Formal channels of communication


They are:

  • Vertical
  • Horizontal
  • Diagonal
  1. Vertical communication

This type of communication involves upward or downward methods.

Downward communication

  • Involves movement of information from sources relatively high in the organization to receivers in the lower level positions. g. information flowing from top-level managers to middle level managers to line managers and to subordinates.
  • It is used for giving information on company‘s policies and procedures, motivating employees, announcing a company‘s major events etc.
  • It involves the use of memos, letters, notices, handbooks, manuals, meetings, newsletter, agenda etc.

Benefits of downward communication

  • It increases efficiency by synchronizing organizational procedures and ensuring that everybody is working towards the same overall aims and goals
  • It gives response to subordinates about their performance and indicates areas that need improvement
  • Can be used to correct subordinates when they go wrong or go against the code of conduct
  • It is time saving since it does not involve participatory management

Limitations of downward communication

  • Information flowing from top levels becomes dilute the more it reaches lower level subordinates. it therefore loses some of the original clarity and often becomes distorted
  • Most people responsible for downward communication do not like delivering bad news. They can therefore cause more harm by not communicating properly
  • There is lack of feedback in downward communication
  • There is likelihood of information overload which may result in confusion or omission of some important details or instructions

Upward communication

This involves movement of information upwards from lower level sources to top managers of the organization. It is often used to give information on performance or progress. Formal channels of upward communication in an organization include Letters, email messaging, Weekly departmental meetings, Telephone conversation, Video conferencing, face to face meetings etc

  1. Horizontal/ lateral communication

This involves communication movement between or within different departments of the same organization.

It is used to coordinate activities of groups or departments e.g. departmental heads meetings. It may also be used to persuade others in the same level of the organizational and to pass on the information about activities or feelings e.g. a meeting between a manager and members of the department.

Techniques used in this form of communication include telephone, letters/ departmental letters, e-mails etc.

Barriers to lateral communication

  • Rivalry- It occurs when different levels of the organization the different levels of the organization fail to cooperate with one another. this may happen when there is competition among work units or departments of the same organization
  • Specialization can lead to communication difficulties e.g when different specialties use the same terms in different ways. This can create confusion and miscommunication
  • Lack of motivation-Horizontal communication often fails because the organization members are unwilling to expend the additional effort it requires. It may require interacting with people who are not in the same department and the channels and rules of interaction may be unclear.
  1. Diagonal communication

Diagonal communication is between people who are neither in the same department nor on the same level of organizational structure. It cuts across departmental lines. It generally takes place when members cannot communicate effectively through other channels.

These upward, downward, horizontal or diagonal communication may be oral, written, informal or gestural.

Advantages of Formal Channel of communication

  • All information flows through the proper channel in an orderly and smooth way
  • Formal channel helps in fixing responsibilities for the activities carried out in an organization thereby ensuring control.
  • In Formal Channel the superior and the subordinates are in direct contact with each other. So a better understanding develops between them.
  • The information is filtered at every level of organization which ensures that only essential & necessary information passed to the next level.
  • Formal channel cover all sub system of an organization.

Disadvantages of Formal communication 

.  Formal channel is a slow and rigid channel therefore they are time


  • The superiors are overloaded as they have to filter the information and pass only the essential part of communication.
  • Formal channel is a narrow channel of communication.
  • Possibilities of over filtration of information cannot be denied which may lead to distortions of information.
  • Formal channel are expensive as the messages are generally conveyed in writing.

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