Articles & Books for
Communication & Participation
Academic Articles for Improving Upward Communications & Participation:
Larkin, S. (1996). “Reaching and Changing Frontline Employees.”
Harvard Business Review, May-June, pp. 95-104.
It is argued
that senior managers - and most communication consultants - have
refused to hear what frontline workers have been trying to tell
them: When you need to communicate a major change, stop
communicating values, communicate face-to-face, and spend most of
your time, money and effort on frontline supervisors. Despite
research showing that frontline employees prefer to receive
information from their supervisor - the person to whom they are
closest - companies continue to depend on charismatic executives to
inspire the troops. This does not work because frontline supervisors
are the real opinion leaders in any company. Communication between
frontline supervisors and employees counts the most toward changed
behavior where it matters the most - at the front line.
Maier, N. R. F. (1967). "Assets and Liabilities in Group Problem Solving:
The Need for an Integrative Function." Psychological Review, v74. pp. 239-249.
Van de Ven, A., & Delbecq, A. L. (1971). "Nominal versus Interacting
Group Processes for Committee Decision-Making Effectiveness." Academy of
Management Journal, v14, 203-212.
This article reviews
literature dealing with the relative effectiveness of interacting
(spontaneous group discussion) versus nominal (individual silent
effort in a group setting) group processes for problem-solving
committees. The authors conclude that the optimal combination of
group processes for a problem-solving committee is: (1) the use of
nominal group processes for fact-finding, idea generation, or
initial subjective probability estimation in the first phase of a
committee’s work; (2) the use of structured feedback and interacting
discussion in the second phase; and (3) nominal group voting for
final individual judgments in the final phase.
Yukl, G., Falbe, C. M., & Youn, J. Y. (1993).
"Patterns of Influence
Behavior for Managers (914KB)."
Group and Organization Management,
v18, n1, pp. 5-28.
Research was conducted to learn more about how
managers use different tactics to influence subordinates, peers, and
superiors. The study involved analysis of incidents describing influence
attempts from the perspective of an agent or a target. Influence behavior in
the incidents was coded into 9 influence tactics. A conceptual framework was
presented to explain the selection and sequencing of tactics, and the model
was used to derive specific hypotheses for individual tactics. Analysis of
tactic combinations revealed that some tactics were used together much more
often than others. Consistent with the model, some tactics were used more in
initial influence attempts, and other tactics were used more in follow-up
influence attempts. Differences in the use of tactics were also consistent
with the model, and the results verified directional differences found in
earlier research with questionnaires.
Applied Articles for Improving Upward Communications &
Anonymous. (July 1992). "All Ears: How Developing Better Listening Habits Can Make a
Difference in the Way You Communicate." Agency Sales Magazine,
v22n7, pp. 42-45.
Strategies to develop better listening habits. Includes four ways to show
youre not listening and an effective listening self-assessment quiz.
The most important principle of effective listening is to become more actively engaged in the
process. This can be achieved by concentrating on the speaker and what is being
communicated. Among the best and easiest ways to improve concentration is to maintain
strong eye contact with the speaker. Another useful technique is to focus on the speaker's
lips. Other suggestions for effective listening include: 1. setting an appropriate listening
objective, 2. becoming aware of situations in which one's emotional responses may be
distorting one's interpretation of what is being said, 3. being sensitive to nonverbal cues, and
4. providing appropriate feedback. In trying to become an effective listener, it is important to
remember that listening is an active process. Listening well requires determination,
concentration, discipline, and practice.
Harvey, Jerry B. (Summer 1988). "The Abilene Paradox: The Management of
Agreement." Organizational Dynamics.
Vol. 17, No. 1; pg. 16, 28 pgs.
The Abilene Paradox occurs
when members of an organization take an action contrary to what they
really want to do and, as a result, defeat the very purposes they are
trying to achieve. Organizations caught in the web of the Abilene
Paradox lack the ability to manage agreement. This can be expressed by 6
specific sub-symptoms: 1. Individuals agree as to the nature of the
problem or situation. 2. There is individual agreement as to the steps
that should be taken. 3. Organization members fail to communicate their
desires and beliefs to one another. 4. Inaccurate and invalid
information is then used to make decisions. 5. Everyone is angry,
irritated, and frustrated with the results. 6. The cycle repeats itself.
