Upward Downward and Horizontal Communications


Organizations in the modern era are complex social systems which can not function effectively and efficiently without proper interaction between its employees. Communication is a process through which all the employees in an organization are linked together. Communication is, “a communion by words, letters, symbols, or messages and as a way that one organization member shares meaning with another” (Bellows).

In a highly organized hierarchical system, communication flows primarily in three directions – downward, upward and horizontal. In the early days, traditional organizations emphasize primarily on downward communication, But modern managers concentrates on the development of upward communication with a view to involve as many subordinates as possible in the communication process.

Beside these, horizontal communication is also an important part of the communication process. Communication serves the following purposes in an organization

  1. Helps establish and disseminate the goals of an organization.
  2. Facilitates the development of plans for the achievement of goals.
  1. Helps managers utilize manpower and other resources in the most effective way
  2. Helps managers select, develop, and appraise members of the organizations
  3. Helps managers lead, direct, motivate and create a innovative and enthusiastic climate
  1. Facilitates control and evaluation of performance.

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                                         Communication flow in an organization

                                                                                                                          Communications 3

   Upward Communication

This is a type of communication process where the information originates at the subordinate level and flows up to the top of the hierarchical system. It is the upward flow of information from employees at the operational level to the top executive along the chain of command. Upward communication takes place through suggestion systems, appeal and grievance procedures, complaint systems, counseling sessions, joint setting of objectives, the grapevine, group meetings, the practice of an open-door policy, morale questionnaires and exit interviews.

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The nature of the flow of upward communication in an organization is primarily dependent on the upper level management. To facilitate effective upward communication, an environment must be created by the top level management in which employees, even in grass-root level, feel free to share information with top management.

Advantages of Upward Communication:

  1. Managers can get through knowledge, even that of the grass-root levels.
  2. It helps the management to understand the performance of employees, the problems of employees, the results of their decision taken etc.
  3. Morale and enthusiasm of the workers are hugely boosted since they feel that they are always honored by their superiors, irrespective of their status or positions in the organizational hierarchy. It makes them feel to be an essential component of the organization.
  4. Free flow of upward communication helps the organization to introduce innovative techniques, knowledge sharing etc. in their day-to-day operations.
  5. Facilitates the process of downward communication and grapevine information sharing.

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Disadvantages of Upward Communication:

  1. Sometimes it happens that subordinates reveal only the good news with their bosses and are hesitant to share the bad ones due to fear of being punished by the later.
  2. If proper care is not shown by the superior in the communication process, the subordinate may feel insulted and gets de-motivated
  3. Creates a huge loss of time for managers who are supposed listen to all subordinates.
  4. Often there is a loss in information sharing, deliberate miscommunication and biased representation of facts and information.

 Downward Communication

In general, most of the decisions in an organization flow through the hierarchical structure level by level. Information which flows from people at higher levels to those at lower levels in the organizational structure is referred to as downward communication. In organizations with an authoritarian leadership, the communication flow is predominantly downward. Oral downward communication may take place by means of instructions, meetings, the telephone, loudspeakers and even the grapevine. Written downward communication involves the use of memorandums, letters, handbooks, pamphlets, policy statements, procedures, and electronic news displays.

Advantages of Downward Communications:

  1. It provides motivation, job instruction, intellectual stimulation, experience sharing.
  2. The employees get necessary support from their superiors efficiently and effectively.
  3. Employees become aware of the organization’s policies, objectives and programs.
  4. Helps employees to understand their responsibilities easily and also directs them toward the achievement of their goals.

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Disadvantages of Downward Communication:

  1. It is a time consuming process and often frustrates the managers.
  2. Often the message is filtered, translated and transmitted in the wrong way which creates conflicts at later times due to loss of accuracy.
  3. Many times, the employees find it difficult to understand the proper meaning of the message since they are, generally, less qualified than the managers.
  4. The message often gets complicated and overloaded while reaching lower levels.
  5. Egoism, biasness and destructive criticism often create an unhealthy environment.
  6. Lack of openness and trust between managers and employees causes the message to get altered and adds to the crisis more.

