Formal And Informal Communication Network

Formal Communication

Definition: The Formal Communication is the exchange of official information that flows along the different levels of the organizational hierarchy and conforms to the prescribed professional rules, policy, standards, processes and regulations of the organization.

The formal communication follows a proper predefined channel of communication and is deliberately controlled. It is governed by the chain of command and complies with all the organizational conventional rules. In the organizational set up the formal communication can observe any of the following forms:

  1. Downward Communication: The downward communication is when the information passes from the management level to the subordinate level. This is the most common form of formal communication wherein communication flows downwards, i.e. from the people occupying top positions in the organization to the people at lower levels.

It mainly includes orders and instructions and can either be written or oral depending on the importance of the message and also the status of individuals involved in the communication process. Reports, emails, letters, manuals, etc. are the commonly used communication tools.

  1. Upward Communication: The upward communication is when the message passes from the subordinate level to the management level. Here, the communication flows upwards i.e. from the subordinates to the managers in the form of request, reports, suggestions, complaints, and instructions.
  2. Horizontal or Lateral Communication:Horizontal communication means when the Co-workers with different areas of responsibilities, but at the same level in the organization communicate with each other. The communication between the managers of a different department, such as marketing, finance, production, HR, is the best example of horizontal communication.
  3. Diagonal or Crosswise Communication: When the employees of different departments at different levels communicate with each other irrespective of the chain of command, then the communication is said to be a diagonal or a cross-wise communication. The communication between the floor manager and the sales team is the example of diagonal communication.

The way in which the formal communication can be facilitated is called as the formal communication network. There are several forms of Formal Communication Network that individuals use to get their message transmitted to others.

Informal Communication

Definition: The Informal Communication is the casual and unofficial form of communication wherein the information is exchanged spontaneously between two or more persons without conforming the prescribed official rules, processes, system, formalities and chain of command.

The informal communications are based on the personal or informal relations such as friends, peers, family, club members, etc. and thus is free from the organizational conventional rules and other formalities. In the business context, the informal communication is called as a “grapevine” as it is difficult to define the beginning and end of the communication.

The informal communication is characterized by an indefinite channel of communication, which means there is no definite chain of command through which the information flows. Hence, the information can flow from anywhere. Often such communication arises out of the social relations that an individual creates with other persons on the basis of common interest, likings or dislikings.

There are four types of Informal Communication (Grapevine) network that show how the communication is facilitated. These are:

  1. Single Strand Chain
  2. Gossip Chain
  3. Probability Chain
  4. Cluster Chain

The gossip in the organization is the best example of informal communication, wherein the employees of different department irrespective of their hierarchical positions come together and communicate with each other. The grapevine satisfies the social needs of people and smoothens the formal relations by filling in the gaps and even bring together different people who do not fall under the common chain of command.

Comparison Chart

Meaning A type of verbal communication in which the interchange of information is done through the pre-defined channels is known as formal communication. A type of verbal communication in which the interchange of information does not follow any channels i.e. the communication stretches in all directions.
Another Name Official Communication Grapevine communication
Reliability More Comparatively less
Speed Slow Very Fast
Evidence As the communication is generally written, documentary evidence is present. No documentary evidence.
Time Consuming Yes No
Advantage Effective due to timely and systematic flow of information. Efficient because employees can discuss work related problems, this saves time and cost of the organization.
Disadvantage Distortion due to long chain of communication. Spread of rumors
Secrecy Full secrecy is maintained. It is difficult to maintain the secrecy.
Flow of Information Only through predefined channels. Can move freely.


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