Explain individual and organizational barriers to effective communication

Learning Objectives Upon completion of this chapter, students should be able to do the following: Define the communication process Discuss the different organizational needs fulfilled by communication Discuss the different modes of interpersonal communication Describe the different types of communication channels Explain formal and informal methods of organizational communication Explain individual and organizational barriers to effective communication Discuss how to promote good communication One of the most famous publicized cases reflecting the importance of communication was NASA’s attempt at a Mars landing. In that instance, the landing module crashed because of miscommunication. One scientist was making calculations using the metric system, while another one was using the English system (yards versus meters), and this information never was communicated properly. Similarly, it is still believed that the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States could have been avoided through proper and speedy communication of pertinent information among the different agencies of law enforcement. Weedon (2003) notes, “Of the lessons learned from the tragic events of that day, one of the most important is the need to effectively communicate and exchange data in a timely fashion” (p. 18). He goes on to say, The inability of state and local law enforcement, criminal justice and related agencies to communicate and share information on a timely basis is epidemic across the nation. The lack of interoperability among police agencies, fire departments, emergency medical services and the numerous other public safety agencies is a chronic problem. In addition, the effects of the inability to communicate and share vital data among criminal justice agencies are not just felt during national emergencies but rather, on a day-to-day basis. (p. 18) Emphasizing the importance of good and speedy communication, the chief of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department notes, “Communication is perhaps the most essential element of effective law enforcement in the war on terror” (Bayless, 2004, p. 47). This was demonstrated most recently in solving the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing case that left three dead and hundreds injured. The incident took place at 2:50 p.m. on Monday, April 15, near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in which more than 23,000 participated, with many times more people cheering them along the 26.2 mile route (CNN news). The task of identifying the suspects was difficult, given the number of people at the sight and with absolutely no lead. After going through thousands of hours of video footage and photographs collected from the CCTV and public, and interrogating several people, by Thursday 5 p.m. (ET) the FBI released pictures of two male suspects being sought in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings. And within 24 hours of releasing the photographs, law enforcement agencies had one suspect shot dead and the other was apprehended. All this happened through good and speedy communication among the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Massachusetts State Police, residents, and many other local organizations of Massachusetts. In the day-to-day duties performed by law enforcement agencies, miscommunication or ineffective communication can result in grave situations with serious outcomes. Think of the importance of effective communication in a 911 emergency call between the caller and the receiver, and with the various officers responding to attend to the emergency. At each exchange of information between different entities, there is a possibility for service failure because of communication error. Unfortunately, when communication goes bad in criminal justice, the effects are devastating for the system and the public alike. Therefore, to enhance public and officer safety, information systems must be used that facilitate real-time communications among law enforcement, judicial, correctional, and related agencies. There is also a need to continue developing information-sharing standards within the justice community to enable easy dissemination of information via global websites (Weedon, 2003). In simple words, communication is one of the most important management tools within criminal justice agencies, which, when conducted effectively, promotes high service quality. It has a major impact on the performance of individuals, groups, and various agencies that collectively maintain law and order in a society. The importance of communication can be gauged from the fact that managers and administrators spend at least 80% of their workday in communication with others (Daft & Marcic, 2004, p. 480; Mintzberg, 1973). The various forms of communication that managers may be involved in during their day-to-day activities include meetings, telephone calls, the Internet, and talking informally while walking around. The other 20% of the time is typically spent in doing desk work, most of which may involve communication in the form of writing. In this chapter, communication of all kinds by both an individual and an organization is examined. At the individual level, the interest is in understanding the interpersonal aspects of communication, including communication channels, persuasion, and listening skills that influence a manager’s or an administrator’s1 ability to communicate effectively. At the organization level, this chapter will examine different forms of communication, namely, one-way, two-way, nonverbal, upward, downward, and horizontal communication. Career Highlight Box Paralegals and Legal Assistants Nature of the Work Paralegals and legal assistants do a variety of tasks to support lawyers, including maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents. Paralegals and legal assistants typically do the following: Investigate the facts of a case Conduct research on relevant laws, regulations, and legal articles Organize and present the information Keep information related to cases or transactions in computer databases Write reports to help lawyers prepare for trials Draft correspondence and other documents, such as contracts and mortgages Get affidavits and other formal statements that may be used as evidence in court Help lawyers during trials Paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers prepare for hearings, trials, and corporate meetings. However, their specific duties may vary depending on the size of the firm or organization. In smaller firms, paralegals duties tend