Horizontal Communication

When communication flows among the people at the same or similar organizational levels, who have no direct reporting relationships, it is termed as horizontal communication. It Horizontal communication helps improve understanding between employees and enhances coordination for achieving organizational goals. It can take place orally during informal meetings of the company’s fund-raising team or over lunch. It can also take place during formal conferences, board meetings, and meetings of task teams and/or project organizations.

The company newspaper, magazine and bulletin board notices are the usual mediums for the written form of horizontal communication. The company newspaper, magazine and bulletin board notices are the usual mediums for the written form of horizontal communication. As horizontal communication does not follow the chain of command, proper care should be taken to prevent potential problems from arising between personnel at various levels and between various departments of the organization. Despite

Communications 6

the potential problems that may arise due to horizontal communication, this form of communication is necessary for the organization to respond to the needs of the complex and dynamic business environment.

Advantages of Horizontal Communication:

  1. It ignites and develops team spirit, task management, knowledge sharing, job coordination among the employees of the department.
  2. It helps to improve understanding between employees at same hierarchical level by allowing them to share information, coordinate and co-operate with each other to achieve organizational goals.
  3. It allows detection and solving of a problem at its initial stage and hence, increases the morale and enthusiasm of the employees who contribute to the solution.
  4. It helps to solve conflicts among employees working in a department and creates a supportive, productive and healthy and mutually interdepartmental-relationship.
  5. It also acts as a substitute to both upward and downward communications
  6. It helps to provide the employees with social, psychological and emotion support for each other.

Disadvantages of Horizontal Communication:

  1. Since the horizontal form of communication does not follow any particular chain of commands, proper care should be taken to prevent potential problems from arising between personnel at various levels and between various departments of the organization.
  2. Employees may become yes man to co-workers and thus procrastinate their own duties which might be more important than that of the former.

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  1. Often it creates a gap between employees due to lack of trust. They may become jealous to one another and it definitely harms the organizational environment.
  2. Often it creates groups among the employees who gets indulged in unhealthy competition.


“Organizations need to involve their employees in decision-making to a great extent if they want to survive in the fiercely competitive world of business” (Nelson). ‘Open channels of communication can help an organization improve its productivity substantially. For instance, Pizza Hut substantially reduced its paperwork and its layers of hierarchy by implementing the suggestions of its employees. The suggestions also boosted sales by 40 percent. The employees of Hughes Aircraft in Los Angeles generated more than 23,000 ideas in a particular year, most of which were adopted by the management. This resulted in a savings of $477 million for the company.

This shows that open channels of communication can help organizations become profitable’. Effective communication forms an important part in planning and implementation of managerial activities. But, in reality, the communication process is very complex and unpredictable.

There are many different barriers to communication, e.g. lack of planning, faulty translations, un-clarified assumptions, semantic distortions, loss by transmission and poor retention, cultural misunderstandings, inattention and premature evaluation, impersonal communication, insufficient adjustment period, information overload, lack of trust in the communicator, and other barriers (selective perception, attitudes, power and status, etc.). The communication process can be made effective by improving:  interpersonal trust, effective listening, providing proper feedback, and through non-verbal communication and non-directive counseling.

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Dreyer, R.S. What It Takes to Be A Leader – Today! Supervision, Vol.55, Issue 5 (May

            1994): p 22, 3 p.

Frank, K.S. Barriers to Communication, Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 11, Issue 4

            (July/August 1990): p 56-59

Nelson, B. Engineering Your Employees, Refresher Publications Inc.


  1. Bellows, T.Q. Gilson, and G.S. Odirone, Executive Skills (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:

Prentice Hall Inc., 1962) 59

Stephen J.C. Nation’s Restaurant News, March 27, 2006



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Upward Downward and Horizontal Communications. (2017, Feb 28). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/upward-downward-and-horizontal-communications-essay

Upward Downward and Horizontal Communications

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