Everything you need to know about the types of communication. The word ‘communication’ is derived from the Latin word ‘communize’ which means common.

Thus, communication means sharing ideas in common. It is a verbal or written message, an exchange of information, a system of communicating, and a process by which meanings are exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols. It also means a technique for expressing ideas.

There is communication when you talk to someone, or listen to someone speaking. When you read a book, its author communicates his thoughts to you.

When you watch TV or a film, you receive com­munications from many persons involved in making the film—the story writer, script writer, director, musician, actors, etc. When you address a letter or email to someone or receive it from someone, there is communication of ideas and feelings. The same when you speak to someone on phone.


The types of communication used in organisations can be studied on the basis of:- 1. Organisational Relationship 2. Direction of Flow of Communication 3. Expression.

Some of the types of communication are:- 1. Formal  Communication 2. Informal Communication 3. Downward Communication 4. Upward Communication 5. Horizontal Communication 6. Diagonal Communication 7. Oral Communication 8. Written Communication.

Additionally, learn about the advantages and disadvantages of the types of communication.

Types of Communication: Formal, Informal, Downward, Upward, Horizontal, Diagonal, Oral and Written Communication

Types of Communication – On the Basis of Organisational Relationship, Direction of Flow of Communication and Expression

Type # 1. On the Basis of Organisational Relationship:

i. Formal Communication:


The communication flows through the formal channel. Formal channel refers to the way in which the information is passed and it has a recognised position in the organisation structure.

Sometimes, it may be termed as ‘through proper channel’. Through proper channel is an attempt to regulate the flow of communication and to ensure smooth, accurate and timely passing of information. Thus, formal communication facilitates effective functioning of an organisation.

Advantages of Formal Communication:

a. The authority and respect of senior staff members are protected through formal communication. Nobody is allowed to by-pass anybody while communicating information.


b. An organisation can fix the responsibility easily.

c. The information is available to the right person.

d. The formal communication helps the boss and the sub-ordinates to understand each other’s attitude and behaviour well.

e. Good morale and discipline are maintained among the employees.


Disadvantages of Formal Communication:

a. There is a possibility of filtering of information in formal communication.

b. Future is uncertain. So action-based information cannot be formalised.

c. Formal communication increases the work load of the line officers. The reason is that the line officer has to take action on all the downward and upward communications are passed through him. When he has many little time to perform his executive functions effectively.


d. An information is passed through a number of persons to arrive at a right person. It entails to delay in communicating the information. Besides, an information may be miscommunicated.

e. There is no close contact between top executives and lower level workers. So, the intention and attitude of the top executive are not known to the lower level workers and vice versa. Hence, there is an absence of cordial relationship between them.

ii. Informal Communication:

An information is passed not in accordance with any formalities and rules and regulations of an organisation. Most executives use the informal communication as a supplement to formal communication. Most of the informal communication is oral. Often, informal communication proves very effective.


The formal communication is the result of the natural desire of the people to communicate with each other. Information, under this system, may be passed by a simple glance, gesture, smile or mere silence too. Personal matters are also discussed and passed under informal communication. It is also known as ‘Grapevine’.


Grapevine is the primary source of upward communication. Under the grapevine system of communication, there is no clear cut way for transmitting the information. They (information) may pass it as they like. The term information includes the workings and feelings of employees in a particular situation and what they think about the management.

Generally, grapevine operates like a cluster chain.

For example, A tells something to three of his well-known persons. In turn, they (three persons) tell something to two of their (three persons) known persons. Then, they (two persons) tell something to only one of their (two persons) known persons. The receiving persons are gradually reduced in number.

The reason is that the information becomes stale and those who know it do not retransmit it. It should be remembered that only a few persons are very active in the grapevine system of communication. These active communicators are called ‘Liaison agents’.

Advantages of Informal Communication:

a. The information is passed very quickly.

b. There is a social sanction for informal communication. Information is transmitted without any difficulty. Both the sender and the receiver exchange their information freely.

c. There is no channel of command. A senior staff of one department may transmit the information to a lower level staff of another department. It promotes sound co­operation among the employees.

d. Informal communication may go to any extent. It means there is no limit for passing information under the informal communication system.

Disadvantages of Informal Communication:

a. It is not in order.

b. Informal communication carries inaccurate information very often. So it is of no use.

c. Sometimes, it may create a lot of confusion or mis-understanding among the employees.

d. It is very difficult to fix the responsibility under the informal communication system. The reason is that it is hard to pinpoint the person who first communicates the information.

e. If the information reaches the chief executive, it may be completely distorted.

Both the systems exist in all organisations together. Some prefer formal communication and others informal communication.

Type # 2. On the Basis of Direction of Flow of Communication:

The following types of communications are classified on the basis of the direction of their flow.

They are discussed below:

i. Downward Communication:

A communication which starts from the top level executive and ends with the lower functionaries through middle management is known as downward communication. While communicating the information, scalar chain is followed. The adoption of the scalar chain ensures proper communication.

Objectives of Downward Communication:

The major objectives of downward communication are listed below:

a. To provide job instructions specifically.

b. To supply the information regarding the rules and regulations and organisational procedures.

c. To give information regarding the relationship of one job with another job and the importance of each job.

d. To give information regarding the job preference of the subordinates.

e. To provide the information which facilitates the achievement of goals.

