or repair conversations and means the same as Chomsky’s ‘pragmatic competence’ or Fluency. Brumfit and others too have used the term ‘pragmatic’ in the sense of fluency.

Thus, communicative competence consists of LINGUISTIC competence (ACCURACY), PRAGMATIC competence (FLUENCY), and SOCIOLINGUISTIC

competence (APPROPRIACY).

The Linguistic competence or Accuracy in communication is much broader than mere grammatical competence; it includes the linguistic domains of grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation as well as the linguistic skills of speaking, listening, reading, and writing, spelling, discourse (particularly interconnections and interdependence of the sentences and paragraphs), and the ability to contrast with the mother tongue.

The pragmatic competence or Fluency in communication relates to ease and speed of expression, i.e. how to keep talking, how not to remain silent because one doesn’t know the word (the skill of paraphrasing), and other strategies of learning, including how to listen to oneself and so be able to self-correct and self-edit at once; that is, the ability to monitor immediately.

The sociolinguistic competence or Appropriacy includes varieties of text types (stories, dialogues, non-fiction passages etc) and functions of the language, different levels/degrees of formality or informality, or appropriacy and use of language in authentic situations.

I doubt if we follow such a communicative curriculum with understanding of communicative competence in terms of linguistic ability, pragmatic ability and sociolinguistic ability. But its adoption should help students become independent learners; it should equip them with linguistic forms, means, and strategies that would help them overcome communication difficulties both inside and outside the classroom. From this perspective, communicative competence should be thought of as communicative performance just as a communicative syllabus should be essentially performance-based, that is, increasing the learner’s proficiency.

To quote Brendan Carroll: “The use of a language is the objective, and the mastery of the formal patterns, or usage, of the language is a means to achieve this objective. The ultimate criterion of language mastery is therefore the learner’s effectiveness in communication for the settings he finds himself in.”

POOR COMMUNICATIVE PERFORMANCE

Work-related skills such as team work, cultural awareness, leadership, communication and I.T. skills are as vital as academic achievement for Business/Management students. It would be poor communicative performance if, for example, someone makes a multimedia presentation without knowing how to use the equipment and experiences technical difficulties, or “tries to liven up a dull topic merely by adding flashy graphics rather than by improving the content of the presentation. People who attend meetings unprepared waste others’ time. People with poor listening skills frustrate those who have to repeat information for them. Those who make inappropriate grammatical or vocabulary choices embarrass themselves and those around them. Incompetent communicators hurt the organization they represent. This has especially been the case with hastily sent emails composed in a moment of anger.”

POSITIVE ATTITUDE NEEDED

Academic or professional communication skills, both written and oral, have to be imparted in such a way that students in their contexts are able to identify their own language learning needs and to set their own language learning goals. At college and university level, teachers may act as facilitators, just as they would need to teach with positive attitude for inter- and intra-cultural communication, the skills of negotiating linguistic and cultural differences.

It is with this sensibility for English language and its teaching in various contexts that I speak to you. Yet, as I say all this, I keep in mind the ground reality: that is, poor literacy skills, fluency, and even comprehension; poor communicative ability, with limited experiences in writing, speaking and listening unless, of course, teaching of English as a Second, or additional language improves from school level and need for a supportive classroom climate and positive student attitudes towards learning at post secondary level is recognized. Also, both teachers and students need to be aware of what to do, how to do it, and when and why to do it, as part of practicing self-regulation strategies.

The English Language Teaching community as also the other stake holders in the country should, therefore, revise and reformulate appropriate strategies and policies, with tolerance and multilingualism at the core, to remain relevant in the coming decades. The objective of looking back is to move forward with a reasoned perspective for taking measures to develop communication abilities and higher discourse competence, with a broadened inter- and cross-disciplinary bases, for learning to understand (rather than memorize) and apply in one’s own contexts.

COMMUNICATION IN BUSINESS

The digression apart, let me now come back to teaching communication in business. In terms of ESP, we should be aware of the ‘specific purposes’ of what we do in the classroom, just as we should do it in terms of students’ specific needs. For example, if we teach written communication, we teach it in the specific context of Business, maybe, where applicable, in terms of ‘rhetorical functions’, with a sense of logical organization of knowledge or information, as noticed in actual use. Students need to be exposed to range of authentic report material from business, commerce, finance, administration, marketing, production, personnel etc. They need to understand the logical steps in writing a report, from ‘collecting the information’ through to ‘summarizing’ and ‘appendix’. In short, they need to be presented with task-oriented activities that are both challenging and authentic in the field of business: they need to be forced to read and think about the content of the report; they need to be made to think about the structure and organization of the report; they need to think about the language used to express the content; and they have to be made to apply this knowledge to the skill of writing a report. The variety of writing exercises may include paragraph writing, expansion of notes, completion of paragraphs, sequencing of sentences into paragraph, and using the right punctuation marks, connectives, sub-headings, presentation of non-verbal information or transfer of information from text to diagram (graph, chart, table, outline etc); linking findings, conclusions and recommendations, extracting main points for making descriptive and evaluative summaries etc. We teach all this in terms of what the students already know and what they need to know. They unlearn, learn, and re-learn, both formal and informal expressions, within the conventions of the discipline they belong to.

As I already said, their career success depends on good writing and speaking skills, along with proper etiquette and listening skills and understanding skills. Skills that need particular attention are informational and analytical report writing, proposal writing, memo writing, letter writing, oral presentation, and a sense of grammar, punctuation, word, sentence and paragraph.

