The formal flow of information in an organization may move via upward, downward, or horizontal channels. Most downward communications address plans, performance feedback, delegation, and training. Most upward communications concern performance, complaints, or requests for help. Horizontal communications focus on coordination of tasks or resources.
Organizational structure creates, perpetuates, and encourages formal means of communication. The chain of command typifies vertical communication. Teamwork and interactions exemplify lateral or horizontal efforts to communicate. Coordinating efforts between colleagues or employees of equal rank and authority represent this channel of communication. Feedback from subordinate to superior is indicative of upward communication. For example, status reports to inform upper levels of management are originated in the lower or mid‐range of most organizations.
The marriage of people to electronic communication equipment and databases that store information is a formal network. Formal communication networks provide the electronic links for transferring and storing information through formal organizational channels.
Informal channels, known as the grapevine, carry casual, social, and personal messages through the organization. The grapevine is an informal, person‐to‐person communication network of employees that is not officially sanctioned by the organization. The grapevine is spontaneous, quick, and hard to stop; it can both help and hinder the understanding of information. For these reasons, managers need to stay in touch with the grapevine and counteract rumors.
Like interpersonal communication, organizational communication can be blocked by barriers, such as the following:
- Delays in formal communications
- Lack of employee trust and openness
- Different styles of change
- Intimidation and unavailability of those of rank or status
- Manager's interpretations