Advantages of Downward Communication:

a. This system of communication helps in explaining organisation rules and regulations to the new staff members and third parties.

b. It helps to exercise control over subordinates.

c. It helps to motivate and extract maximum work from the subordinates.

Disadvantages of Downward Communication:

a. The information passed is interpreted and re-interpreted at every level of management people.

b. The information passed may be distorted.

ii. Upward Communication:

Upward communication is just the reverse of downward communication. Passing of an information which starts with the lowest level i.e., subordinates and ends with the chief-executive is known as upward communication. The information should be passed through the middle level executive.

There are two types of upward communication. First, there is a feedback of information, in response to original communication. An executive can understand the subordinates’ feelings about their jobs and working environment. Besides, he can know the extent of performance of work done by adopting the orders and instructions issued.

Secondly, the information is given by the subordinates voluntarily. This voluntary information may be relating to complaints, new ideas, different opinions, suggestions of subordinates, etc. The real picture of the functioning of the organisation is known to the top executives through upward communication.

Advantages of Upward Communication:

a. The grievances of the subordinates may be redressed at an early date.

b. Upward communication helps the management to take decisions promptly.

Disadvantages of Upward Communication:

a. Superiors may ignore the information given by the sub-ordinates.

b. The information may be distorted.

c. Sometimes, top executive are unwilling to listen to the grievances and redressing them.

iii. Horizontal Communication:

Horizontal communication refers to the passing of information among the executives who are at equal level in an organisation. It is otherwise called as lateral communication. Both the receiver and the sender may be in the same department or different departments. The very purpose of horizontal communication is to co-ordinate the activities of various departments or persons.

Advantages of Horizontal Communication:

a. Horizontal communication helps the management to co-ordinate the activities of different departments.

b. It avoids duplication of work. It ultimately leads to reducing wastage of time, money, material and labour.

Disadvantages of Horizontal Communication:

a. There is a possibility of arising difference of opinions among the executives. The reason is that each person has a different approach. It may have an impact on productivity and efficiency of the organisation.

b. The receiver does not give due importance to the message.

c. The sender does not have any control over the receiver of information.

iv. Diagonal Communication:

Diagonal communication is between two or more persons who are neither in the same section nor on the same level of organizational structure. Generally, it comes into operation when other systems of communication fail to convey the information effectively.

For example, the auditor has responsibility to check and verify the cash balance at the end of the accounting year, so, the auditor may be authorised to get information from the cashier directly. It is diagonal communication. The cashier need not send the information to the auditor. This communication system violates the principle of unity of command.

Type # 3. On the Basis of Way of Expression:

These types of communication are classified on the basis of the way of expression.

They are discussed below:

i. Oral Communication:

It is otherwise called verbal communication. Oral communication is used when the contents of the communication are little. Generally, in the case of emergency, oral communication is adopted. The reason is that there is no time available to print or type the information. The real meaning is conveyed to the receivers by manner or tone of the voice.

Sometimes, the sender can communicate the information effectively through facial expressions and attitudes. The receiver’s understanding is coloured by their (senders) emotions and attitudes.

Forms of Oral or Verbal Communication:

a. Face to face orders, instructions, responses, informations and observations.

b. Talks on telephone or on intercom.

c. Lectures.

d. Conferences.

e. Meetings.

f. Interviews.

g. Group meetings of workers and management people or executives.

h. Television and news magazine through cinema.

i. Radio.

j. Message through tape-recorder (It is normally followed in big sized business units).

k. Calling.

l. Whistling.

These are some of the forms of oral communication.

Advantages of Oral Communication:

The following are the main advantages of oral communication:

a. Economical – Oral communication is very cheap. The reason is that the oral communication saves time, labour and stationery.

b. Personal touch – Oral communication eliminates intermediaries. The information is passed from one person to another person personally. They can discuss the matter in a relaxed manner.

c. Effective – In case of oral communication, the receiver not only listens to the words but also observes the reactions of the sender in his face, eyes and hands, out of which, the receiver can fully understand the information. The physical movements of the sender ensure effective communication.

d. Better understanding – Whenever a doubt is raised in the mind of the receiver, he can clear his doubt by getting more clarifications. The sender himself can assess the understanding of the receiver. The sender may give maximum information for better understanding.

e. Immediate motivation – If the chief executive has close touch with his subordinates, he can motivate them easily. Oral communication enhances the personal touch of the chief executive with his subordinates. So, there is a possibility of immediate motivation.

f. Flexibility – Oral communication provides for greater flexibility. The sender is always free to change his comments. As there is no printed record for oral communication, the entire information may be altered without any difficulty.

g. Spending the information – During emergencies, no other communication is as useful in speeding up information as oral communication. For example, if fire breaks out in the business premises, oral communication alone will speed up the information and can rescue the employees without delay and injury.

Disadvantages of Oral Communication:

Oral communication has some disadvantages also.

