Types of Communication – Upward, Downward & Horizontal

Organizations survive on communications, communication in an organizations may be multi-dimensional or multi-directional. Right set of communication at the right time from the right desk spreads positive vibes across the organization. Understanding of different types of communication helps to determine the direction of communication.

Formal Communication in organizations is highly structured and work within a set of disciplines. Communication may flow top to bottom when important decisions and announcements have to be passed on to the workforce or from bottom to top when complaints and grievances have to be communicated to the top management. Depending upon the flow of Communication, there can be four types of communication namely Upward Communication, Downward Communication, Horizontal Communication and Diagonal Communication.

Types of Communication – Upward Communication

Upwards Communication is the concept of new age Management and is also termed as Upstream Communication. Modern day Managers believe more in participative Management techniques which increases the satisfaction levels of work force. When the employees down below in the organizational hierarchy are able communicate about their grievances and complaints to the top management, it is termed as Upward Communication. Hence, upward communication involves flow of information from the lower levels to higher levels in an organization.

Role played by Upward Communication

Among all types of Communication, Upward Communication is very crucial to any organization that aspires to succeed.

  1. Employees in organizations get exposed to value adding systems and procedures practiced in other organizations through their acquaintances. When they are allowed to make suggestions to implement the same in their organization, Managers must listen to them. When good suggestions are implemented within the organization, the feeling of belonging created in the Employee who suggested the same and fosters a friendly environment.

  2. Accepting feedback from Employees from time to time encourages them to talk out openly about systems and attitudes that do not add any value to the organization. This paves way for continuous development of the organization.

  3. When employees escalate their grievances to Managers, sympathetic listening assures the employees regarding grievance redressal. This creates a tension free environment making the work place a highly productive one.

  4. Hearing to Employees when they communicate their creative ideas will encourage them to accept changes implemented in the organization from time to time. Change Management will be easily practiced by the Employees. This will simplify the life of the Management who will be able to implement newer systems and practices for development from time to time.

  5. The most important advantage created by fostering Upward Communication is the high levels of co-operation it elicits from the employees for Management decisions. This is mainly due to the faith created by Managers over a period of time.

Setback in Upward Communication

Though organizations might want to encourage Upward Communication, the idea may face setbacks due to a couple of factors.

Psychological Factor

From Employees’ perspective – Not all employees may believe in the idea of communicating all that they feel to their higher up for the fear of losing their job

From Manager’s perspective – Not all Managers encourage suggestions from their lower downs due to their ego and feeling of superiority

Hierarchical Factor

Managers may insist in following the hierarchy to safeguard their own interest. This may make them put down even the best of value adding suggestions or ideas generated by employees reporting to them. In such cases, organizations may encourage the Employees to approach the Ombudsman (an official appointed to investigate individuals’ complaints against a company or organization) appointed for the purpose whose main responsibility is to reconcile the difference between positions.

Types of Communication – Horizontal Communication

Horizontal Communication can said to be the backbone of organizations. Also termed as Lateral Communication, this type of communication happens between heads of the Department who are in decision making capacities. Department Heads have to be constantly interacting with each other in order to ensure smooth functioning of the organization.

For instance, the Sales Department Head needs to ensure that enough stock of products is available for his sales team to procure orders from Customers. This necessitates that he interacts with the Stores Manager to ascertain the same. The Stores or Purchase Manager needs to be in constant touch with the Head of Finance Department to ensure that money is paid for purchase of products on time to satisfy the demands of Sales Department. The Finance Department Head in turn follows up with the Collection Team to ensure enough Finance is available to procure products to satisfy the Purchase Department needs. The communication that happens periodically between the Department Heads who are all at the same levels in the Organization is termed as Horizontal or Lateral Communication.

Types of Communication – Downward Communication

Downward Communication in organizations is as much important as Upward Communication. Downward Communication happens from the top level to the bottom level employees. Announcing policy changes from time to time, modifications in strategies and other employee related communication falls in this category.

The positive aspect of downward communication is the high levels of faith such communication created on the Managerial level. The transparency aspect of downward communication makes employees lower down feel safe, increasing their loyalty levels to the organization in a multi-fold manner.

The negative aspect of Downward Communication is resistance of the Employees to accept any change communicated by the Manager or the Management. This may lead to unwanted politics in the office creating animosity in Employees towards their Managers. Such animosity may take a toll on the productivity levels causing loss to the organization.

Types of Communication – Diagonal or Cross Wise Communication

Diagonal or Crosswise communication refers to the communication that takes between employees of an organization irrespective of the reporting chain and hierarchical structure. It involves employees communicating to other employees working at lower or higher levels in an organization. Diagonal Communication usually takes place in form of informal meetings and helps to improve coordination between different departments and boost moral of the employees. 

Difference between Upward and Downward Communication

Difference between upward and Downward Communication

#DiagonalCommunication #DownwardCommunication #HorizontalCommunication #UpwardCommunication

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