Implicit communication in organisations. The impact of culture, structure and management practices on employee behaviour

J.A.P. Hoogervorst, H. van der Flier, P.L. Koopman

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    Organisations engage in explicit and intentional communication with employees in various ways. However, communication will not be received in a "neutral" context. Employees operate in an organisational (or behavioural) context determined by the organisational culture, structures and systems, and the management practices. This context acts as a source of implicit communication towards employees. This view fits the various perspectives about communication, which does not need to be considered as a two-way process, and which can be intentionally or unintentionally, transmitted and received. All too often, implicit communication is at odds with the "official" explicit communication. Through this latter form of communication the organisation might, for example, proclaim a quality image, while in reality employees experience that, in case of conflicts, delivery planning prevails over quality. Likewise, communication about the "learning organisation" appears to be cumbersome in a culture suppressing discussion about failures. The effect of implicit communication should not be underestimated. Cynicism among employees is repeatedly the result of inconsistent messages being received. This paper describes the aspects of organisational culture, structures and systems, and management practices, seen in a behavioural context, in order to illustrate how these aspects act as an implicit source of communication to employees. Additionally, this form of communication expresses whether employees themselves are seen as the crucial core of organisational success. The importance of consistent signals is illustrated, specifically with respect to organisational change programs. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)288-310
    Number of pages23
    JournalJournal of Managerial Psychology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


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