They are listed below:

a. Physical distance – It will be very difficult to adopt oral communication if both the sender and the receiver are located in far off places. Even though telephone is used to transmit the information, it does not hold good.

b. No evidence – In oral communication, the words used by the sender may motivate others to do something. If the act goes wrong, the person who motivates is not held liable. The reason is that there is no evidence for motivation. The affected party may be the receiver of information. In future, nobody could be motivated without written communication.

c. Lengthy information – If the message is very long, it cannot easily be transmitted through oral communication. Much time is required to convey the information. Top executives are not ready or are unable to spend more time for conveying the information to others.

d. Creates unnecessary problems – Oral directions may be understood by the receiver at the time of communication and he may forget it thereafter. Then, the receiver acts according to his willingness. It creates unnecessary problems in an organisation. They arise due to the absence of record.

e. Not useful to large number of receivers – Some information is transmitted to a large number of persons. The oral communication may not produce the desired results. Then it is better to use written communication.

f. Filtering the received information – The receiver may omit the received information. If the receiver is out of mood, he cannot fully receive the information. It cannot be assessed by the sender. In that case, the entire information may not be communicated.

g. Misunderstanding – The sender should use the terms which are generally in practice. If he does not do so, the receiver may take the words to mean different than the original. Besides, the poor verbal (or) oral expression of the sender may lead to misunderstanding. So, it is advised that ambiguous words should be avoided and the best oral expression be used for proper understanding.

ii. Written Communication:

This type of communication is followed to transmit any information. Written communication is an essential one, not only to a small organisation but also to a large organisation. The communication which is recorded in black and white is called written communication. Written communication is followed whenever the information is passed to a far off place. Written communication blinds both the supervisors and the sub-ordinates.

Forms of Written Communication:

The following are the forms of written communication:

a. Graphs.

b. Diagrams.

c. Pictures.

d. Circulars.

e. Notes.

f. Manuals.

g. Reports.

h. Bulletin.

Advantages of Written Communication:

The main advantages of written communication are discussed below:

a. Binding the authorities – Generally, the written communication binds the sender and the receiver. Nobody escapes from the responsibilities.

b. Covering distance – If the proposed receiver of the communication is far away from the sender, the sender is, indirectly compelled to use written communication. So, the written communication can reach any place.

c. Useful for lengthy information – Maximum information may be passed through written communication.

d. Reaches large number of persons – A circular, a form of written communication, brings the information to numerous persons.

e. Permanent record for future reference – Written communication contains policy matters, rules and regulations, secret matters, service conditions, orders, instructions and the like. These are necessary for future reference. In this way, written communication helps the authority to take timely decisions and action.

f. Reduce dispute – Written communication avoids or reduces disputes among the employees. The reason is that each person has his own copy of information and he uses it whenever needed.

g. Helps to analyse the matter – The receiver can analyse the matter after receiving the information. Written communication gives time to the receiver to think, to analyse and to decide the future course of action.

h. Avoiding alteration – Unauthorised alterations are avoided through the use of written communication. Every alteration should be attested by the issuing authority. Generally, altering the information is not allowed in an organisation.

Disadvantages of Written Communication:

Even though the written communication is the best type of communication, it suffers from the following weaknesses:

a. Costly and time consuming – Time should be spent for preparing the draft of information and printing or typing the information. All this work requires more than one staff member and it involves maximum paper work. It results in high cost of conveying the information and much time.

b. Red-tapism – It is not flexible and results in red-tapism.

c. No secrecy – In written communication, no secrecy is maintained. The reason is that everything is put in black and white. Besides, written communication is passed through the typist. Thus, the message does not remain a secret, at all.

d. No flexibility – Written communication lacks personal touch. Once the information is transmitted, it cannot be withdrawn easily.

Even though the written communication has some limitations, it is the best one. The secrecy may be maintained by the superior, if he types the matter himself.

Types of Communication – Formal Communication, Informal Communication and Other Types of Communication

Basically the whole communication system is of two types:

1. Formal communication

2. Informal communication.

Type # 1. Formal Communication:

It is official and well set communication channel, it facilitates authoritative communication. The information, instruction, message dealing with technical or functional specialisation can also be conveyed more effectively by formal communication system. This type of communication is based on formal organisation structure where formal relationship exists.

It takes place through official channels. For instance, departmental meetings, conferences, company’s news bulletins, journals, publications, some special publications etc. This formal communication is generally rigid as well as slow. However a good control system is possible through formal communication.

Type # 2. Informal Communication:

Generally groups of like-minded and like ideological persons are formed in any organisation. They have their own contentions and interpretations of the things (right or wrong). Whatsoever they discuss informally is spread throughout. Such a spreading may be called informal communication. Secondly the management may convey some information and guidelines to the employees’ troughs its supervisors. Conveying of information is such a way which is not the part of formal communication channel is also informal communication.

Both formal and informal communication channels do exist in organisations. As far as informal organisation structure is concerned, there, necessarily, exists informal communication. Informal communication has its acceptance in social groups. Such a communication is like a grapevine which spreads all through.

Informal communication, though it is within the organisation, is not restricted only to official information. At times such a communication system gives rise to spreading of false and distorted information, gossips etc. as a result men in organisation are misinformed and misled.

As a matter of fact informal communication should be supplementary to formal communication and should be carefully used for the benefit of all including the organisation itself. Both these channels provide opportunity to interaction among the members. Carefully and conscious use of informal channel may provide such information which the formal channel is not capable to. In other cases one should not totally rely upon the informal communication.

Other Types of Communication:

Both the above channels are based on the service they provide. Communication is further divided on the basis of ways of communication and how is it operated.

