An organisation is a system comprised of people who work to achieve a common goal. Most of the organisations have four main features: interdependence, hierarchical structure, linkage to their environments, and communication, on which the entire system functions. Whenever there occurs a failure in communication, organisations face complex issues in productivity and member satisfaction. Poor communication practices can also work against the spirit of an organisation and it can make it a distasteful place to work by creating an unenthusiastic organisational environment. The spirit of an organisation can be maintained and objectives efficiently attained if managers and their employees could engage in fruitful communication; thus, avoid problems and enhance chances of organisational advancement. In order to communicate proficiently in an organisation, members should have initiatives to communicate with more formality than we do in other situations. The members should also have to acquire organisational genres, the unique forms of communication common to organisations (Daniels T, Spiker, B & Papa, M 1997).
Toonz Animation – A case study
Toonz Animation is an international animation production house having production facilities in India, UK, USA and Australia employing over 800 people most of them in the creative side. The main activity of the organisation was to do animation productions for their clients in the U.S. and the Europe; majority of them comprising outsourced productions from major production houses. Toonz Animation studios have the highest number of employees in their production facilities in India, which is situated in the metropolitan city of Bombay and Technopark, Trivandrum. Creative professionals from Europe and the US hold the top creative and marketing positions of the company while the main work force is a cross section of the West and the East, a majority of them from the Asian region; primary from India and the Philippines. The company is a typical example of how people from different nations and cultures interact in a professional environment to develop a peculiar corporate culture.
The corporate culture of Toonz Animation is built on certain values and behaviour patterns that underlie the personalities of creative people. As the organisation is a production house that employs much of creative effort, and not a mechanical way of work, there is much of informal channels of communication. Even though there is competition as part of professionalism that embodies the work culture of the organisation, it was the tethered to work and never carried to personal relationships, perhaps one of the main aspects that the management of Toonz Animation points out as an example of their excellent work culture, says Human Resources Manager of Toonz Animation, Ruchi Bhattacharya, a personnel management professional trained in the UK. The organisation kept an ambience of a “wonderland” inside its premises. This indeed was a distinct organisational culture, that the employees were treated as fairies, as they were capable of doing magical things, just like the fairies. All of them were creative people working with their imaginations and artistic skills and indeed the metaphor of fairies is most suitable.
There are a number of key phrases that refers to the unique concepts or events that dominated the environment of Toonz Animation. Among them, the most interesting was the term “Fairy Land” used to label the main building comprising of the studios and the creative department. Artificially made water body, meadows and a beautiful garden surrounded the building, to make the metaphor right. Just opposite to this creative house situates the administrative block, which is often termed as the “Rock”, the building was also made of granite rocks, and had an ash colour. The description was used by the animators and artists who always viewed it from the other side across the water body. This expression also reflected the attitude of majority of the employees who were creative people, to the administrative staff, who used not to mingle with others, did not come across the water body to the “Fairy Land.” This attitude of the management staff was also regarded as ‘elitist’ and ‘snobbish’ by the animators and artists, who often did not like the hard lines of bureaucracy. Many of them believed that the administrative staff spied on them, asked questions to others about other’s performances and thought that they were close to the management.
Another metaphor that was commonly used was the “Fairies Meet” which represented the monthly meet of the Animators, Artists, Creative Heads and few Directors of the organisation who belonged to the top brass. Although these meetings were called ‘Monthly meetings’ by the administrative staff, the employees wanted to make it as their own get together and hence, they called it as “Fairies Meet”. The officials other than the creative people who represented the meeting were called “Bugs”, perhaps to show their distance with the ‘non-creative’ people. The meetings always announced the recent projects the organisation has secured, future projects, etc. Most of the employees who were interviewed said that they knew about such announcements one or two days earlier through the newspapers which carried press releases of the company or statements of CEO or Directors of the company. These opinions emphasised that there lacked a proper communication between the administrative staff and the employees of the company, making true of the situation “Fairy Land” and “Rock”.
It is a widely acknowledged fact that each organisation has its own set of laws for communication. These rules are very much specific and reflect the philosophy and culture of an organisation, which will not necessarily work in another. Organisations work on the basis of current information. As it goes through the organisation, it can take the form of a formal chain of command (the formal network) or a more informal and channel of communication based on personal relationships and friendships (the informal network). The path of the formal communication travels in an upward direction (from the lower rungs to the higher), a downward movement (from higher to lower rungs), or in a horizontal direction (between workers with same status). In most of the multinational organisations, most of the information flows downward (Morgan G, 1989). There seems to be a great resentment among employees about the amount and quality of information that flow downwards. Sometimes, the employees receive very little information; sometimes, they will know too much; and sometimes, they get misleading or wrong information. This is a common issue in communication that as messages are transferred between individuals, the details are often left out, complicated, or changed to suit the frame of reference fixed by the communicator protecting his own interests and viewpoints. By building in redundancy and submitting for explanation, communicators can prevail over some of these problems that occur in serial transmission (Trenholm, 2005).