The methodology should encourage students to learn from each other via activities both of a productive kind and of a receptive nature. We may exploit developments in the case study approach, use role plays and simulations that place the students in realistic and stimulating situations to create spontaneous personal interaction and creative use of the language in a business context.

A mix of the task based approach, group work, and simulations should help the future business people develop the skills for meeting and negotiating as also for the necessary mastery of English for functioning autonomously in the field. The challenge is not to teach a descriptive course on discourse, but to provide for a pragmatic and custom-tailored input, ready for processing by the learners in an authentic learning environment.

In other words, in stead of mere ‘business communication’, the emphasis has to be on, what I already mentioned, ‘interaction in business context’. It is not merely the language of business, but also the cultural conventions of meetings and negotiations in an intercultural setting that one has to be aware of, and learn. As far as teaching is concerned, it is rather helping students with learning how to learn, how to create the learning opportunities for themselves, and understanding the ways in which language and business strategies interact. If we follow a learner-centred approach, a three-step procedure could be: first, to illustrate (=a good model), then, to induce (=induction for effective learning by the learner), and finally, to interact (=the outcome).

I would like to quote Christopher Brumfit from his opening speech to SPEAQ Convention in Quebec City (in June 1982): “…Being communicative is as much or more a matter of methodology as of syllabus or materials, and methodology is something that teachers are uniquely qualified to contribute to. We should therefore be willing to use our expertise, to innovate, to improve, to inform each other, and to criticize.” What we are doing here, friends, is just to make a beginning, the beginning of a process of communicating, of understanding, that we can start but cannot finish.

ECLECTIC APPROACH

I am aware that there is no universal teaching method or ideal teaching material suited to many contexts of language teaching. Whatever didactic techniques one knows without excluding the behaviouristic drills, and practice and use of mother tongue, where appropriate, are all valid at different points in the teaching process. I stand for an eclectic approach as different methods for different students have always worked and there has not been one best method any time. With our freedom to choose and adopt any notion that serves our teaching ends, with a reasonable degree of historical sense, flexibility and adaptability that allows us to select among a variety of approaches, methods and techniques, we can meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. I see teaching communicatively essentially consisting of an eclectic methodology which incorporates what is valuable in any system or method of teaching and refuses to recognize bad teaching or defective learning. In any educational setting, sensitive and sensible application and continuing evaluation of the chosen practices should be inbuilt.

English has been practised in a social, economic, political, educational and philosophical “hot-house”, to use Peter Strevens’ expression, and the hot-house in India differs in quality from state to state. It is necessary to create an enabling environment – managerial, administrative, institutional, academic, and curricular-to promote not only quality education and effective learning with exposure to lots of natural, meaningful and understandable language, but also genuine communication. This means learners should read and listen to live language; they should speak and write it in ways that can be understood by educated speakers everywhere. Moreover, they should eventually be able to produce and comprehend culturally appropriate natural discourse.

SUMMING UP

To sum up, we as teachers need to recognize the changes that have shaken all human conditions with new technology, new social structures, new values, new human relations, new functions. As Young Yun Kim notes: “The complexity, diversity, and rapid pace of change makes us ‘strangers’ in our own society.” The challenge is, to understand the “sameness in differences” for international/intercultural exchanges, or learning business negotiations and written communication. Language teaching alone may not develop communicative abilities in business English unless we realize that learning the language implies learning the culture also-one’s own culture and other’s culture. It is language and culture teaching together and sharing the “us” and “them” differences to reflect on one’s own culture from the viewpoint of an outsider, and thus, become less ethnocentric and more tolerant of the values of the foreign people and their ways.

The ESP of business communication seems highly culturally biased and value based, even as Western ethno-centricism, including the North American, may not be the answer to our communicative difficulties. But we have to be OPEN to all local peculiarities to communication and interaction. If we view English as the lingua franca for business negotiations, we should also not forget that it is NOT the mother tongue of any or most of the negotiators. To that extent, the English used is commonly a variety in which the mother tongue interferes not only phonetically and phonologically, but also in the cultural norms and attitudes expressed by the speakers. To quote Susanne Neimeir, “Their non-verbal behavior, for example, does not automatically switch to an ‘Englishized’ non-verbal behavior but normally stays rooted in their home culture. Thus, even when they think the negotiation partner should have understood (verbal and non-verbal) signs they are using, misunderstandings still occur because signs may be differently encoded-and decoded-on the other’s cultures or may not be noticed to be signs at all.”

Therefore, we need to sensitize students to cultural richness and cultural diversity for developing mutual understanding and using individual and group knowledge constructively, and not stereotypically, in learning skills of business communication, both oral and written. It also seems imperative to integrate discourse analysis, decision-making and generic patterns of meetings and effective conversation and the role of cultural influences for success in actual business situations. In fact, it is significant to provide professional students with opportunities to experience what it means to communicate and to do business with different people who obviously are alike in several basic ways.

In today’s globalized business context, while teachers of business English have to be aware of various analytical and practical approaches to business communication, especially as intercultural understanding and strategies of flexibility, adaptability and tolerance are some of the keys to make the best of economic opportunities, students of Business communication have to learn to find their own strategies, or use of structural and stylistic devices for successful business interaction. Their verbal communication in the ‘ESL’ context, to my mind, would be largely ‘EIL’ to be able to work together, using English as the common language.

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