Communication Skills of Heads of Departments: Verbal, Listening, and Feedback Skills

JRHS 2011; 11(2): 91-96

Copyright © Journal of Research in Health Sciences

Communication Skills of Heads of Departments: Verbal, Listening, and Feedback Skills

Yadollah Hamidi (PhD)a, Majid Barati (MSc)b*

a Research Center For Health Sciences, Department of Health Management, School of Public Health, Hamadan University of Medical Sciences, Hamadan, Iran

b Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health, Hamadan University of Medical Sciences, Hamadan, Iran

* Correspondence: Majid Barati (MSc) E-mail:  

Received: 4 August 2011,Revised:19 September 2011,Accepted:10 October 2011,Available online:,21 October 2011


Background: Managers communication skills are one of the most important topics in educational sector of universities of medical sciences and may have considerable effect on faculty members and employees. This study was performed to determine the level of communication skills (verbal, listening, feedback) of the heads of department of faculties and its relation with some demographic variables.

Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted from June 2009 to January 2010. We enrolled all of the heads of departments (N=60) in Hamadan University of Medical Sciences, western Iran. The participants received a self-administered 24-item questionnaire in Likert format (six general items and 18 items related to communication skills). Data were analyzed with SPSS software using Chi-square and Fisher's exact tests.

Results: The average scores of verbal, listening and feedback communication were 22.5, 16.1 and 21.1, respectively. Accordingly, 78.3% of participants in verbal communication, 16.7% in listening communication and 73.3% in feedback communication had high status. There were significant differences between the average score of listening skills and age (P=0.013) as well as gender (P=0.042). In addition, there was a significant statistical difference between verbal skills and gender (P=0.021).

Conclusion: The overall communication skills of more than half of the heads of departments were moderate. This needs designing some programs for improving department managers communication skills.

Keywords: Communication, Faculty, Verbal Behavior, Iran


The need for more effective leaders and managers has been brought into sharp focus by the current quick changes in the organization and management fields1-5.These changes require present and future managers to be more adjusted to developing high-involvements teams and to be able to cover wider spans of control6. This is right for all businesses, as well as academic organizations. Effective academic managers are now an important demand in medical sciences universities.

It is widely accepted that business management and business educators perceive communication skills as highly significant to human resources and organizations equally7. In the daily work, managers spend most of their time for communicating with other employees. Effective communication is therefore a very important skill.

According to the results of previous studies, faculty members should be democratic, tender, patient, reliable and humorous to their students during the interaction process, and they should use ways of communication skills and activities effectively8-9. In universities, research has shown faculty and managers identify that communication skills are very important to students ultimate job success10.

Communications is a process of creating information and transmit. It is psychosocial process that set two Individual and group into relationship11. Faculty members poor communication skill is a major concern in medical education system12-13. Only 17.5% of faculties had good communication skills14. Managers and employees communication and listening skills are fair to poor (the lowest two categories on a 5- point scale)15.

Managers with high communication skills may help organizations to develop the existing human resources more productively and to deal effectively with environmental forces and enhance employees job satisfaction. As faculty members, it is important that faculty members may be able to master every form of skills including verbal, listening, and feedback communication skills16. However, effective communication skills have an important place in terms of teachers professional and personal characteristics1. Subsequently, teachers with good teaching techniques will be able to draw the students attention in the teaching and learning process17,18.

Effectiveness of a head of a department as a faculty member is related with student achievement and satisfaction19. On the other hand, faculty members who are satisfied in their work and have a good relationship with their colleagues will strive harder to achieve excellence. In spite of the general agreement on the importance of communication skills, present evidences show that employees with long time recruitment and those just entering the employees from university still need these skills7. Thus, it is very important to give appropriate recognition to effective faculty members as a head of department in their job because only managers with high communication skills are able to achieve department objectives and create effective leading16,20.

The present study was conducted in order to identify the factors affecting heads of departments communication skills11.The main objective of this research was to examine the relationship between heads of departments communication skills and their demographic variables. In this research, verbal, listening, and feedback communication skills of the heads of departments were investigated in all faculties of Hamadan University of Medical Sciences.


This cross-sectional study was conducted in Hamadan University of Medical Sciences, Hamadan, the west of Iran, from June 2009 to January 2010. We enrolled all the heads of departments (N=60) including 29 participants from Faculty of Medicine, six participants from Faculty of Health, eight participants from Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, 12 participants from Faculty of Dentistry and five participants from Faculty of Paramedical Sciences.

The “Communication Skills Inventory” developed as a means of data collection by Burton21. The Cronbaches alpha reliability coefficient of this data collection toll was 0.71. This questionnaire was used to measure head of departments perceptions of their communication skills. In this 18-item instrument, the participants were asked to rate each statement on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Higher scores (indicated better level of proficiency in communication skills. Communication Skills Scale had three sub-section: (a) verbal communication skills were measured based on 6 factors including:  using local phrase and proverbs, presenting ideas in general terms, feeling of embarrassment and bafflement when talking, speaking slowly, and using example during taking; (b) listening communication skills were measured based on 6 items including familiarity with common language, attention to multiple meanings of words, attention to interesting points; (c) feedback communication skills were measured based on 6 items including reflect the realities during feedback, delay feedback for more thought to the subject. The highest possible score for each sub-dimension was 5; those with score of 3.4 to 5 (61% to 100%) were considered to have “high” communication skills, those with scores of 2.6 to 3.39 (41% to 60%) were labeled as moderate and those with scores less than 2.6 were considered to have low communication skills. Personal information form, which was developed by researcher, was used to assess the effect of other covariates under study including age, gender, education level, faculty, management experience and filed. We interviewed with all subjects who participated voluntarily in this survey.

