Upward and Downward Communication

In the typical hierarchical pattern of an organisation, communication has been viewed as proceeding in three directions: upward, downward and laterally. Downward communication is that which flows from a superior to subordinate as from the board of directors to executives, from a general manager to departmental foreman to his workers.

Communication is upward if it passes from subordinates to their chief, as from the rank and file to supervisors from general manager. Communications downward are highly directive-that is they initiate actions by subordinates.

Communications going upward are primarily non-directive that is they report result or give information but cannot initiate activity by superiors.


Horizontal communication also called lateral or crosswise communication, takes place between two subordinates of the same superior, two departmental managers or any two or more persons who are bound to one another by relationship of equality.

This form of communication is comparatively new and has not been widely studied. Voluntary, crosswise or horizontal channels of communications at all levels, speed information and improve understanding.