The cycle may be broken if communication is managed by establishing
debates, assigning fact checkers and devil's advocates, and encouraging
organizational graffiti. Managing the organization context can enhance
power and reduce risk. The creation of the right kind of climate is also
Janis, I. L. (1971). "Groupthink: The Desperate Drive for Consensus at Any
Cost." Psychology Today.
“Groupthink” is used to refer to the mode of thinking that persons
engage in when concurrence seeking becomes so dominant in a cohesive
in-group that it tends to override realistic appraisal of
alternative courses of action. The symptoms of groupthink arise when
the members of decision-making groups become motivated to avoid
being too harsh in their judgments of their leaders’ or their
colleagues’ ideas. They adopt a soft line of criticism, even in
their own thinking. At their meetings, all the members are amiable
and seek complete concurrence on every important issue, with no
bickering or conflict to spoil the cozy, “we-feeling” atmosphere.
This article discusses the symptoms and results of groupthink and
how to avoid it in decision-making groups.
Lefton, Robert E. (January 1988). "The Eight Barriers to Teamwork." Personnel
Journal, v67n1, pp. 18, 20-21.
Eight communication barriers to accessibility: breakdown in probing, promotional
leadership, intra-team conflict, insufficient alternatives, lack of candor, pointless
meetings, lack of self-critique, and failure to cycle downward; some strategies to address
Lewis, J. (July 1985). "Are We Communicating?" Supervision,
v47n7, p. 3-4.
Explores barriers to supervisor-employee communication that occur due to the
supervisors position and greater commitment to the organization. Discusses several
strategies to break down these barriers: awareness, listening and one-to-one
communication, and allowing employees to share in decision making; also explores the value
of trust in supervisor-employee communication.
C. R., & Farson, R. E. (2001). "Active Listening," in The
Organizational Behavior Reader (7th ed.), J. S. Osland, D. A.
Kolb, & I. M. Rubin (Eds.). Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Prentice Hall (pp. 185-195).
A classic article on active
listening. It covers how to actively listen, problems in active
listening, and how active listening can help in reaching
Schmall, E. (May 10, 1993). "Actions Speak Louder Than Open Door
Policies (238KB)." Network World, v10n19, pp. 33-34.
Presents some negative behaviors that hinder staffs accessibility to their
manager. Most managers are content to issue a statement declaring that they are in favor of open and
honest communication within the organization. However, they take unconscious actions to
shut communication down. Techniques managers use to stifle open communication include: 1.registering only the comments that support their opinions, 2. using the staff's comments to
punish them, and 3. routinely arguing away advice.
Scott, D., & Deadrick, D. (June 1982). "The Nominal Group Technique:
Applications for Training Needs Assessment." Training and Development Journal,
This group process will help improve training needs analysis by
actively involving employees in analysis and goal setting.
Vroom, V. H.
(Spring 1993). "Two Decades of Research on Participation:
Beyond Buzzwords and Management Fads." Yale Management,
Vroom, management professor and consultant, has devoted many years
to answering the question: “When is participation useful?”
He and his colleagues developed a contingency theory called
the leadership-participation model that is presented and explained
in this article.
The model assumes that different decision situations
require different types of leadership.
As with so many contingency theories, the profile of an
effective leader or manager is one who is capable of analyzing the
context and choosing from various styles the one that is most
Books for Improving Upward Communications:
Berne, Eric, M.D. 1996. Games
People Play : The Psychology of Human Relationships (Reissued
edition). Ballantine Books.
Dr. Eric Berne, as the originator of
transactional analysis, has attained recognition for developing one of
the most innovative approaches to modern psychotherapy. Discover how
many of these "secret games" you play everyday of your life:
Iwfy (If it weren't for you); Sweetheart; Threadbare; Harried;
Alcoholic, and many more. A groundbreaking book that bores deep into the
heart of all our relationships, GAMES PEOPLE PLAY is a classic that
should be read again and again.