They are:

1. Oral or written communication

2. Downward and upward communication

3. Vertical communication

4. Horizontal communication

5. Extra organisation communication

1. Oral or Silent and Written Communication:

Generally informal communication is done orally. But oral communication is resorted to when the communicatee is illiterate and uneducated as written communication is of no use to him. Such a communication is made with educated people also specially through speeches before elite audience. Seminars, Conferences, Meetings etc. are the places where oral communication is made, though it is an easy method it is not useful for conveying technical instructions or messages.

This type of communication does not leave any proof behind. Naturally one may deny the things which he might have spoken. Secondly rules and regulations should necessarily be in written form. Oral communication should not always be relied upon.

When messages and instructions are brought on papers in black and white and the papers provided, it is a written communication. This type of communication may be in the form of letters, memos, orders, booklets, standing orders, bulletins etc. It is an authentic form of communication. It is valid everywhere.

It can be used as evidence in the court of law. It is a formal and official type of communication. The only draw-back in this is that it is time consuming and costly. Such a communication can be made with illiterates also as, such persons can get it explained from educated people.

2. Downward and Upward Communication:

Downward communication flows from the top level to lowest level of management. Such a communication may pass through several point e.g. from General Manager-Asst. General manager – Asst. General Manager – Departmental manager – shop boss and so on. This type of communication is generally a written communication.

If oral communication is resorted to in downward communication there is every fear that at every point there may be some addition or subtraction or distortion, as it is very difficult to reproduce the same words and sequence. Downward communication relates to issue of orders, instructions, general information, punishments, rewards, rules, regulations etc.

Upward communication flows from lowest level to the top level. It is generally in the form of reporting to bosses regarding performance, accomplishments, difficulties, grievances and so on. It is a type of feedback to top level. Upward communication helps the management to know as to what is actually going on, on the floor and what the opinions of the actual implementers are. This may be oral or written.

3. Vertical Communication:

This type of communication flows from top to bottom as well as from the rank and file workers towards the management. It consist of downward and upward communication. It is also known as inter-scaler communication. Official top-to-bottom communication channels flow down with great force and reach many people but official bottom-to-top channels flow up with difficulty and reach to few people only.

4. Horizontal or Lateral Communication:

It is also known as crosswise or lateral or diagonal communication. It takes place between managers or supervisors of the same status or of the same rank. It refers to flow of information between departmental managers i.e., people on the same level in an organisation.

Horizontal communication is based on the concept of “gang plank” advocated by management thinker Henry Fayol. It allows two employees for example E and Z to deal at one sitting and in few hours, with some question or other, which via the Scaler chain would pass through twenty transmissions, inconvenience many people, involve masses of paper, spend lot of time to get a conclusion that is less satisfactory generally than the one which would have been obtained in direct contact as between E and Z.

Horizontal communication is essential because activities of different departments need co-ordination for achieving organisational goal.

5. Extra Organisational Communication:

This type of communication takes place between different agencies outside the organisation and the people within it. This communication is done through letters, annual reports to the creditors, bankers, and the government and trade organisations.

Types of Communication – Verbal or Written Communication, Formal or Informal Communication, Downward, Upward or Horizontal Communication and a Few Others

1. Verbal or Written Communication:

This is the first important category of communication. In the case of Verbal Communication everything is oral and there is nothing in black and white. The examples of verbal communications are — orders and face-to-face discussions, telephonic talk, lectures, social gatherings (e.g., men-boss meets), conference, interviews, personnel counselling, public speeches, audio-visual aids like slides and movies, plant-broad case, whistle and bells grapevine etc.


(1) It is a time and money saving device. In the case of written communication the instructions are to be reduced to writing. There is no need of this formality in verbal communications. There is other device which may be so short, sweet, simple and quick.

(2) It is comparatively more effective because, there is nothing behind the screen, hence a better and immediate impression can be created particularly when the communication is accompanied by actions, gestures and charming facial expressions.

(3) There is easy understandability in the case of verbal communication.

(4) It is also more convenient to measure the effects of communication. The communicator can easily guess whether the recipient is following him or not. He can immediately make proper amendments and can discern the recipient’s attitude, whether it is one of acceptance or rejection.

(5) It is the only way out during periods of emergency, when every activity is to be quickened.

Verbal or oral communication is, however, not suitable in the following case-

(i) Written communication is the only way out if both the communicator and the recipient are far off, even beyond telephonic range.

(ii) If the message to be conveyed is lengthy and needs a thorough clarification, written communication would be more suitable, because there will then be lesser changes, to miss any point.

(iii) Written communications provide a permanent record and can at times be referred as evidence.

(iv) Written communications have a permanent value in the sense that they can be utilised by the managements off and on when the need arises in future.

(v) Last but not the least, in the case of written communications, the recipient can conveniently ponder over the message and request for amends it necessary.

On the other hand, written communications are always in black and white. Examples of written communications are — house organs, and newspapers, bulletin boards, letters and memos, reports and forms, manual and handbooks, posters, payroll inserts, manual reports, written grievances, suggestion system. Attitude questionnaires, newspaper inserts, etc. The above disadvantages of verbal communication are merits of written communication.


1. In the case of written communication everything has to be translated into black and white, which is likely to consume more time and money. Face-to-face contacts may be short and quick, but written communications must be long and lucid.

2. It is not always possible to reduce everything to writing and if any point is left out, additional written communication may become a necessity, which is expensive and takes time.

