Organisational communication usually involves the flow of informations both vertically and laterally. The vertical dimensions can be further divided into downward and upward directions. Communication that flows from one level of a group or organization to a lower level is downward communication. When we think of managers communicating with subordinates, the downward pattern is the one we usually think of. It is used by group leaders and managers to assign goals, provide job instructions, inform underlings of policies and procedures, point out problems that need attention and offer feedback about performance. Downward communication doesn’t have to be Oral or Face to Face Contact.
Upward communications flows to a higher level in the group or organization. It is used to provide feedback to higher-ups, inform them about progress towards goals and relay current problems. Upward communication keeps managers aware of how employees feel about their goals, coworkers and organizations in general.
Lateral communication taken place among members of the same work group, among members of work group at the same level, among managers at the same level, or among any horizontally equivalent personnel. Horizontal or Lateral communication is often necessary to save time and facilitate coordination. In some cases these lateral relationships are formally sanctioned. Often they are informally created to short circuit the vertical hierarchy and expedite action. So lateral communication can; from managements view point, be good or bad. Since strict adherence to the formal vertical structure for all communications can impede the efficient and accurate transfer of information, lateral communication can be beneficial. But they can create dysfunctional conflicts when the formal vertical channels are breached, when members go above or around their superiors to get things done or when bosses find out that actions have been taken or decisions made without their knowledge.
Organisational communication involves communication networks which define the channels by which information flows formal networks are typically vertical, follow authority chain and are limited to task related communications. In contrast, informal network – usually better known as grapevine – is free to move in any direction, skip authority levels and is as likely to satisfy group member’s social needs as it is to facilitate task accomplishments.
The grapevine has three main characteristics, first it is not controlled by management. Second it is perceived by most employees as being more believable and reliable than formal communiqués issued by top management. Third it is largely used to serve self-interests of those people within it.
The major advantage of formal organisational communication is that it regulates and coordinates the information flow and prevents chaos in organization. While downward formal communication facilitates a directive environment the upward provides a free participative, supervising atmosphere which is necessary for two way flows in organization hierarchy. Lateral formal communication can be, of help in problem solving task coordination and conflict resolution. The disadvantages include –
- Problem caused by filtering (of information that is not favorable but of importance to organization).
- Delay cause due to slow movement of information.
- Creates hierarchies and status difference is made explicit.
The grapevine also has some shortcomings these are –
- It can be used to disseminate rumors.
- It no doubt spreads information faster but it may be inaccurate information.
On the positive side it may help to supplement formal systems and thus enable them to accomplish their goals. It helps to create a fellow feeling and reduces filtering and delays that occur information transmission.