to vary more. In addition to reviewing and organizing information, paralegals may prepare written reports that help lawyers determine how to handle their cases. If lawyers decide to file lawsuits on behalf of clients, paralegals may help prepare the legal arguments and draft documents to be filed with the court. In larger organizations, paralegals work mostly on a particular phase of a case, rather than handling a case from beginning to end. For example, a litigation paralegal might only review legal material for internal use, maintain reference files, conduct research for lawyers, and collect and organize evidence for hearings. Litigation paralegals often do not attend trials, but might prepare trial documents or draft settlement agreements. Law firms increasingly use technology and computer software for managing documents and preparing for trials. Paralegals use computer software to draft and index documents and prepare presentations. In addition, paralegals must be familiar with electronic database management and be up to date on the latest software used for electronic discovery. Electronic discovery refers to all electronic materials that are related to a trial, such as emails, data, documents, accounting databases, and websites. Paralegals can assume more responsibilities by specializing in areas such as litigation, personal injury, corporate law, criminal law, employee benefits, intellectual property, bankruptcy, immigration, family law, and real estate. In addition, experienced paralegals may assume supervisory responsibilities, such as overseeing team projects or delegating work to other paralegals. Paralegal tasks may differ depending on the type of department or the size of the law firm they work for. The following are examples of types of paralegals: Corporate paralegals often help lawyers prepare employee contracts, shareholder agreements, stock-option plans, and companies’ annual financial reports. Corporate paralegals may monitor and review government regulations to ensure that the corporation is aware of new legal requirements. Litigation paralegals maintain documents received from clients, conduct research for lawyers, and retrieve and organize evidence for use at depositions and trials. Work environment. Paralegals and legal assistants work in law offices and law libraries. Occasionally, they travel to gather information and do other tasks. Paralegals who work for law firms, corporations, and government agencies usually work full time. Although most paralegals work year-round, some are temporarily employed during busy times of the year. Paralegals who work for law firms may work very long hours and overtime to meet deadlines. Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement Many paralegals and legal assistants have an associate’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies. Most paralegals and legal assistants have an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, or a bachelor’s degree in another field and a certificate in paralegal studies. In some cases, employers may hire college graduates with a bachelor’s degree but no legal experience or education and train them on the job. Education and training. There are several paths to become a paralegal. Candidates can enroll in a community college paralegal program to earn an associate’s degree. A small number of schools also offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in paralegal studies. Those who already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject can earn a certificate in paralegal studies. Finally, some employers hire entry-level paralegals without any experience or education in paralegal studies and train them on the job, though these jobs typically require a bachelor’s degree. Associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in paralegal studies usually combine paralegal training, such as courses in legal research and the legal applications of computers, with other academic subjects. Most certificate programs provide this intensive paralegal training for people who already hold college degrees. Some certificate programs only take a few months to complete. More than 1,000 colleges and universities offer formal paralegal training programs. However, only about 270 paralegal programs are approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Many paralegal training programs also offer an internship, in which students gain practical experience by working for several months in a private law firm, the office of a public defender or attorney general, a corporate legal department, a legal aid organization, or a government agency. Internship experience helps students improve their technical skills and can enhance their employment prospects. Employers sometimes hire college graduates with no legal experience or education and train them on the job. In these cases, the new employee often has experience in a technical field that is useful to law firms, such as tax preparation or criminal justice. In many cases, employers prefer candidates who have at least one year of experience in a law firm or other office setting. In addition, a technical understanding of a specific legal specialty can be helpful. For example, a personal-injury law firm may desire a paralegal with a background in nursing or health administration. Work experience in a law firm or other office setting is particularly important for people who do not have formal paralegal training. Certification and other qualifications. Although not required by most employers, earning voluntary certification may help applicants get a paralegal job. Many national and local paralegal organizations offer voluntary paralegal certifications to students able to pass an exam. Other organizations offer voluntary paralegal certifications for paralegals who meet certain experience and education criteria. For more information about paralegal certifications, see the Contacts for More Info section. Other important qualities: Computer skills. Paralegals need to be familiar with using computers for legal research and litigation support. They also use computer programs for organizing and maintaining important documents. Interpersonal skills. Paralegals spend most of their time working with clients or other professionals and must be able to develop good relationships. They must make clients feel comfortable sharing personal information related to their cases. Organizational skills. Paralegals may be responsible for many cases at one time. They must adapt quickly to changing deadlines. Research skills. Paralegals need good research and investigative skills to conduct legal research. Speaking