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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
Communication flow in an organization
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.
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:
Disadvantages of Upward 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:
Disadvantages of Downward 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
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:
Disadvantages of Horizontal Communication:
“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.
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.
Prentice Hall Inc., 1962) 59
Stephen J.C. Nation’s Restaurant News, March 27, 2006
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