3. Oral talks may remain secret, but there are greater chances of leakage in the case of written communication.

4. Delays and red-tapism.

Out of two forms of communication verbal and written which is better, is a difficult question to decide. Indeed its answer depends upon the circumstances of each individual case. The essential problem is to provide the balance. A firm having an excellent bulletin board system but poor channel for upward flow can never be successful in the overall communication programme.

Proper balance should be sought to provide adequate channels up, down, across and outside. Oral and written devices also should be used as per the need of the situation and according to the content of communication.

2. Formal or Informal Communication:

Formal communications are mostly in black and white. They derive their support from the formal organisational structure. Formal communications are generally associated with the particular positions of the communicator and the communicated or recipient in that structure, e.g., when the general manager instructs his subordinates by virtue of his superior position, it is formal communication.

Informal communications, on the other hand, are free from all sorts of formalities. They are based on the informal relationship between the parties. They are generally termed as ‘the grapevine’. Informal communications may be conveyed by a simple glance, gesture, nod, smile and/or mere silence.

3. Downward, Upward, or Horizontal Communication:

Under the third category communicator may be classified as downward, upward, or horizontal. Communication is termed as downward if it flows from the uppermost level of management towards the operative force, it is upward, it if flows from the subordinate to their superior.

It is horizontal if it takes place between two subordinates or the same superior, e.g., between two departmental heads or between two or more persons who are tied to each other by relationship of equality. All these communications downward, upward and horizontally or written.

Other Methods of Transmission:

4. Action:

The sense of sight is about 87% effective, hearing 7% and touch, small, taste, etc., only 6%. Actions always speak louder than words. Actions can be easily understood.

5. Silence:

This is probably more subtle form of communication, but if misused, it is the stupidest form. It is effective and harsh when displeasure and disagreement is to be expressed. Silence accompanied by facial expression when, e.g., a clerk is asked to mark overtime. If the object is to confuse, silence will succeed as the chances of receiver choosing the correct interpretation are remote. A silence may indicate annoyance, dispute, indifference, hurt feelings, fear, suspicion, distrust, amusement, antagonism, etc.

Types of Communication – Formal, Informal, Downward, Upward and Sideward Communication

Communication may be classified on more than one basis.

For example, on the basis of relationships between the parties concerned, communication may be—

(a) Formal, or

(b) Informal.

On the basis of its flow of direction, communication may be—

(a) Downward,

(b) Upward, or

(c) Sideward.

And on the basis of the methods used for the purpose, communication may be—

(a) Oral,

(b) Written, or

(c) Gestural.

(1) Formal and Informal Communication:

Formal communication follows the pattern laid down in the organization structure. Members of the organization are supposed to communicate with each other only as per the channels laid down in the structure. For example, the sales manager may have a salesman, a secretary, a book-keeper and mail-room boys working under him. However, all his subordinates are required to communicate their problems and suggestions to him, and not to one another.

Informal communication or grape-vine: Human beings do not always follow the pattern of rela­tionships provided in any formal organization structure. For example, according to the structure, foremen may be required to report directly to the production manager. Yet, because of their informal relationship with a junior production manager, they may prefer taking orders and instructions from him rather than from the production manager as also report on performance to him.

Thus, jumping of communication channels takes place because of informal relations between members of the organization.

In course of time, informal relationships themselves become the informal communication system. Needless to say, this system of communication is easier and faster than the formal one. But while it serves as an efficient and faster means of communication, it also sometimes spreads gossip and base­less information.

(2) Downward, Upward and Sideward Communication:

Communication flow in an organization may be in three directions—downward, upward and sideward.

Downward communication is from the higher to the lower levels of management. The purpose here is to communicate policies, procedures, programs, orders, etc. to subordinates.

Upward communication takes place where any subordinate(s) brings to the notice of his superior the report of work performance of the task assigned to him, suggestions for improvement of work methods or schedules, or complaints, regarding anything.

Sideward communication often takes place in a decentralized organization. Subordinates operating at the same level and under the same superior may communicate with one another to exchange infor­mation on work performance, tackling problems faced by them, etc.

The sales manager may, for exam­ple, communicate with the production manager about the kind and quantity of goods being produced in the factory to enable him to plan his sales activities accordingly. The purpose of such communica­tion is to secure coordination in operations.

Types of Communication – According to Organisational Structure, Direction of Communication and Way of Expression (With Merits and Demerits)

Type # 1. According to Organisational Structure:

There are two types of communication:

(i) Formal Communication:

Formal channels of communication include established and organisational channels and officially recognized positions. Thus the formal channel, as the very name implies, is the deliberately created, officially prescribed path for flow of organisational communication so as to make it orderly and thereby to ensure that information flows smoothly, accurately and timely.

We often hear the phrase ‘through proper channel’. It explains the essence of formal channels of communication. This officially prescribed communication network may be designed on the basis of single or multiple channels. A single channel communication network prescribes according to organisational structure. According to expression Oral, Written, Formal, and Informal. According to direction downward communications Horizontal communication upward communication.

Only one path of communication for any particular position and all communication to that position would have necessarily to flow through that path only. Ordinarily this path is the line of authority linking a position to its line superior. It is also known as channel of command and commonly referred to as – ‘Through proper channel’. Its implication is that communication to and from a position should flow through the line superior or subordinate only.

Merits of Formal Communication:

The formal communication through channels of command has the following advantages:

(a) Maintenance of authority of the officers – The formal communication helps in the maintenance of authority of the line officers. Subordinates respect their superior. It helps in exercising control over subordinates and fixation of responsibility in respect of activities to be carried on by person in the organisation.

