Communication in an organization can broadly be classified as:

  • Internal Communication
  • External Communication

Internal Communication

This is concerned with giving and receiving information within the same organization. It could be;

  • Downward flow of communication: From employer to employee
  • Upward flow of communication: From employee to employer
  • Horizontal flow of communication: Amongst employees at same level
  • Diagonal flow of communication: Amongst employees in different departments


  1. Downward Flow of Communication

This is communication that flows from a higher level in an organization to a lower level (that is communication from superiors to subordinates). Downward communication is used by the managers to transmit work-related information to the employees at lower levels. Employees require this information for performing their jobs and for meeting the expectations of the management.

Importance of Downward Communication

  1. Enables managers in delegating authority and responsibility to the right persons
  2. Through downward communication, discipline is enhanced in the organization since it occurs in line with officially recognized rules and regulations
  3. Helps in increasing employees efficiency by providing necessary guidance, orders and instructions
  4. Enables provision of feedback on employees performance in the organization while highlighting the areas of attention
  5. It helps the employees in understanding their roles and responsibilities as well as how they relate to other jobs in the organization
  6. It helps to communicate the organization’s mission and vision to the employees
  7. Helps in issuing orders and instructions to the subordinates
  8. Helps to create and maintain good employer-employee relationship in the organization.

Methods of Downward communication

Downward communication can be written as well as oral. The oral communication is mostly through informal channels. The written downward communication takes the form of orders, circulars, policy statements, memos and procedural documents



  1. Upward Flow of Communication

This is communication that flows to a higher level in an organization. It provides feedback on how well the organization is functioning. The subordinates use upward communication to convey their problems and performances to their superiors. The subordinates also use upward communication to tell how well they have understood the downward communication.

Importance of upward communication

  1. Information received from subordinates plays important role to help development of plans in the organization.
  2. Enables provision of suggestions and opinions about work related issues from employees to the employers
  3. Employees are motivated to work towards fulfillment to their work targets since the system allows them to express their opinions/grievances to the managers.
  4. Good employer-employee relationship is created since employees have access to employers
  5. Upward communication creates friendly environment in the organization which lead to peaceful and harmonious relationship among the subordinates and superiors.
  6. Enhances decision making process as subordinates supply information to their superiors through upward communication

Methods of upward communication

  1. Open door policy: employees have access to their bosses offices and can walk in without any hesitation and talk to them about their problems
  2. Complaints and suggestion boxes: are placed at convenient spots in offices. If employees have any complains or suggestions they can drop them in
  3. Direct correspondence: employees could write directly to their bosses on their own initiative to ask assistance or for information they need
  4. Reports: employees may be required to submit reports about progress of their work at regular intervals
  5. Social gatherings: these offer informal atmosphere where employees could shed their reservations and feel free to talk about their problems e.g. team buildings
  6. Counselling: in some companies, employees are encouraged to seek counsel of their superiors on personal issues. This provides managers with valuable information which they utilize to give better shape to future policies


  1. Lateral / Horizontal Flow of Communication

This is communication that takes place at same levels of hierarchy in an organization i.e., communication between peers, between managers at same levels or between any horizontally equivalent organizational member.

Importance of Lateral / Horizontal Communication

  1. Facilitates co-ordination of work related activities enabling easy attainment of organizational goals
  2. Effective horizontal communication helps to solve or mitigate conflicts and misunderstandings among employees.
  3. It allows quick transmission of message in a warmly communication. So it becomes easy to mitigate complex problems in the organization.
  4. Increases the efficiency of inefficient peers as they are able to share amongst themselves on how to do various work related tasks efficiently.
  5. Helps in developing informal relationships as it provides the opportunity of free, fair and friendly exchange of information. This helps provide emotional and social assistance to the organizational members
  6. Since horizontal communication takes place between employees of the same level, information reaches directly from sender to receiver reducing distortion of information.
  7. Enhances mutual understanding as employees can discuss any matter at their convenience and easily reach to mutually agreed decisions


Methods of Horizontal Communication


This is an informal channel of communication which follows no set lines, no definite rules but spreads like the ‘grapevine’ in any direction anywhere and spreads fast. It is quite natural for a group of people working together to be interested in one another and talk about appointments, promotions, retrenchments or even domestic affairs. The grapevine is basically a channel of horizontal communication for it is only people at the same level of hierarchy who can informally communicate with one another at perfect ease.

Importance of the Grapevine

  1. A safety valve: Apprehensions experienced by workers on matters like promotions and retrenchments become an obsession with them. Talking about them may not alleviate their fears but it certainly provides them emotional relief. Thus grapevine acts as a kind of safety valve for the pent up emotions of the subordinates
  2. Organizational solidarity and cohesion: The existence of the grapevine proves that the workers are interested in their associates. The very fact that they talk among themselves helps to promote organizational solidarity and cohesion. Properly used, the grapevine may even raise the morale of the workers
  3. Supplement to other communication channels: All information cannot be transmitted to the employees through the official channels. If there is some useful information unsuitable for being transmitted through official channels, it can be transmitted through the grapevine.
  4. Quick transmission of information: The speed with which information is transmitted through the grapevine is way faster. Rumors they say spread like wild fire.
  5. Providing Feedback: The grapevine provides feedback to the management. It enables the management to know how the subordinates perceive and think about the organization and its various activities

Demerits of the grapevine

  1. Distortion: Could spread baseless or distorted news which may sometimes prove harmful not only to the employer but the employees as well
  2. Incomplete information: Grapevine information is usually incomplete so there’s likelihood of it being misunderstood or misinterpreted
  3. Damaging swiftness: Grapevine spreads so quick and could cause serious damage before even the management is aware of it


  1. Diagonal Flow of Communication

This is Communication between people who work in different departments and different level in an organization. For instance – to plan on capacity building trainings, a Sales and Marketing Manager interacts with a Human Resource Manager to discuss on how to go about it.

Importance of Diagonal Communication  

  1. Diagonal communication serves the important purpose of coordination through informal meetings, formal conferences, lunch hour meetings etc
  2. Morale boosting: by providing opportunities to different department workers to interact in informal meetings it gives their morale a boost and further commitment to the organization
  3. Diagonal communication is a fast and effective method of communication since workers can quickly organize to meet and discuss work related matters
  4. It enhances work relations among employees in different departments thus enhancing efficiency
  5. Helps harmonize work related activities as different departments are able to organize themselves adequately


External Communication

This is communication that takes place between the organization employees and external groups such as suppliers, media, financial institutions, customers, community, and government among others. For instance, to raise capital level, the managing director may interact with a bank manager


Importance of External Communication

  1. Communication with customers and other external publics enables a company to establish good reputation
  2. Effective external communication strategies can persuade customers and other external publics to take certain desired actions e.g buy new products, visit your company for various services etc
  3. External communication enables a company to enhance its public relations which improves its operations
  4. Effective external communications increases partnership opportunities which help grow the company
  5. Good external communication leads to better business prospects as a company attracts more customers and increases the sales and profit margins
  6. External communication helps a company in getting information from their customers on how to meet their needs efficiently


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