Table 1: Frequency and relative distribution of the subjects based on demographic characteristics

SPSS 16 software program was used for data analysis.  Chi-square and Fisher's exact tests were used for comparison of subgroups at 0.05 significance level. This study was approved by the Vice-Chancellor for Research and Technology of Hamadan University of Medical Sciences (No, 137991).


From 60 participants, 71.7% were male, and 78.3% had PhD. The mean age of the volunteers was 34.8 [95% CI: 32, 37.6] ranging from 25 to 55 yr. Most of the participants (43.3%) aged 35-44 yr old. Only 16.6% of participants had management experience. The demographic characteristics of the respondents are shown in Table 1.

Table 2 shows the descriptive data on communication skills scale. The mean score of communication skills was 59.6 [95% CI: 57.78, 61.42]. The scores obtained by the participants were high in 78.3%, 16.7% and 73.3% for verbal, listening, and feedback communication skills respectively. Almost 48.3% of heads of departments had a low listening skill score.

Table 3 shows the relationship between mangers communication skills and demographic characteristics. The listening skill level had statistically significant correlation with age (P=0.013). In addition, there was a significant correlation between verbal and listening skills and gender (P=0.021 and P=0.042 respectively). However, there was no statistically significant relationship between the other communication skills and the remaining demographic characteristics.

Table 2: The distribution of verbal, listening and feedback communication skill levels and their associated score means


Successful communication is the main input for planning, leading, organizing, and controlling the resources and processes of any organizations in order to achieve the main goals22. In educational organizations; communication skill is one of the most important aspects in improving the teaching profession16. It is very important to have good communication skills in order to achieve the department goals and to increase the faculty members performance. Hence, the objectives of this research were to measure the level of heads of departments communication skills and its relationship with their demographic characteristics in all faculties of Hamadan University of Medical Sciences.

Table 3: Relationship between the levels of communication skills and various demographic characteristics

The communication skill level was high in 40% of heads of department; moderate in 56.7%, and low in 3.3%. These findings are consistent with the results of other studies6,8,23,24. Mehrshdian et al20 showed that the communication skill level was very good in 55.4% of the faculty members of dentistry faculty; moderate in 31.8% and low in 12.8%. In addition, Iranfar et al12 found out that 64% of faculty members in Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences had good communication skills and 39.6% had low communication skills.

Regarding the listening skill, the result of the present study pointed out that 48.3% of heads of departments had a low listening skill. Chaharsoghi et al25 showed that there was a significant difference between present and optimum conditions in terms of listening skill status among organizations employees. Brown et al26 also pointed out that managers spend 80% of their working time for communicating with other members. This point estimate includes 45% for listening, 30% for verbal, and 25% for other communication skills. In fact, top executives and senior management spend about twice as much of their time for listening as other employees. Perhaps for this reason, top and first line managers ranked listening skill first out of several communication behaviors.

It is reasonable that listening skill along with general oral communications skills play an important role in hiring decisions26. These evidences suggest that the leadership and communication skills improving workshop using learning by doing method should be added to the education programs of faculty members as well as heads of departments.  In fact, heads of department should be levelheaded, reliable and able to use different communication skills2.

The results of the present study indicated that verbal skills improve with age which is confirmed by the results of similar studies27,28. In addition, we found that listening and verbal communication skills were higher in males than in females. This finding is dissimilar the results of previous studies11,29. One reason for this diversity may be the cultural difference between societies30. There was a lack of statistical relationship between other demographic characteristics and communication skills.

In accordance with the results of the present study, some educational and training programs and courses (through learning by doing method) should be planned for heads of departments in universities of medical sciences. These programs should aim and improve the following skills:  human relations, organizational behavior, managerial human and conceptual skills; appropriate leadership style; employees motivation; system thinking, developing team work, and participative management.

This study has some limitation. Data on communication skills was collected through self-reporting questionnaire rather than direct observation. It may raise the possibility of information bias. Furthermore, the sample size was small. This might prone the results to random error. This may be a reason that we could not find a significant correlation between the demographic characteristics and communication skills. 


We concluded that the communication skills of more than half of the heads of departments are moderate. The results showed that heads of departments had a low listening skill level. Furthermore, communication skills may be affected by age and sex. In order to improve the communication skills of the heads of departments to at least a minimum acceptable level, educational workshops and short course using learning by doing method training is suggested. Future managers of a cross-cultural workplace should be able to use communication skills as a part of their management style and leadership attitude.


We would like to thank the Deputy of Research and Technology for the financial support of this study. We are also grateful to Sharifeh Zari and Manijeh Beigi for their generous contribution in data collection and entry.

Conflict of Interest

The authors report no conflict of interest in the undertaking of this research.


This study was supported by Hamadan University of Medical Sciences.


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