(b) Sound and proper communication – An immediate superior has a direct contact with his subordinates. He understands their attitudes, wants, level of intelligence and capacity well. He can determine it efficiently as to how, what and what time the information is to be communicated and to whom. It is easy to be maintain and properly in nature.

(c) Other advantages – Formal communication offers certain other advantages too. The formal organisation moulds communication process along certain lines. It receives the support of line authorities and closeness of superior-subordinate reduces the chances of misunderstanding.

Demerits of Formal Communication:

(a) Overload of work – In modern business organisation, there is a lot of information, messages and other things to be communicated, that if transmitted through formal lines of authority only it will increase the workload online officers. They will not be able to perform their other functions well.

(b) Decay in accuracy – It provides bottlenecks in the flow of information’s. It enhances the organisational distance also and the chance of more transmission errors is likely to occur there. Screening of information at various positions reduces the accuracy of the message.

(c) Overlook by line officers – Communication through chains of command is not suitable for upward communications at all. Line officers do not take any interest in the grievances of their subordinates. They do not like to forward the suggestion given by their subordinates to the top management. They naturally introduce their own views into formation. The bias changes all the nature and characteristics of information when it reaches at its final destination.

Thus we see that formal communication is useful in downward communication only. One way overcoming these limitations is to provide a number of communication channels linking one position with various other positions.

(ii) Informal Communication (IC):

It is also known as – ‘grapevine communication’. The communication to be made through informal channels of the communication is called informal communication. It is not the result of any official action but of the operation of personnel, social and group relations of the people.

Apart from their formal organisational relationship, people have got social personal relationships also. Such informal relations may be based upon personal friendship; membership of the same club or origin from the place. Such channels of communication serve as a quick vehicle for messages.

While formal communication exists to meet the utilitarian needs of the organisation, informal communication is the method by which people carry on their non-programmed activities within the formal boundaries of the system. Such communications are very fast, spontaneous and flexible. It is very active channel of communication through which the information is carried immediately.

Merits of Informal Communication:

Informal channels of communication perform a positive service of the organisation. It operates with much greater speed. Moreover there might be certain subject matters of communication which do not require their transmission through the formal channel.

The formal network of communication is often relatively static, while the organisation it seeks to activate is dynamic and much tract to quickly its changing environment. Consequently, the informal non-stable network of communications comes into frequently plan in every organisation.

The informal communication needs of the various persons in the organisation, more particularly those persons. Who freely mix up with others and rely upon informal relationships. A typical informal communication network involves people within the same hierarchy level of an organisation. For example, among various departmental managers, such communications enhances the ability of the organisations to meet sudden problems.

Demerits of Informal Communication:

Informal communication has certain basic limitations also – (a) It is less orderly and less static (b) Sometimes, messages communicated through the informal channel are so erratic that any action based on these may lead to difficult situation to the organisation, (c) It often carries inaccurate information, half-truths rumours and distorted information.

In this case, the irresponsibility of the persons communicating through the informal channel is the most important factor. Since origin and direction of the flow of information is based to pinpoint, it is difficult to assign responsibility for false information or morale lowering remorse.

Moreover, each person covering the message may add or subtract to change the original message according to his motive. Informal communication problems multiply. There is a chance that by the time a communication completes a complex journey it may be completely distorted. The informal communication is the part and parcel of the organisational process.

The only thing management can do in this respect is to take suitable actions to minimize the adverse effects of such channels. Proper analysis of informal communication and a suitable classification in this respect would be helpful in making its use towards organisational efficiency.


Informal channels of communication are often compared to a grapevine. The grapevine, channels are spontaneous, intricate, unstructured and haphazard. They run in a zigzag fashion, defying all rules of orderly structure. The term ‘grapevine’ is often used to describe informal communication channels in a light-hearted manner.

Organisational grapevine is a highly powerful medium to transmit messages at great speed, to get to know confidential information which is not available through formal channels, to propagate rumours, to spread news on inside scandals and so on.

The grapevine is often associated with vague and incomplete communication, the credibility of which is rather questionable. Gossip, half-truths and sensational news are alleged to get priority over genuine facts in the grapevine. Keith Davis described its power in the words. ‘It moves with impunity across departmental lines and easily by-passed superiors in the chain of command. It flows around water coolers, down hallways, through lunchrooms and wherever people get together in groups.’

Informal communication channels often serve to supplement and even partially replace formal channels. Managers and others may sometimes use informal channels to pass on information which they would not like to transmit formally for strategic and tactical reasons.

They fill in the deficiencies of formal channels in some respects. For example, formal channels rend to be rigid, overly officious and slow in their movement Information is transmitted through several layers or stages; there is a possibility for messages to get distorted and diluted in their intent and content by the time they reach the receiver.

Informal channels generally do not suffer from this defect. That is why even information on ‘official’ matters is often transmitted through informal always even on organisational matters. Behaviour in human organisations is a mixture of formality and informality. People often try to remove their masks of formality and behave in natural, human ways. Further, in situations of crisis, formal communication channels tend to breakdown; in such eventualities there is no alternative but to use informal channels.

In cases where formal channels tend to prove expensive and inefficient, dependence on informal channels is wise action. Further, informal communication can be used to help the process of clarification of formally transmitted information. Managers need both formal and informal communication channels. Formal channels are well-defined and well-structured. They help the process of rational, orderly functioning of the organisation. Informal channels are more ‘human and more homely.’

