Organizational Communication

Management communication concerns the organization as a whole. Organization wide communications typically flow in three directions – downward, upward and horizontally. Managers are responsible for establishing and maintaining formal channels of communication in these three directions. Managers also use informal channels which mean they get out of their offices and mingle with employees.

Formal Communication Channels:
Formal communication channels are those that flow within the chain of command or task responsibility defined by the organizations. The three formal channels and the types of information conveyed in each. Downward and upward communication is the primary forms of communication used in most traditional, vertically organized companies.  However, many of today’s organizations emphasize horizontal communication, with people continuously sharing information across departments and levels.
Electronic communication such as e-mail and instant messaging have made  it easier than ever for information to flow  in all directions. Lives are at stake in real time and we’re seeing a new level of communication and readiness.

Downward Communication:
The most familiar and obvious flow of formal communication, downward communication refers to the messages and information sent from top management to subordinates in a downward direction.
Managers can communicate downward to employees in many ways. Some of the most common are through speeches, messages in company news letters, e-mail, information leaflets tucked into pay envelope, material on bulletin boards, and policy and procedures manuals. Managers sometimes use creative approaches to downward communication to make sure employees get the message. A plant manager noticed that workers were dropping expensive power tools, so he hung price tags on the tools to show the replacement cost. Employees solved the problem by finding a way to hook up the tools so they wouldn’t be dropped.
Managers also have to decide what to communicate about. It is impossible for managers to communicate with employees about everything that goes on in the organization, so they have to make choices about the important information to communicate. Downward communication usually encompasses,

  • Implementation of goals and strategies: Communicating new strategies and goals provides information about specific targets and expected behaviors. It gives direction for lower levels of the organization. Example: The new quality campaign is for real. We must improve product quality if we are to survive.
  • Job instructions:  These are directives on how to do a specific task and how the job relates to other organizational activities. Example: Purchasing should order the bricks now so the work crew can begin construction of the building in two weeks.
  • Procedure and practices: These are messages defining the organization’s policies, rules, regulations, benefits and structural arrangements. Example: After your first 90 days of employment you are eligible to enrol in our company sponsored savings plan.
  • Performance feedback:  These messages appraise how well individuals and departments are doing their jobs. Example: Jairam, your work on the computer network has greatly improved the efficiency of our ordering process.
  • There are  messages are designed to motivate employees to adopt the company’s mission and cultural values and to participate in special ceremonies, such as picnics and campaigns.

The major problem with downward communication is drop off, the distortion or loss of message content. Although formal communications are a powerful way to reach all employees, much information gets lost – 25 per cent or so each time a message is passed from one person to the next.  In addition, the message can be distorted if it travels a great distance from its originating source to the ultimate receiver.

Information drop off cannot be completely avoided, but the techniques described in the previous sections can reduce it substantially. Using the right communication channel, consistency between verbal and nonverbal messages, and active listening can maintain communication accuracy as it moves down the organization.

Upward communication:
Formal upward communication includes messages that flow from the lower to the higher levels in the organization’s hierarchy. Most organizations take pains to build in healthy channels for upward communication. Employees need to air grievances, report progress, and provide feedback on management initiatives. Coupling a good flow of upward and downward communication ensures that the communication circuit between managers and employees is complete. Five types of information communicated upward,

  • Problems and exceptions:  These messages describe serious problems with and exceptions to routine performance in order to make senior managers aware of difficulties.
  • Suggestions for improvement: These messages are ideas for improving task related procedures to increase quality or efficiency.
  • Performances reports: These messages include periodic reports that inform management how individuals and departments are performing.
  • Employee complaints: These messages are employee complaints and conflicts that travel up the hierarchy for a hearing and possible resolution.
  • Financial and accounting information: These messages pertain to costs, accounts receivable, sales volume, anticipated profits, return on investment and other matters of interest to senior managers

Many organizations make an effort to facilitate upward communication. It also includes suggestion boxes, employee surveys, open door policies, management information system reports, and face to face conversations between workers and executives.

Comments are closed.