The creative people of the Toonz Animation comprising of the Animators and Artists and Creative Heads worked on two shifts – morning to evening and evening to night, while the administrative staff work only from morning to evening. Only one or staff from the administrative department will only be present at the evening shift. So, an efficient communication line is not at all maintained. All notices and information are passed to the employees through their respective heads, who sometimes forget to brief them amidst their tight schedules. The organisation also did not produce any newsletters, which was vital as channel of communication in an organisation that employed more than 300 people.
It’s also important to be aware of second-level effects associated with every medium. Every communication context gives birth to new ethical dilemmas, whereas the organisational context does not matter. By taking accountability for one’s actions and by trying to generate a culture that considers the dignity of others, and though fostering open discussion and respecting diversity, organisational communicators can create humane workplaces (Sylvia G, 2006). In Toonz Animation, it is interesting to note that such efforts have come from the employees themselves, which evolved as part of the nature of their job, rather than from the administration.
When sex and romance enter the workplace, interaction becomes much more sophisticated. Nowadays, we see more instances of people engaging in office romances. These interactions are very much risky and can work against the ethos of the organisation jeopardising its goals. Sometimes, the presence of sexual attraction in the workplace can be detrimental and lead to serious problems, including sexual harassment. Any communication that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment on the basis of verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature counts as sexual harassment and is illegal under the law in many nations (Middleton, 2002). Toonz Animation have an open friendship environment and many employees told that such relations never happened in the organisation. Some employees have jokingly commented that the tight deadlines and the rotating shift for the junior employees did not give them time to engage in such relationships.
Organisations can be heavens on earth to work, or they can prove otherwise to give you sleepless nights; which greatly rest on the types of relationships that are built between employees. In building relationships, employees have to recognize that there is a difference between personal and professional behavior and have to balance their need for intimacy and friendship with their need to get the job done. By recognising role differences and by remembering that one’s personal desires and feelings must sometimes be subordinated to those of others, we can create healthy and professional relationships. The earliest work in organisational communication focused on determining variables (such as information flow) that were associated with productivity. More recently, researchers have also begun to use an interpretive approach, considering organisations as cultures. By looking at norms of conduct, metaphors, stories, and rites, researchers seek to understand how individuals make sense of the organisations they enter and uncover hidden values and assumptions.
Rituals often helped to develop a positive organisational culture, but there were only a few rituals in Toonz Animation. This is due mainly to the shift structure of the employees; even monthly meetings were held separate for both the shifts. Parties and socialisation ceremonies like drinking were done at the behest of the employees’ recreation clubs, but not with the direct participation of the organisation. No drinking was permitted except in the Directors’ Room. Only chosen few were asked to join the Directors, mostly as a reward or at the time of announcing promotions.
Upward flow is rare in most of the present-day organisations, but it, can also be twisted. This happens when employees themselves behave as protectors of their employers or when they don’t want to take advantage of any peculiar situation in an organisation. There are also problems with horizontal communication when there arises competition between various departments in an organisation. Toonz Animation lacked a perfect communications channel, in this respect. Although organisations promote mutual trust and cooperation, people with various culture, personalities and backgrounds must work together with greater responsibilities to overcome their own biases and approaches. Informal structures, like the grapevine, can also be present in the communication channels in an organisation. Although there is a greater consensus that the grapevine is a hotbed of gossip and false rumour, studies have shown that it is precise, even though incomplete sometimes. Nowadays, keeping up with technological advances is a must. In addition to knowing the latest advances in technology, employees must be able to choose the correct medium for each message and must follow norms governing their use. Factors such as speed, timing, distance, audience size, intimacy, talent, and cost should be taken into consideration when choosing how to convey a message (Lewis G., 2006).
At Toonz, essentially, there existed a sub-culture clearly formulated and promoted by the managers. But these were very much rooted in the organisations goals of productivity and profit, which only very few employees knew. Many of the employees did not know what the organisation’s goals were, and there were concerned only with money, which the organisation has clearly equated with productivity. Some Creative Heads have found to be effective managers, that they informed their subordinates about the organisation’s and department’s goals and kept them updated about recent developments, thereby fostering mutual cooperation. On the other, some other Creative Heads saw the information as power, and created a sub culture which has a negative impact. It could be seen from the investigation that the internal communication in the organisation was not consistent and only a few feedback channels were available in the organisation for the employees.