Workplace Communication between Supervisors and Subordinates

Steele & Plenty (2014) finds that communication between subordinates and supervisors play a critical role in influencing their relationship within an organization. Some issues that persist within this relationship concern competence and satisfaction. Communication competence is defined across many frames, but Steele & Plenty (2014) defines it as a construct for which the context of communication is understood. Effective communication is linked to competence, and as such, subordinates and employees can improve it through training and self-teaching methods or trial and error. People can use self-reporting scales to evaluate their perceived competence and use their findings as the basis of improvement. Steele & Plenty (2014) focus on leaders, citing that leadership communication is critical, as it influences an organization’s goals and objectives. Besides, there is a link between effective communication and job satisfaction; thus, employee satisfaction has been used as a measure of communication competency in organizations (Steele & Plenty, 2014). Therefore, the article links supervisor-subordinate communication competence and job and communication satisfaction.

The research finds optimal communication in the contexts of subordinate and supervisor relationship. The communication competency in this context is based on a dyadic relationship. As such, optimal communication arises when both the supervisor and the subordinates have improved their communication competency regardless of their power distance. Both practice competency improvement through training or self-teaching methods, self-evaluation using rating scales, leadership-motivating, optimism in communication, and maintaining role-credibility (Steele & Plenty, 2014). However, the study finds that supervisors should mainly adopt a motivating language, which is ideal for fostering employee job satisfaction. From the study results, optimal communication is happening between subordinates and supervisors in organizations. Data indicate that 60% of subordinate-supervisor communication is competent and that 64% of the communication instances produce job and communication satisfaction. Therefore, optimum communication in a supervisor-subordinate relationship is dyadic and should feature motivating communication from supervisors.


The optimal communication derived in the study align with my experience in a supervisor-subordinate situation. Regardless of the power distance between subordinates and supervisors in my organization, communication is most effective where both parties are effective communicators. Both administrative staff levels become competent through some form of training or through trial and error, with continuous evaluation. Leaders and subordinates whom optimism in the communication fostering motivational, interpersonal communication. Besides, such communication features dyadic interpersonal communication, making the communication more intimate, immediate, and proximal. In such situations, there are minimal miscommunications and conflicts are reduced. Supervisors become more connected with their subordinates, and regardless of the power distance, their intimacy enables closer monitoring and motivation.


Steele, G., & Plenty, D. (2014). Supervisor–Subordinate Communication Competence and Job and Communication Satisfaction. International Journal Of Business Communication, 52(3), 294-318. doi: 10.1177/2329488414525450