and writing skills. Paralegals must be able to document and present their research and related information to their supervising attorney. Advancement. Paralegals usually are given more responsibilities and require less supervision as they gain work experience. Experienced paralegals may supervise and delegate assignments to other paralegals and clerical staff. Employment Paralegals and legal assistants held about 256,000 jobs in May 2010. Paralegals are found in all types of organizations, but most work for law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies. The following industries employed the most paralegals and legal assistants in 2010: Legal services—70%; State and local government, excluding education and hospitals—9%; Federal government—6%; Finance and insurance—4%. Job Outlook As employers try to reduce costs and increase the efficiency of legal services, they are expected to hire more paralegals and legal assistants. Following the cutbacks experienced during the recent recession, some law firms are rebuilding their support staff by hiring paralegals. Paralegals can be a less costly alternative to lawyers and perform a wider variety of duties, including tasks once done by lawyers. This will cause an increase in demand for paralegals and legal assistants. Employment change. Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is expected to grow from 256,000 to 302,900, which is an 18 percent growth from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. In addition, paralegals’ work is less likely to be offshored than that of other legal workers. Paralegals routinely file and store important documents and work with lawyers to gather documents for important transactions, hearings, and depositions. They frequently handle documents and take statements, which must be done in person. Law firms will continue to be the largest employers of paralegals, but many large corporations are increasing their in-house legal departments to cut costs. For many companies, the high cost of lawyers and their support staff makes it much more economical to have an in-house legal department rather than to retain outside counsel. This will lead to an increase in the demand of legal workers in a variety of settings, such as finance and insurance firms, consulting firms, and health care providers. However, demand for paralegals could be limited by law firms’ workloads. When work is slow, lawyers may increase the number of hours they can bill a client by doing tasks that were previously delegated to paralegals. This may make a firm less likely to keep some paralegals on staff or hire new ones until the work load increases. Job prospects. This occupation attracts many applicants, and competition for jobs will be strong. Experienced, formally trained paralegals should have the best job prospects. In addition, many firms will prefer paralegals with experience and specialization in high-demand practice areas. Earnings Earnings of paralegals and legal assistants vary greatly. Salaries depend on education, training, experience, the type and size of employer, and the geographic location of the job. In general, paralegals that work for large law firms or in large cities earn more than those who work for smaller firms or in smaller cities. The median annual wage of paralegals and legal assistants was $46,680 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,460, and the top 10 percent earned more than $74,870. In addition to earning a salary, many paralegals receive bonuses, in part, to compensate them for sometimes having to work long hours. Paralegals also receive vacation, paid sick leave, a 401 savings plan, life insurance, personal paid time off, dental insurance, and reimbursement for continuing legal education. Source: From the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012–13 Edition, by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Definition Communication is defined as a process by which ideas, thoughts, and information are exchanged and understood between two or more entities. Reaching a common understanding means that people have a fairly accurate idea of what is being communicated to them; it does not imply that people have to agree with each other (Daft & Marcic, 2004). To improve the quality of communication, it is important to understand the communication process (Daft & Marcic, 2004; Drafke & Kossen, 2002). A prerequisite for communication is the existence of at least two entities—a receiving and a sending entity. The sender is anyone who wishes to convey the information or idea to others. Once the information or idea has been decided, then the sender encodes the information or idea into symbols or language that he or she believes the receiver can understand. The result of encoding is a message. A message is said to be clear when it contains information that is easily understood. Therefore, vocabulary and knowledge play an important role in the sender’s ability to encode (see Figure 8.1). The message is sent through a channel, which is a communication carrier such as a formal report, a telephone call, an e-mail message, or a face-to-face meeting. The receiver is the person or group for whom the information or idea is intended. On receiving the message, the receiver decodes the symbols or language to interpret the meaning of the message. This process of decoding may not always be fully successful because the receiver interprets the message based on previous experience, culture, thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes. Subsequently, the receiver responds to the sender with a return message, considered feedback, which lets the sender know whether the message was received as intended. The message is considered one-way communication if there is no feedback, but with the feedback it is considered a two-way communication (Lewis, Goodman, & Fandt, 2001). Based on observations, interviews, and records of police, Manning (1988) gives a descriptive rendition of communication among the police and between the police and the public. He examines the symbolic transformation of communication, discussing how communication is mediated by classification systems, technology, roles and tasks, and interpretations within the police force. A flow chart is presented by Manning (p. 51) to provide a visual representation of call processing in the communications center of the British Police Department. Communication takes place within a setting defined as the social context, which has an impact on the other components of the communication process. For example, communication between a sergean

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