“Did you hear that Ben from finance got fired?” “Isn’t that her third sick leave in three weeks?” “We are happy to introduce our new WFH policy”. There are multiple types of communication in the workplace. The above-mentioned are examples of three different types of communication. The significance of communication cannot be overstated. More often than not, a lot gets lost in translation. It is important to be clear and concise when communicating regardless of the type and channel.
Communication plays an essential role in every walk of life. It helps people interchange ideas, feelings, and opinions. Let us take a look at the two broad types of communication in the workplace ; Formal and informal communication. Formal communication passes through predefined channels within an organization, whereas informal communication happens freely in every direction, and information does not flow through any channel. It can be verbal, written, or non-verbal (yes, the look that you give your office bestie when the manager is on leave is also communication!).
Let us take a look at the types of communication in the workplace with an example. If an employee needs to make a grievance, request, complaint, application, etc., in most cases, they cannot directly contact the company’s CEO. They need to go through a channel to approve their grievance or request. Under informal communication, employees can directly contact the managers without undergoing a process, such as a talking group, etc.
Let us take a detailed look at the two types of communication in the workplace. We’ll look at informal communication first.
Types of Communication in the Workplace
1. Informal Communication
The informal mode of communication does not follow any predefined channel. The information does not transfer in a specific chain, and the movement of information is free. Such communications involve conversations on feelings, casual discussions, etc. It is a natural type of conversation involving personal and professional life interaction.
Types of Informal Communication
informal communication is one type of communication in the workplace. There are numerous types of informal communication. Employees can use it to communicate about critical business issues, share things from their personal life, or build workplace bonding. The four types of informal communication are gossip chain, cluster chain, probability chain, and single-strand chain.
Grapevine communication is a term used to describe a form of informal communication in which information is spread through unofficial channels or networks, often without the knowledge or approval of management. It is named after the way grapevines grow and intertwine, much like the way information can spread through a network of people.
In the workplace, grapevine communication can be both positive and negative. On the positive side, it can help to build a sense of community and connection among employees, as well as facilitate the sharing of important information and insights. However, on the negative side, it can also lead to rumors, misunderstandings, and mistrust.
To effectively manage grapevine communication in the workplace, it’s important to recognize its existence and understand how it operates. This can involve listening to what employees are saying and paying attention to the information that is being shared through informal channels.
Single strand communication is a term that typically refers to a form of communication in which information is passed from one person to another in a linear, one-way fashion. This type of communication involves a sender who initiates the message and a receiver who receives and interprets the message. When it comes to communication in the workplace, more often than not, one person talks to another person and they talk to another and it becomes a chain. Single-strand communication happens when one worker tells the other worker, who then shares it with another person. This way, the information process goes on from one person to the other in an organization. It is a single mode of communication.
Probability chain communication is a term used to describe a form of informal communication. Information is transmitted randomly through a network of people, often without any formal planning or direction. This type of communication involves an initial sender who passes information to a few others, who then pass it on to a few more, and so on, creating a chain-like effect.
In the workplace, probability chain communication can occur through a variety of channels. It could be casual conversations, email chains, and social media. While this type of communication can be useful for spreading information quickly, it can also be unreliable and prone to errors and misunderstandings
Cluster Chain communication is a term used to describe a form of informal communication in which information is transmitted through a network of people in clusters or groups, rather than randomly.This type of communication involves an initial sender who passes information to a few others in their immediate group or “cluster”. These people then pass it on to others in their own clusters, creating a chain-like effect within each cluster.
In the workplace, cluster chain communication can occur through a variety of channels. While this type of communication can be effective for sharing information within specific groups or clusters, it can also lead to silos and a lack of communication and collaboration between different groups.
To manage cluster chain communication in the workplace, it’s important to establish clear and effective channels of communication both within and between different clusters. This can involve encouraging cross-functional collaboration and communication, as well as providing regular opportunities for teams and departments to share information and updates.
Now that the first type of communication in the workplace is out of the way, let’s take a look at the next type of communication in the workplace; informal communication.
2. Formal Communication
If informal communication is the water cooler conversation about the manager, formal communication is the email from the manager! Formal communication in the workplace refers to the exchange of information, ideas, or messages through established channels of communication that follow a prescribed set of rules and procedures. This type of communication is often planned, structured, and documented, and is usually used for official or important communications, such as policies, procedures, memos, or reports. Let us take a look at the different types of formal communication.
Types of Formal Communication
Different types of formal communication occur in an organization, varying on the purpose, place, and context of communication.
Formal communication can also be classified on the basis of direction, meaning the flow of information in the communication process. There are four main types of formal communication based on direction:
This type of formal communication flows from higher levels of management or leadership to lower levels of employees or team members. It is used to communicate policies, goals, objectives, directives, and instructions. Examples of downward communication include memos, emails, and staff meetings. It is in written or oral forms, depending on the importance of the message and position of the organization. Emails, manuals, etc., are modes of communication.
This type of formal communication flows from lower levels of employees or team members to higher levels of management or leadership. It is used to provide feedback, suggestions, recommendations, and reports. Examples of upward communication include employee surveys, performance reviews, and progress reports.
This type of formal communication flows between employees or team members at the same level of hierarchy or across different departments or units within the organization. It is used to coordinate tasks, share information, and collaborate on projects. Examples of horizontal communication include team meetings, project reports, and interdepartmental memos.
Diagonal or Crosswise Communication
It is a type of communication between the workers at different levels and positions in an organization. When information passes through such a level irrespective of the chain of command, it is called diagonal communication. For example, a software engineer discussing a project with a content writer is called crosswise communication.
The Advantages of Formal Communication in the workplace
The advantages of formal communication are:
- Clear and effective communication- Direct communication between the management and the employee helps effectively convey information.
- The flow of information in a systematic manner- Formal mode of communication helps in the systematic and orderly flow of information from one person to the other.
- Documentation- In formal communication, things are documented and you can go back to it and check the details and nitty-gritty at any point.
Primary Differences between Formal and Informal Communication
The primary differences between formal and informal communication are:
- Formal communication is orderly and primarily written, whereas informal communication does not follow an order and mostly happens orally.
- Formal communication is also called official communication, whereas informal communication is also called the grapevine.
- Formal communication is confidential, whereas informal communication is not confidential.
- Formal communication is time-consuming, whereas informal communication is rapid.
- Formal communication is more reliable than informal mode of communication.
Maintaining a Balance between Formal and Informal Communication
One of the most important things that organizations should understand is that people talk. There’s no point trying to avoid conversations. You should have it at the right time and through the right channels. An adequate balance of formal and informal communication is crucial for running a business. The best way to balance formal and informal modes of communication is by declaring the preferred method of communication. Companies can prepare a policy on what can be shared formally and informally. For example, business updates, meeting invitations, etc., are formal communication modes. Informal communication is for feedback, praise, redirection, etc. Backing up informal communication with formal communication ensures that essential information doesn’t get lost.
The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said. Nope, that does not mean eavesdropping on important meetings. You have to understand the two different types of communication in the workplace, & encourage the right balance to promote a positive environment.