Communication is a basic organisational function, which refers to the process by which a person (known as sender) transmits information or messages to another person (known as receiver). The purpose of communication in organisations is to convey orders, instructions, or information so as to bring desired changes in the performance and or the attitude of employees.

In an organisation, supervisors transmit information to subordinates. Proper communication results in clarity and securing the cooperation of subordinates. Faulty communication may create problems due to misunderstanding between the superior and subordinates. The subordinates must correctly understand the message conveyed to them. Thus, in communication:

  • There are two parties, one is known as the sender and the other is known as receiver
  • There is a message sent by the sender to the receiver
  • The receiver receives the message and understands it

Communication does not always flow from supervisor to subordinate. It can also be from a subordinate to a supervisor. For example, subordinates can pass information to the supervisor about the faults or problems at the assembly line. Thus, it is a two way process.

Importance of Communication

Communication in organisations is so important that it is said to be the lifeblood of the organisation. Success of direction largely depends on how effectively the manager can communicate with his subordinates. Proper communication in organisations at all levels and between all levels can improve both the quantity and quality of output. Some of the benefits of communication are:

  1. Communication helps employees to understand their role clearly and perform effectively.

  2. It helps in achieving co-ordination and mutual understanding which in turn, leads to industrial harmony and increased productivity.

  3. Communication improves managerial efficiency and ensures cooperation of the staff.

  4. Effective communication helps in moulding attitudes and building up employees’ morale.

  5. Communication is the means through which delegation and decentralisation of authority is successfully accomplished in an organisation.

Types of Communication

In an organisation, communication can be made from supervisor to subordinate, from subordinate to supervisor and also between two supervisors at the same level. Communication can be done orally or in writing or even through gestures. Communication may be made through formal or informal channels. Thus, the various types of communication are:

On the basis of channel used

  1. Formal
  2. Informal

On the basis of direction

  1. Upward
  2. Downward
  3. Horizontal
  4. Diagonal

On the basis of mode used

  1. verbal
    • oral
    • written
  2. Non-verbal (gestural)

Formal and Informal Communication

The path through which information flows is called channel of communication. In every organisation there are both formal and informal channels. The paths of communication which are based on relationship established formally by management are the formal channels.

For example, the General Manager communicates a decision to the production manager who may then issue orders or instructions to the foremen. It may also be like a worker applying to his supervisor for a loan from the GPF account. He or she forwards it to the Manager Accounts who finally sends it to the General Manager (Finance) for approval.

Communication, which takes place on the basis of informal or social relations among staff, is called informal communication. For example, any sharing of information between a production supervisor and an accountant, as they happen to be friends or so. Mostly informal channels are used due to friendly interaction of members of an organisation. It may be purely personal or related to organisational matters.

Upward, Downward, Horizontal and Diagonal Communication

On the basis of the flow or direction of communication in organisations, it can be classified as upward, downward, horizontal or diagonal. When employees make any request, appeal, report, suggest or communicate ideas to the superior, the flow of communication is upward i.e., from bottom to top. For example, when a typist drops a suggestion in the suggestion box, or a foreman reports breakdown of machinery to the factory manager, the flow of communication is upward. Upward communication encourages employees to participate actively in the operations of their department. They get encouraged and their sense of responsibility increases when they are heard by their supervisors about problems affecting the jobs.

When communication is made from superiors down the hierarchy it is called a downward communication. For example, when superiors issue orders and instructions to subordinates, it is known as downward communication. When the General Manager orders supervisors to work overtime, the flow of communication is downward i.e., from top to bottom. Similarly, communication of work assignments, notices, requests for performance, etc. through bulletin boards, memos, reports, speeches, meetings, etc, are all forms of downward communication.

Communication can also be among members at the same level in the organisation. For example, production manager may communicate the production plan to the sales manager. This is known as horizontal flow of communication. Here, the communication is among people of the same rank and status. Such communication facilitates coordination of activities that are interdependent.

When communication is made between people who are neither in the same department nor at the same level of organisational hierarchy, it is called diagonal communication. For example, cost accountant may request for reports from sales representatives not the sales manager for the purpose of distribution cost analysis. This type of communication does take place under special circumstances.

Verbal and Non-verbal Communication

On the basis of the mode used, communication may be verbal or non-verbal. While communicating, managers may talk to their subordinates either face to face or on telephone or they may send letters, issue notices, or memos. These are all verbal communication. Thus, the verbal modes of communication may be oral and written.

Face to face communication, as in interviews, meetings and seminars, are examples of oral communication. Issuing orders and instructions on telephone or through an intercommunication system is also oral communication. The written modes of communication include letters, circulars, notices and memos.

Sometimes verbal communication is supported by non-verbal communication such as facial expressions and body gestures. For example, wave of hand, a smile or a frown etc. This is also termed as the gestural communication.