Delberg, A. L., Van De Ven, A. H., Gustafson, D. H. 1975. Group
Techniques for Program Planning : A Guide to Nominal Group and Delphi Processes. Glenview,
Illinois: Scott, Foresman and Company (150 pages).
Chapter 3 provides guidelines on how to conduct a brainstorming session using
the nominal group technique.
Hackman, J. R. (2002) Leading Teams: Setting The
Stage for Great Performances. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business
School Press (368 pages).
Teams outlines what leaders can do to
structure, support, and guide teams in a way that
· enhances the social processes essential
to collective work;
· builds shared commitment, skills, and
task-appropriate coordination strategies;
· helps members troubleshoot problems and
spot emerging opportunities; and · captures experiences and
translates them into shared knowledge.
these conditions, Hackman argues, the very best teams emerge-teams
that exceed client expectations, grow in capability over time, and
contribute to the learning and personal fulfillment of individual
Thomas A. 1996.
I'm Ok-You're Ok (Reissue edition).
One of the most extraordinary self-help
bestsellers of all time--with over 15 million copies in print--featuring
Transactional Analysis. Harris has helped millions find the freedom to
change, liberate their adult effectiveness, and achieve joyful intimacy
with others. "A way to self-understanding and change."--Los
Janis, I. L. (1972). Victims of Groupthink. Houghton Mifflin
Chapter 9 on preventing groupthink is particular useful in conducting
Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, F. P. (2002).
Group Theory and Group Skills
(8th Ed). Pearson Education (672 pages).
From Book News, Inc.
of a text first published in 1975. Covers group dynamics,
experiential learning, group goals and social interdependence,
communication, leadership, decision making, controversy and
creativity, conflicts of interest, power, diversity, team
development, and leading growth and counseling groups.
How to Form a Team:
Five Keys to High Performance.
Greensboro, NC: Center for Creative
Leadership Press (<50 pages).
One of the
first steps to take toward increasing team effectiveness is to pay
attention to how the team is formed. You can head off most of the
problems that beset teams during the formation stage by setting a
clear direction, building organizational support, creating an
empowering team design, identifying key relationships, and
monitoring external factors. When a team is formed with the five
high-performance principles described in this guidebook, it has a
head start on achieving success.
Manz, C. C., Neck, C. P., Mancuso, J., Manz, K. P. (1997). For Team
Members Only : Making Your Workplace Team Productive and Hassle-Free. New York:
American Management Association (176 pages).
In the mad scramble to reorganize the workplace into teams, the manager's new
role has been assiduously examined. Actual team members, however, have been asked to
master a new set of skills and ways of working--with no guidance. This guide supplies
step-by-step guidelines and interactive exercises for boosting the skills they need.
Merrill, D. W. (1981). Personal Styles and Effective Performance.
Radnor, PA: Chilton Book Co.
Presents and discusses the concept of social style, the four social styles
(Analytical, Driving, Amiable, Expressive) and the dimensions of social styles:
assertiveness, responsiveness and versatility. Chapters 4 and 5 discuss versatility,
provides a self-test of your versatility and how to improve to enable flexibility to work
with the styles of others.
Schwarz, R. M. (1994). The Skilled Facilitator:
Practical Wisdom for Developing Effective Groups. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
When it was
published in 1994, Roger Schwarz's The Skilled Facilitator
earned widespread critical acclaim and became a landmark in the
field. The book is a classic work for consultants, facilitators,
managers, leaders, trainers, and coaches--anyone whose role is to
guide groups toward realizing their creative and problem-solving
potential. This thoroughly revised edition provides the essential
materials for facilitators and includes simple but effective ground
rules for group interaction. Filled with illustrative examples, the
book contains proven techniques for starting meetings on the right
foot and ending them positively and decisively. This important
resource also offers practical methods for handling emotions when
they arise in a group and offers a diagnostic approach for
identifying and solving problems that can undermine the group
Web Sites for Improving Upward Communications:
Which articles or books did you find helpful? Are there any additional articles, books, or
other resources you would recommend to others attempting to improve their ability at
upward communication and participation?
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