All the factors that have been discussed earlier regarding inter-personal communication also apply to the organisational communication. However, there are several factors, unique to the organisational situation, that affect the communication effectiveness in the organisations. Some of these are discussed below:

i) Formal Channel of Communication influence communication effectiveness in two ways;

  • Formal channels of communications go on lengthening as the organisation grows. For example in a country-wide organisation with a zonal, divisional and district set up there are many chains in the command structure making the formal channel of communication very long.
  • Such a long channel results in inhibiting the information flow between different levels. Since the lowest level workers communicate their problems only to the next level, the senior management may not get all the information. While it has the advantage of keeping the flow of information to higher levels within manageable limit, sometime even necessary information is obstructed.

ii) Organisation’s Authority Structure has a similar influence on communication effectiveness. This authority structure decides who will communicate freely with whom. There is hardly any worthwhile communication between two individuals who have a great authority difference.

iii) Job Specialisation also affects communication in its own way. Persons in the same speciality are familiar with the jargon and can communicate effectively. However, communication between highly differentiated group is inhibited.

iv) Information Ownership means that some individuals possess valuable information and knowledge about their jobs. This may be about a better method of doing a thing learnt by experience or knowing something special about the organisation or its clientele. This enables them to perform a job better than their pears. For that reason it gives them a sense of power. They are, therefore, not willing to share this information with others. Hence an open communication within the organisation does not take place. Some of these aspects have been studied widely and shall be discussed, in some detail.

Communication within the Organisation

Organisations can design their communication networks or structures in several ways. Some communication networks are very rigid. Employees are discouraged from talking to any one except their immediate superiors. This helps maintain the status and position of senior levels and helps prevent unnecessary information from reaching them. On the other hand some networks are loosely designed. Individuals are encouraged to communicate with anyone they like. This may be useful where free flow of information is essential for achieving the goals of the organisation. For example, research organisations need such a free flow.

Certain special types of networks were tested by the researchers. These are shown below:

CIRCLE              CHAIN                Y                  STAR

In the circle network B could communicate only with A and C. to communicate with E he will have to go through A or through C and D. Subject C in star pattern could communicate with A, B, D and E, but, the latter four could not communicate with each other. The networks Y and star are highly centralised while circle and the chain are decentralised. The results of the experiments indicated:

  • Centrality of the network turned out to be the most significant feature. It was found that the centralised networks performed faster and more accurately than the decentralised ones, provided the tasks were comparatively simple. For complex tasks decentralised networks were comparatively quicker and more accurate.
  • Centrality also affects leader emergence. Centralised groups agreed that person C was their leader – obviously because they were so dependent on him for information. In decentralised networks no one person emerged as the leader.
  • Group member satisfaction tended to be higher in decentralised networks for all types of tasks. The satisfaction was highest in circles followed chain, Y and star.

The experiments have a great significance for the relationship between the organisational structure and communication. An organisation with routine, simple tasks would seem to work more efficiently with a formally centralised communication network, whereas more complex tasks require decentralisation. The emergence of the person in central position as the leader reinforces the idea that access to information is an important source of power in an organisation.

Vertical Communication

Vertical Communication consists of communication up and down the organisation. Upward communication is meant to supply information to higher levels about what is happening at lower level. This includes progress reports, suggestions, explanations and requests for help. Such communication helps the higher management in controlling the lower formations and correcting deviations from original instructions. It also supplies data for planning future course of action. Downward communication flows from top towards lower levels. Its major purpose is to inform, instruct and direct the subordinate formations. It also provides information to the workers about organisational goals and policies.

Problems of Vertical Communication

Downward communication is likely to be filtered, modified or halted at each level from which it passes. The middle level may like to expand and clarify the policy directives given by the top managers. For example, working instructions are added while forwarding the Acts and rules framed by the legislature. Upward communication is also filtered condensed or altered by various levels. Officers at every level think that it is their job to safeguard the time of their superiors by preventing superfluous or irrelevant information from reaching them. For this purpose they condense the reports, returns etc. going above. There may be one more reason for doing so. The information and reports being sent up may contain some material which reflects poorly on the working of the middle level managers. In that case they may either cut out the report altogether, or, if it is not possible to do so, they may substantially modify it to remove or mitigate the effect of unfavourable parts. Thus vertical communication is almost always at least partially inaccurate or incomplete or exaggerated etc.

