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The manner of communication in the business environment is of great importance. Various nonverbal elements used by supervisors may have either motivational or demotivational influence, while through their tone, gestures, and language, employees can demonstrate their compliance and respect.
Description of Supervisor-Employee Relationship
In this paper, I will discuss nonverbal communication in the relationships with a manager who supervised me at one of my previous workplaces. At that time, I was a trainee in the office, and she was a senior manager responsible for the whole department. The given relationships fall under the category of employee-supervisor relationships because of the difference in the status of involved parties.
Significance of Nonverbal Communication in the Given Category
As stated by Richmond, McCroskey, and Hickson (2012), the distinctive features of employee-supervisor relationships are the higher authority given to the supervisor, demand for respect paid by subordinates to a higher-status person, and functioning within the reward and punishment system. In the context of such hierarchical relationships, there are certain behavioral expectations imposed on both employees and supervisors.
Such nonverbal messages as the tone of voice, gestures, touch, seating, use of time, etc. can indicate the status of the individual in the organization. For instance, it will be considered inappropriate if a person of any status will sit in an excessively relaxed pose, leaning back in his or her chair and spreading arms and legs in different directions. Managers still may enjoy a certain degree of freedom in choosing postures and gestures, yet they should meet the boundaries of what is permitted. However, if an employee and especially a newly recruited trainee will behave unrestrainedly, i.e., speak or laugh too loud, approach others too close, etc., it will be regarded as an expression of disrespect.
At my workplace, both the manager and I followed the norms of nonverbal behavior appropriate for the social situation in which we were. The difference in our statuses was especially notable during direct communication. The manager kept her head raised, in a slightly relaxed posture, reservedly moving her hands while speaking. At the same time, I usually communicated with her keeping my hands down, standing or seating straight.
When conversing, I tried to show attention by looking directly at her. I could look away time after time, but any moment the manager gave me a direct eye contact I always tried to do the same. The manager controlled both my and her nonverbal behavior. Her vocal behavior set up the tone of the whole communication. She sounded relaxed and confident. Her voice was sufficiently loud. Additionally, she encouraged mutual dialog which I perceived as a sign of a democratic leadership style, and it showed that although we interact in a formal environment, I can have some freedom of self-expression.
Touch and Immediacy
Although we communicated frequently, we always were at sufficient distance from each other, so we did not touch each other. At the same time, I noticed she could slightly touch other employees on their shoulders to show recognition and appreciation. However, it would be inappropriate if a subordinate would touch her as well even though the company had a very friendly work climate. The same case is with the nonverbal immediacy. The manager could respond to employees’ demands with a little delay while subordinates were expected to react immediately in case there was no serious excuse. Otherwise, their behavior was regarded unprofessional.
Advantages and Disadvantages
From a certain perspective, the position of subordinates may be regarded as disadvantaged because their behavior is more constrained. However, the difference in nonverbal behavior of managers and employees is necessary because, otherwise, it will be difficult to control productivity. The authority given to supervisors ensures compliance, yet if they abuse their power, they may achieve a reverse effect. In my case, the manager used her status intelligently and recognized the risks associated with power. She expressed this knowledgeability through appropriate communication positions and attitudes.
Overall, it is possible to say that supervisors’ patterns of communication largely define the very style of organizational leadership. When a supervisor encourages mutual dialog and sets friendly communication tone, he/she may significantly increase employees’ motivation and develop a trustful relationship with them.
Richmond, V. P., McCroskey, J. C., & Hickson, M. (2012). Nonverbal behavior in interpersonal relations. Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.