Direction of Communication flow in an Organization

Within organizations, there are three directions in which communications flow: downward, upward and laterally (horizontal).

Downward Communication

Downward communication involves a message travelling to one or more receivers at the lower level in the hierarchy. The message frequently involves directions or performance feedback. The down ward flow of communication generally corresponds to the formal organizational communications system, which is usually synonymous with the chain of command or line of authority. This system has received a great deal of attention from both managers and behavioural scientists since it is crucial to organizational functioning.

Upward Communication

In upward communication, the message is directed toward a higher level in the hierarchy.

It is often takes the form of progress reports or information about successes and failures of the individuals or work groups reporting to the receiver of the message. Sometimes employees also send suggestions or complaints upward through the organization's hierarchy.

The upward flow of communication involves two distinct manager-subordinate activities in addition to feedback:

  1. The participation by employees in formal organizational decisions.
  2. Employee appeal is a result against formal organization decisions. The employee appeal is a result of the industrial democracy concept that provides for two-way communication in areas of disagreement.

Stimulating Upward Communication

Although most managers agree on the need for upward communication, it is often not clear what actions can be taken to stimulate it. Given this situation, it is important to develop ways to stimulate upward communication. Planty and Machaver give the following suggestions.

If properly utilized, upward communication is potentially one of the most useful managerial practices. Upward communication keeps managers aware of how employees feel about their jobs, co-workers and the organization in general. Managers also rely on upward communication for ideas on how things can be improved.

Lateral Communication

When takes place among members of the same work group, among members of work groups at the same level, among managers at the same level or among any horizontally equivalent personnel, we describe it as lateral communications. In lateral communication, the sender and receiver(s) are at the same level in the hierarchy. Formal communications that travel laterally involve employees engaged in carrying out the same or related tasks.

The messages might concern advice, problem solving, or coordination of activities. The direction of communication in organizations explained above is summarized.

Directions of Communication in Organization

Directions of Communication in Organization

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Principles of Management and Organisational Behaviour Topics