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Nonverbal Communication

19 January, 2016 - 15:28

Now that we have discussed the types of communication in organizations and different verbal communication styles, it is only appropriate to discuss body language as well. Most successful HR professionals are excellent at reading and understanding nonverbal language, especially during the interview process. This is discussed in Selection. The interviewer’s nonverbal language can also help or hinder a candidate, so we want to be careful of our nonverbal language when interviewing someone. Nonverbal language accounts for a large part of communication. Without seeing and hearing the nonverbal clues, it is easier to have misunderstandings. Nonverbal language can include facial expressions, eye contact, standing or sitting posture, and the position of our hands. Our tone of voice, loudness or softness, and gestures can also be part of body language. The better we can get at knowing what our own body language is telling others and reading others’ body language, the better we can get at communicating well with others.

Strategic HR Communication Style in Organizations

Consider the use of digital forms of communication, such as e-mail and text messaging. These forms of communication do not allow us to read another’s body language, which can often result in misconceptions about what another is saying. Use of “smiley” icons can make this clearer, but often people cannot detect sarcasm and other nonverbal communication cues. If you have something important to communicate, it is better to communicate most of the time in person or via phone, so you can hear tone and see facial expressions.

How Would You Handle This?

She Said What?

As the HR manager, you have a meeting scheduled in a few minutes with Adeline. Adeline is the accounting manager for a small firm in Boise, Idaho. She has four people who report to her, Alan being one of them. Alan manages three people in his position as account director. Adeline just left a meeting with one of Alan’s employees, who complained of Alan’s communication style and threatened to quit. She said that Alan belittles them and withholds information. She also complained of Alan making inappropriate comments, which were meant as a joke but were offensive. How would you handle this?

How Would You Handle This?

The author discusses the How Would You Handle This situation in this chapter at:

Another note to consider on body language is how body language can be different across cultures. For example, the OK sign (thumb and pointer figure put together to form a circle) means “great” or “fine” in the United States, but in Brazil, Germany, and Russia, this sign would be considered both rude and offensive. In Japan, this sign means you want the store to give you change in coins. When traveling, we often take for granted that gestures, and even interpersonal distance, or how far apart we stand from another person, are the same at home, but obviously this is not the case. Different nonverbal language can be different wherever you go, so reading up on the place you will visit can ensure you won’t offend anyone while there. Having this information can also help us train our employees for overseas assignments. This is discussed in Training and Development and International HRM.

Figure 9.2  What Are Each of These Images Telling Us?