COM 425 - Communication in Organizations Week One

Formal vs. Informal Communication

Before we begin, take a few moments to think about informal and formal communication. What do these two terms mean to you? How are they different and how are they similar?

Here is a video that talks about some of the differences between informal and formal communication.

Informal communication is a casual way to share information with others. It is less structured than formal communication and is also known as the grapevine.

Reflection question: Is the grapevine reliable? Have you ever received information through the grapevine that turned out to be true?

Formal communication will usually follow pre-established professional rules and is much more structured than informal communication.

Downward communication in formal communication: Most common communication pattern in organizations. This occurs when someone from the top of an organization communicates with people in lower level positions. While downward communication is essential to the success of an organization, it does can create some problems including: information overload, and miscommunication. Have you ever experienced any problems with downward communication in an organization? Was the problem preventable do you feel?

Upward communication in formal communication: This is when communication travels up the hierarchy chain, from lower level positions to higher level positions. Overall, this is the least common communication pattern found in organizations. Why do you think this is? Upward communication is very important in every organization because it gives employees an opportunity to give their honest feedback which can help to prevent tensions down the road. If higher level managers do not hear anything from their lower level employees, they will assume all is well. If more lower level employees made their comments known (professionally of course) how would your organization be different?

Horizontal communication in formal communication: In an organization, communication between people in similar level positions is known as horizontal communication. In horizontal communication, people will work together to solve a problem and brainstorm ideas, in addition to several other things. Since horizontal communication includes people in the same or similar level position, coworkers can learn new strategies to perform their job most effectively. How has horizontal communication benefited you in your organization?

To sum it up:

Now that you have a better understanding of these two types of communication, revisit your original definitions of informal and formal communication. What can you add to these definitions? Finally, think about how you communicate in your personal and professional life. Which type of communication do you use more often and what makes that type more attractive to you?

Four Principals of Communication

While there are several principals of communication, we will go over the four most important:

Principal One: Communication is a Process - This is probably the most important principal. Communication does not start and it does not stop, it is constantly ongoing. It is impossible to not communicate, and we are always surrounded by forms of communication.

Principal Two: Communication is Irreversible - Once we say something to someone, whether it is verbally or nonverbally, it is out there and we cannot take it back. Additionally, every conversation we have with someone will influence future conversations with them. This is why we need to be careful with what we are saying, we do not want to offend or upset those around us.

Principal Three: Communication is Transactional - There is much more to communication that a series of actions. There is no such thing as one way communication, and all forms of communication are interactive.

Principal Four: Communication Includes Content and Relationship Dimensions - Every interaction we have with someone else will include both content and relationship information. The content aspects are the ideas and facts we convey while the relationship aspects are the meaning that we assign to the content.

Video Source: Peter Susan Glaser. (2012, January 5). Subtle but Powerful: The Relationship Level of Meaning [Video file]. Retrieved from

Created By
caleb lamont

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