What Is Meant by the Term ‘Communication Climate’?

What Is Meant by the Term ‘Communication Climate’?

A communication climate is a network of personal relationships that take place within the context of a business environment. In a good communication climate, employees at all levels are able to interact in a comfortable and respectful environment. However, in a poor communication climate, the exchange of ideas is difficult and the working environment is not generally conducive towards good results.

A highly functioning organization has a communication climate that fosters open and healthy employee relations, both among each other and with management. When workers and managers trust and respect each other, it creates an effective cooperative framework that allows leaders to implement organizational strategies efficiently and effectively.

A poor communication climate inhibits cooperation. For example, if employees don't believe a manager is competent and trustworthy, they will be unenthusiastic about new projects and perhaps even drag their feet. Similarly, if managers don't trust their employees to do a good job, they might micromanage every last detail of a project.

A communication climate is not unlike the climate studied by scientists in some regards (however the term is used in the same way as the phrase 'political climate' in that it does not actually denote physical conditions of any kind). The word 'climate' also has a different meaning to the word 'weather'; it is actually a mistake to use the two interchangeably (so 'communication weather' is simply not an alternative!).

'Climate' refers to measurements taken of patterns and variations in the atmosphere around a particular area (this is perhaps why the term 'climate change' is so frequently misunderstood). Climatologists study variations in temperature, humidity, wind and other variables over considerable periods of time, in order to gain aggregate data and measure this data against emerging trends or patterns.

A communication climate, then, also takes stock of patterns that are established over a given period of time. Just like in climatology, various different factors and variables combine in order to create a fuller, clearer picture of the overall environment.

In a workplace where lateral communication (that is, communication between two equal levels of employee) is strained, for example, the employees lose trust in each other and, eventually in the chain of command.

The improvement of one's 'soft skills' (also known as social skills) is seen as central to the improvement of a communication climate. Open channels of communication, delivered and received in a calm, comfortable working environment, enable workplace efficiency to improve dramatically.

Improved communication is the first step towards better results all round.

Removing hierarchical boundaries can improve your communication climate, according to the book “The Leadership Experience,” by Richard L. Daft and Patricia G. Lane. Allowing workers in different departments to access each other's performance data, for example, can enhance discussions about organizational strategy and help employees see how their actions interact. Creating a more open communication climate also can improve productivity. For instance, a steel company in Florida opened its financial books to its lower-level employees. The open communication strategy resulted in significant cost cuts as the workers began to see how their decisions impacted organizational success, according to Daft and Lane.

Like most fancy-pants business-related concepts, it just boils down to common sense really.

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