Types of Communication

Types of Communication:

Broadly, there are two types of communication:

  • Formal Communication.
  • Informal Communication.

Formal Communication:

It is the kind of Communication that usually travels through the organizational hierarchy and is associated with the particular positions of the communicator and the receiver. Formal Communication can be further classified into:

  • Downward Communication.
  • Upward Communication.
  • Lateral Communication.

Informal Communication:

Formal Communication in an organization is always supplemented by informal channels. The formal network of Communication is often static, while an organization needs to react quietly to changing situations. Consequently, the informal network of Communication comes into an organization. Informal Communication is free from formalities as it is based upon informal relations. Informal Communication can also be downward or upward or lateral.

Let us now discuss these sub-forms of Formal and Informal Communication. Grapevine is another type of Informal Communication.

Downward Communication:

When Communication flows from the top to the bottom, it is called downward Communication. It originates from the higher levels in the shape of orders, directions, or other messages and moves downward passing through different hierarchical channels and reaching the lowest-ranking officials in the chain. In large organizations, downward Communication is quite difficult to begin with because orders descend through numerous intermediate levels before the point of execution is reached. Nowthorne and others have shown that downward Communication is not easy as the decisions taken by the top management may not be acceptable to the lower levels.

Upward Communication:

In upward Communication, messages are passed from the lower levels in the hierarchy up to those heading the organization. The information passed through can be written or verbal reports, statistical and accounting reports related to work, and written and verbal requests for seeking guidance, suggestions, and discussions. Upward Communication also faces many problems.

(1) Firstly, there is the problem of distortion at each level.

(2) Secondly, there is the problem of distance. The larger the organization, the greater is the number of links in the supervisory channels and these links create distance between the management and the lower levels.

(3) Thirdly, the attitude of the supervisors is usually such that they do not encourage upward Communication.

Lateral Communication:

Lateral Communication may take place among officials working at the same level in the organizational hierarchy. The word ‘lateral’ has been replaced by F. A. Nigro by ‘horizontal’ to include all that crosses the organizational contacts. We can also call it across communication. It uses the methods of written or verbal information and reports, formal and informal, as well as personal contacts, staff meetings, and meetings of coordination committees. This type of communication is very helpful in bringing together the different parts of the organization. Katz and Kahn regard Lateral Communication as a critically important factor for the effective functioning of the system.

Grapevine Communication:

The rigidity of formal channels gives rise to informal channels of communication, which are often called ‘grapevine’. It plays a very constructive role in the communication system of an organization. It relieves people of tension resulting from a certain matter in an organization. It helps the employees by furnishing the information or by informing the higher-ups about their genuine concern over the matter. Informal communication flows through friendship circles and other small groups in the organization. One positive feature of this channel is that it removes some of the problems in Upward Communication.

However, there are some problems with informal communication. First, it can distort information. Secondly, excessive dependence of the employees on informal channels is an indicator of weak coordination in the organization. However, despite these shortcomings, Grapevine Communication plays a valuable constructive role in any organization. Highlighting the importance of ‘the grapevine’, Joseph L. Massie points out, “It can be very beneficial- a rapid problem solve in any organization.” He labels it as “automatic-horizontal communication.”

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