Type # 2. According to Direction of Communication:

(i) Downward Communication:

Communications which flow from the superiors to subordinates are known as downward communications. They include orders, rules, instructions and policy directive, etc. Their nature is directive. It would be impossible to manage an enterprise without downward communications.

(ii) Upward Communication:

Upward communication is just reverse of the downward communication. It flows from the subordinates to their superiors. Such communication includes reactions and suggestions from workers, their grievances, etc. Contents of the upward communications are reports, reactions, suggestions, statements and proposals prepared for the submission to the boss, etc.

There was very little appreciation of this form of communication sometimes before because it does not fit into the traditional theory of organisation. But in modern times upward communication is considered to be a main source of motivation in employees.

(iii) Horizontal Communication:

When communication takes place between two or more persons who are subordinates of the same person or those who are working on the same level of organisation, the communication is known as horizontal, lateral or cross-wise.

Type # 3. Communication by way of Expression:

The subject matter of communications, i.e., messages, ideas, suggestions, etc., being abstract and intangible, their transmission and receipt require use of certain symbols – may be –

(i) Words

(ii) Picture, graphs and diagrams, etc. Media used may be either exclusive that is, to the complete exclusion of others or as very commonly the cause; two or more of these may be used to supplement each other, e.g., in face-to-face communication gestures may be used to emphasis a point and diagrams or charts may be used to classify the point being described in writing. These, oral and written methods of communications are the most important.

(a) Oral Communication:

In oral communication both the parties to the process, i.e., sender and receiver exchange their ideas through oral words either in facet-to-face conversation or through mechanical or electrical device such as telephone, etc.

Merits of Oral Communication:

Oral communication is very helpful, in face-to-face two-way communication where people can exchange their feelings freely and clarity regarding no doubt can be easily sought. It has very high degree of potentiality for speedy and complete interchange of information. Possibility of gestural communication being used along with oral one increases the effectiveness of the type of communication, since actions speak louder than words. Important points may be emphasized through actions.

Rank and file employees as well as supervisors and even managers often prefer oral communication. They enjoy opportunity to ask questions and participate in the discussion. Face-to-face oral communication is sometimes supplemented by public address systems that permit managers to speak directly to workers in the workshop.

Demerits of Oral Communication:

It suffers from the disadvantages of absence of any permanent record of communication. Sometimes, it becomes time-consuming specially in meetings and conferences when after various deliberations nothing concrete comes out.

Sometimes oral communication is not taken seriously by the receiver and basic objective of communication in such cases is not clearly heard or understood. Sometimes due to previous strained relations of superior-subordinate the words are taken in reverse sense also.

(b) Written Communication:

When the communication is reduced into writing, it is called the written communication. This includes written words, graphs, diagrams, pictures, etc. Written communication is extensively used in organisations. Sometimes, this form of communication becomes indispensable as in the case of rules, orders, schedules of policy matters, etc. The circulars, magazines, notes and manuals are some common forms of written communication.

Merits of Written Communication:

Written communication possesses the capacity of being stored as record for future references. The communication efforts may be minimized by simultaneous communication to various points, such as – through circulars. It also enables the communication to take place between distantly placed parties without much cost. Written communication is more orderly and binding on subordinates and superiors take suitable actions in the organisation.

Demerits of Written Communication:

Written communication however, suffers from major drawbacks also. It is very time-consuming both in terms of preparation and in terms of understanding. There is a greater chance of communication being misunderstood. Sometimes, it is more costly in comparison to oral communication.

Oral and Written Communication-A Comparison:

Each of the different media of communication has its strength and weakness, which determines its use and suitability for communication in any particular context. Thus in some cases oral communication may be necessary. As such one cannot depend upon a particular medium of communication only. Both of these mediums are complementary to each other.

This is why; in practice both these media are used. Oral communication is however more useful where the subject matter is complex and final decision requires deliberations from the persons concerned. Moreover in day-to- day business and in routine type of activities, moral communication may be relied upon. But where the messages are to be kept for future reference written communication is the only alternative.

Forms of Communication:

Oral and written communications may take a number of shapes or forms depending upon the situation.

Types of Communication – On the Basis of Passing Information, Flow of Message and Mode of Operation

Type # 1. On the Basis of Nature of Passing Information:

i. Formal Communication:

a. Formal communication flows along prescribed channel which all members desires of communicating with one another are obliged to follow.

b. Formal communication may more vertically or horizontally.

c. Vertical communication can flow downward or upward.

d. Horizontal communication flows between employees of equal or comparable status.

e. Downward communication- Communication flows from a superior to a subordinate.

ii. Informal Communication:

Informal channel, often called a grape vine, that does not arise out of the organizational needs but that is never the less, an integral part of his communication system.


In every organization an informal channel of communication exist called as the grapevine. It follows no set tines, nor any definite rules, but spreads like the grapevine, in any direction anywhere and spared fast. Keith Davis rightly pointed out that the grapevine is more a product of the situation then it is of the person.

The grapevine is basically a channel of horizontal communication, for it is only people working at the same level of hierarchy who can informally communicate with one another with prefect case.

