Susan has an MBA in Management from the University of North Alabama. She teaches online and campus-based Business courses.
What Is One-Way Communication?
In one-way communication, information is transferred in one direction only, from the sender to the receiver. There isn't any opportunity for the receiver to give feedback to the sender.
Bob is going out of town on a weekend business trip this morning. He wants his secretary to order lunch for the executive board meeting next week. As Bob heads out the door, he jots down a note for his secretary and leaves it on her desk.
The model of one-way communication looks like this:
Sender (Bob)-----------> Message (Order lunch) ---------> Receiver (Secretary)
One-way communication is frequently used when the sender wants to give factual information or when they want to persuade or manipulate their audience and gain their cooperation.
It's 6:00 a.m., and Julie is getting ready to leave for class. She flips on the television just in time to catch the weather report. She's excited to hear that cooler weather is predicted for the day, and she can finally wear the new sweater that she bought last summer. Julie takes it out of the dresser and removes the tag with the washing instructions, noting that the sweater should be hand-washed in cold water and laid flat to dry.
Once dressed, Julie heads to the kitchen. She checks the labels on the boxes of cereal and selects the one that has the lowest calorie count. Then, she grabs the newspaper and sits down at the table. She'll have just enough time to scan the news while she eats, and then head out the door to class. She doesn't want to be late. She's looking forward to Dr. Sam's lecture on Tennessee fainting goats.
On the drive to the campus, Julie pops her favorite CD into the car's player. She's singing along, not watching her speed, when she notices a billboard on the side of the road. It's a public safety message warning drivers to buckle up and slow down. Oops! Julie backs off the gas pedal and maintains a safe speed for the rest of the drive.
Think about Julie's morning for a minute. Did you notice any examples of one-way communication?
Check your observations against the list here:
- The weather report on television
- The sweater's tag with washing instructions
- The nutritional label on the cereal box
- The morning newspaper
- The recorded music on the CD
- The billboard message
- Dr. Sam's lecture (if he only lectures and doesn't open up a discussion with the students)
How did you do? Did you spot all of them?
Now, think about how this type of communication can apply on the job.
Monday, at 7:00 a.m., Tom pulls into the parking lot at the foundry where he has been the foreman for ten years. He drives past the spaces closest to the entrance. Each of these slots has a metal sign indicating the spot is reserved for management. After parking his car across the lot, Tom goes into the building and punches the time clock. Taped to the top of the clock is a note warning employees that they will be fired if they punch a time card for someone else.
As Tom makes his way back to his tiny office in a corner of the shop, he notices the new cafeteria menu has been posted on the bulletin board by the water cooler. He doesn't bother to read it. If it's Monday, it must be meatloaf.
After hanging his coat, Tom sits down and boots up his computer. Checking his email, he sees that there is a message from the CEO. The message says that everyone is expected to gather in the cafeteria at 2:00 p.m. for an important announcement. There is no option to R.S.V.P. for the meeting; attendance is mandatory! Tom prints out the email from the CEO and tacks it to the bulletin board by the water cooler. He makes a mental note to announce the meeting to his department over the P.A. system at 8:00 a.m., when everyone is at their workstations.
Can you name the examples of one-way business communication?
- The signs reserving premium parking spots for management
- The warning against falsifying time cards
- The weekly cafeteria menu
- The email from the CEO
- The printed copy of the email tacked to the bulletin board
- The PA announcement
Can you think of the advantages of one-way communication in these examples?
Advantages of One-Way Communication
There are several advantages to one-way communication. The first is that it allows people and businesses to control the information and send their message without any interference or interruptions. This is useful when they don't want to give anyone the opportunity to question or challenge the information that is presented. Neither the CEO nor the weatherman wanted any feedback!
Another advantage of one-way communication is that it's fast. The message is transferred from sender to receiver, and there it ends. It won't take Tom long to make that announcement.
One-way communication also has the advantage of being more cost effective in situations where feedback isn't necessary. The sweater manufacturer incurs minimal cost in including the tag with washing instructions.
In one-way communication, information is transferred from the sender to the receiver without any opportunity for the receiver to give feedback to the sender. One-way communication is most often used to give factual information or to persuade or manipulate the receiver to act a certain way. One-way communication has several advantages. It allows the sender to control the message without interference, and it's fast and cost effective.
When you are done, you should be able to:
- Explain how one-way communication works
- Recall when one-way communication is used
- Identify examples of one-way communication
- List some of the advantages of one-way communication
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