Importance of Vertical Communication

The Importance of Vertical Communication is, however, obvious. Some researchers have found that more than two thirds of communication of a manager takes place with his superiors and subordinates. The accuracy of vertical communication is aided by:

a) Similarity of thinking between superiors and subordinates; and

b) Trust and confidence between them. Inaccuracy in the vertical communications results from:

  • The desire of subordinates for upward mobility. Such an upward mobile subordinate is highly self-opinionated. He defends his self-image rather than find a consensus. He is likely to highlight information which presents him favourably and is likely to suppress information which presents him in poor light.
  • Lack of trust between superior and subordinates. The subordinate will not come out with information when they feel that the information is likely to be used against them or likely to be used unfairly.

c)   There are problems in downward communication also. The senior managers often do not provide their subordinates enough information to enable them to perform their jobs properly. Sometimes this lack of communication is due to carelessness or complacency. The senior managers take for granted that accurate information has reached their subordinates. Sometimes this is done deliberately to keep the subordinate dependent on the superior. Whatever the reason, the net effect of this lack of communication is that the subordinates feel confused, uninformed or powerless to carry out their duties.

Lateral and Informal Communication

Lateral and Informal Communication usually follows the patter of workflow in the organisation. It occurs between the members of a group; between two or more groups, between different departments; and between line and staff. Sometimes it occurs outside the chain of command. This occurs with the knowledge and approval of the higher management. The advantages of lateral communication are:

  • It provides a direct channel of organisational co-ordination and problem-solving. It avoids the slower procedures of directing communication through a common superior.
  • It enables the members of organisation to form relationships with their peer groups. These relationships are important part of employee satisfaction.
  • It reduces inaccuracy by putting relevant people in direct contact with each other.
  • It reduces the communication burden i. e. the communication in this way is much faster.


GRAPEVINE is a type of information communication which is not officially sanctioned. It is made of several informal communication networks that overlap and interact at a number of points. It cuts across rank or authority lines and follows any path-horizontal, vertical, diagonal and zig-zag. It is different from the legitimate information that the management wishes to communicate by word of mouth.

In addition to the social and informal communicational functions the grapevine has work related functions also. It is much faster than the formal communication channel. Managers sometimes use it to spread information through “planned leaks”.

Keith Davis has studied the phenomenon of grapevines in the organisations and has identified four types of grapevine chains.


(i) In a single strand grapevine one person -

  • passes on information to another person
  • who in turn passes on to another person
  • and so on. It is quite inaccurate in passing information.

(ii) In a gossip grapevine - One person gets some information and tells it to everyone he meets or talks to. This chain comes into play when some interesting but non-job related information is being circulated.

(iii) In the probability chain an individual passes information to some others at random who in turn pass it on to some others. This is used when information is widely interesting but insignificant.

(iv) In cluster chain – A person gives information to a select few who convey it some other selected few.

Davis has said that cluster chain is the most important variety of grapevine prevalent in the organisations. Only a few individuals, known as liaison individuals, pas on information to few other individuals whom they trust. This information is often interesting, job-related and timely.

Overcoming Organisation Barriers to Communication

Since much of what applies to interpersonal communication also applies to the organisational communication, many methods of overcoming barriers to effective communication also common. Differing perceptions and language difficulties have to be tackled by using simple language, by explaining technical terms and the jargon and by taking into account the background of those to whom the communication is addressed. However, some more steps may be necessary to overcome special organisational barriers to communication. Some of the remedies are discussed here:

(i) Management by Objective (MBO) - can be used to improve communications in the organisation. MBO involves joint goal setting, joint problem solving performance feedback etc. MBO programmes may, therefore, be very useful in improving downward communication and creating an atmosphere of trust and confidence between superiors and subordinates.

(ii) Organisational Development aims at changing the entire organisational culture. This includes establishment of open, objective and authentic communication between superiors and subordinates at all levels of organisation.

(iii) Physical Layout of Work Place can also influence the communication pattern in an organisation, in turn affecting its culture and policies.

An open space lay out may result in one type of inter-personal interaction while linear corridors of rooms may create a different type of interaction. A lot of emphasis is being given, these days on the design of work places to improve the communication processes in addition to other things.

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