Thus the workers may have one grapevine and the first line supervisors another. But the fact is that the grapevine does not follow any set pattern and it can be effective horizontal, vertically, and even diagonally. Professor Keith Davis who has done some research in the nature of grapevine or the informal channel of communication classifies in the four basic types- Single strand, Gossip, Probability and Cluster.

(i) The single strand chain involves the passing of information through a long line of persons to the ultimate recipient. A tells B who tells C who tells D and son on, till the information has reached most of the persons concerned.

(ii) In the gossip chain, A actively seeks and tells everyone. This chain is just like the wheel where A is at the centre and the information passes along the spokes of the wheel to others stationed on the rim.

(iii) The probability chain is a random process in which a transmits the information to others in accordance with the law of probability and them these others tell still others in a ultra-manner. This chain may also be called random.

(iv) In the cluster chain, A feels selected persons who may in turn relay the information communication follows this chain.

(v) A model if different forms of grapevines are depicted in the chart.

Importance of the Grapevine:

1. Safety value

2. Organizational solidarity and cohesion- Properly used grapevine may even raise the morale of the workers.

3. Supplement to other channels

4. Twice Transmission- The speed with which information is transmitted through the grapevine is just remarkable.

5. Feed Back- The grapevine provide feedback to the management. It enable them to know what the subordinates think about the organization and its various activates

Demerits of Grapevine:

1. Distortion- One of the major drawbacks of the grapevine is that it may speed baseless or distorted news which may sometimes prove harmful even to the employees.

2. Incomplete information- The grapevine information is usually incomplete. So here is lively likelihood of its being misunderstood or misinterpreted.

3. Damaging swiftness- The swiftness with which the grapevine transmits information may even be damaging.

Type # 2. On the Basis of Direction i.e. Flow of Message:

i. Downwards Communication:

Message polices, programs, direction, opinions highly directive, from senior to subordinates, to assign duties, give instructions, to inform to offer feedback, approval to highlight problems etc.

Objectives of Downward Communication:

1. To give specific direction about the job being entrusted to a subordinate. The decision fallen at managerial levels are transmitted to states in the form of directives so an action may be initiated.

2. To explain the policies and organizational procedures- A clear understanding of policies given the lower state. A wider perspective so that they can grasp and relay their role more meaningfully.

3. To appraise the subordinates of their performance.

4. To give information about the rational of the job.

Media for Downward Communication:

i. Downward communication may be both oral and written

ii. Important directives to initiate action may be communicated through letters policies and procedures may be announced house organs, manuals, bulletins etc., but the downward follow of communication is dominated by oral means.

Limitation of Downward Communication:

1. Under – Communication and Over- Communication

2. Delay.

3. Loss of information

4. Distortion

5. Built – in resistance

Essentials of Effective Downwards Communication:

1. Managers should keep themselves well informed of the objectives and achievements of their organization. It they are themselves in possession of adequate information, they will be also to transmit information to their re-subordinated in an effective manner.

2. Managers must work according to communication plan. They must decide before how much information is to be communicated and at what time.

3. There should not be over communication of authority at the highest level. If an organization is so structured that orders and instructions can originate at various levels, the lines of communication will be shortened.

4. The information must be passed on to correct persons inherently.

ii. Upwards Communications:

Grievances, complaints and suggestions etc. It is non directive in nature from down below, to give feedback, to inform about progress/problems, seeking approvals.

Upward Communication- Bottom to Top (Subordinate to Superior):

Importance of Upward Communication:

1. Providing feed back

2. Out let for the sent-up emotions

3. Constructive suggestions

4. Easier introduction of new schemes

5. Greater harmony and cohesion

Methods of Upward Communication:

1. Open door policy

2. Complaints and suggestions boxes

3. Social gatherings

4. Direct correspondence

5. Reports

6. Counseling

Limitations of Upward Communication:

1. Employees are usually reluctant to initiative upward communication. The managers might keep their doors open, but they cannot force the employees to walk in to their problem.

2. Employees often feel that if they communicate their problems to their superiors, it may adversely reflect on their own efficiency.

3. Upward communication is more prone to distortion them downward communication. In downward communicate distortion is often unconscious. But upward communication is deliberately distorted.

4. Sometimes in the process of upward communication, workers become to bold, ignore their immediate superiors and directly approaches the top most authorities with their suggestions or complaints.

Essentials of Effective Upward Communication:

1. In order to enable the workers to overcome the awe of authority, the managers should keep on encouraging them to come out of their shell and communicate freely.

2. Distortion by editing can be avoided if the lines of communication are kept as shortest possible.

3. All communicate should be properly analyzed genuine grievances deserve to be immediately resolved.

iii. Lateral or Horizontal Communication:

Among colleagues, peers at same level for information level for information sharing for coordination, to save time.

Horizontal Communication:

Communication between departments or people on the same level in the managerial hierarchy of an organization may be termed as horizontal or lateral communication. Horizontal communication is extremely important for promoting understanding and coordinating among various departments.

Methods of Horizontal Communication:

(i) Horizontal communication is most effectively carried on through oral means.

(ii) Face to face exchanges of views or a brief conversation over the telephone in very convenient for horizontal communication.

(iii) Formal channels tend to move managers status conscious so that they express their view in extremely measured items.

(iv) This includes the free flow of communication takes place allow freedom of expression there is immediate feedback and all doubts and misunderstanding are sorted out.

Type # 3. On the Basis of Mode of Operation:

1) Oral communication

2) Written communication

3) Gesture communication