Communication within an Organisation: Formal and Informal Communication!

(i) Formal Communication:

Formal Communication refers to the communication taking place through official channels in an organisation. Such type of communication takes place between managers or employees of same cadre or between superior and subordinate and vice versa. It may be oral or written but complete record of such communication is maintained in an organisation. It is further classified as vertical and horizontal communication.


Vertical Communication involves the flow of information & ideas between the persons of same and / or different departments holding different positions. For e.g, worker of one department may communicate with a manager of same and / or of another department. It prevents delay in work. Under this, the flow of information is either upwards or downwards through normal channels

Upward Communication flows upward from the subordinates to superiors in the form of suggestions, opinions, grievances, reports, applications for grant of leave etc. This form of communication is gaining importance as the subordinates prefer to involve themselves in the decision making process.

Downward Communication flows downward from supervisor to the subordinates in the form of orders, instructions, directions, circulars etc. As superior are the senders in this channel, the success of such communications depends primarily upon how skillful they are in this art.

Horizontal or lateral communication refers to the flow of communication between two divisions; between employees of the same rank or at the same level in an organisation. For example, a production manager can contact sales manager about delivery of goods, quantity of goods etc.


Communication network is the pattern among the members of an organisation through which the communication flows in an organisation. It depends on the nature, channel of communication & number of persons involved.

The different types of communication networks operating in formal organisation are discussed below:

1. Single Chain:

It facilitates flow of communication from a superior to a subordinate among different levels in an organisation, through single chain

Single Chain

2. Wheel:

In wheel network, the superior acts as a hub of the wheel and all subordinates under him communicate only through him and are not allowed to talk among themselves.




3. Circular:

Under circular network, the flow of communication is very slow and it also moves in a circle. In this network, each person can easily communicate with his adjoining persons.


4. Free Flow:


This network provides a fast flow of communication and allow each person to communicate with all others freely.

Free Flow

5. Inverted V:

Under this network, a subordinate can communicate not only with his superior but also superior’s superior. However, very limited communication takes place in this case.


Advantages of Formal Communication:

The formal communication has the following advantages:

1. Maintenance of Authority:


In formal communication, the authority of superior over subordinates is well maintained.

2. Orderly Flow of Information:

The information has to pass through a definite route. Hence the flow of information is very systematic.

3. Secrecy:

In formal communication, secrecy can be maintained.

4. Easy Knowledge of Source of Information:


In this type of communication, the source of each information can be easily located.

Disadvantages of Formal Communication:

The following are the disadvantages of formal communication:

1. Overload of Work:

It increases the work load of various managers as all communications are to be transmitted through a definite channel.

2. Distortion of Information:

Sometime the distance between the sender & the receiver is so big that the information passes through many hands & by the time it reaches the receiver it is distorted.


3. No Personal Touch:

Formal Communication is mostly conveyed in an impersonal manner. Personal warmth & involvement may be lacking.

Difference between Upward & Downward Communication:


Upward Communication

Downward Communication

1. Direction of flow

It flows from lower level to higher level i.e. from subordinates to superiors.

It flows from higher level to lower level i.e. from superiors to their subordinates.

2. Nature

It is in the form of suggestions, opinions, grievances, reports etc.

It is in the form of orders, instructions, directions, circulars etc.

3. Speed

It flows slowly because subordinates hesitate to come forward as they feel that many a time superiors simply ignore their ideas.

It travels very fast as subordinates are in the habit of listening to the superiors.

(ii) Informal Communication:

Informal communication takes place in an organisation without following the formal lines of communication. Such type of communication usually takes place among the workers to exchange their views and to satisfy their social needs. For example, workers talking about the behaviour of their superiors, discussing about some rumours etc. are some of the examples of informal communication.

Such type of communication spreads very fast and it is very difficult to detect the source of same. Sometime, such communication leads to rumours and thus creates confusion in the organisation. However, at times it proves to be very helpful to the managers as the information through these channels can be spread very rapidly to know the reactions of the workers etc.

Grapevine Network:

The network of communication followed in the informal communication is referred to as grapevine network because its branches spread throughout the organisation and in all directions without considering the levels of authority etc. Origin of this type of communication is not known. In other words, it is very difficult to know as to how and where does it start/end. Following are the different types of grapevine network:

1. Single Strand:


Under this network, each person can communicate with the other person in a sequence only.

Single Strand

2. Gossip:

In gossip network, an individual can communicate with all on non selective basis. Thus one person radiates a message etc. to many at large. In other words, through just one source, information spreads to many other people.


3. Probability:

In probability network, an individual communicates with other individuals at random.


4. Cluster:

This type of network is most common in an organisation. Under this network, an individual communicates only with those persons whom he trusts. After receiving the information, some of them convey it further to a selected few & rest of them keep it with themselves.


Advantages of Informal Communication:

Informal Communication may lead to the following benefits:

1. Speedy & Spontaneous:

Under this communication, the messages flow at faster speed in spontaneous way.

2. Free Environment:

Informal communication is done in a free environment in that there is no pressure on any officer. It can flow to any direction and degree.

3. Social Relations:

It helps in establishing better human relations as it provides platform for employees at social gatherings not only in the organisation but outside the organisation also.

4. Supplementing:

Informal communication supplements the formal communication. There are certain matters which are difficult to communicate through formal channels e.g. attitude & opinions of the workers about management plan & policies etc. These can be easily known through informal communication.

Disadvantages of Informal Communication:

The demerits of informal communication are as under:

1. No Responsibility:

In formal communication responsibility for misleading facts can be pinpointed but it is not so in case of informal communication.

2. Unreliable Information:

Most of the information received through this communication in undependable & no important decision can be taken on the basis of this alone.

3. Leakage of Information:

It may lead to the leakage of important information which can prove to be harmful for the organization.