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How Communications Can Change Over Time

How Communications Can Change Over Time

How Communications Can Change Over Time

11.2 – Downward and Upward Communication

When leaders and managers share information with lower-level employees, it is called

downward, or top-down, communication. While downward communication may

sometimes invite a response, it is usually one-directional rather than reciprocal–the

higher-level communicator does not invite or expect a response from the lower-level


Examples of downward communication include explaining an organization’s mission

and strategy or explaining the organizational vision. Effective downward

communication gives employees a clear understanding of the message they have

received. Whether informative or persuasive, effective downward communication

results in the recipients taking action or otherwise behaving in accord with the

communicators’ expectation.

In the workplace, directives from managers to employees are the most basic form of

downward communication. These can be written manuals, handbooks, memos, and

policies, or oral presentations. Another example of downward communication is a

board of directors instructing management to take a specific action.
Business communication experts John Anderson and Dale Level identified five

benefits of effective downward communication:

• Better coordination

• Improved individual performance through the development of intelligent


• Improved morale

• Improved consumer relations

• Improved industrial relations

Ensuring effective downward communication is not necessarily an easy task.

Differences in experience, knowledge, levels of authority, and status can make it more

likely that sender and recipient do not share the same assumptions or understanding of

context, which can result in messages being misunderstood or misinterpreted.

Creating clearly worded and non-ambiguous communications and maintaining a

respectful tone can overcome these issues and increase effectiveness.

“Downward Communication. Boundless Management” is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Upward communication is the transmission of information from lower levels of an

organization to higher ones; the most common form is employees communicating

with managers. Managers who are open to and encourage upward communication

foster cooperation, gains support, and reduces frustration among their employees. The
content of such communication can include judgments, estimations, propositions,

complaints, grievances, appeals, reports, and any other information directed from

subordinates to superiors. Upward communication is often made in response to

downward communication; for instance, employees answering a question from their

manager. In this way, upward communication indicates the effectiveness of a

company’s downward communication.

The communication channel, or mode of sharing information, strongly influences the

upward communication process. Information sharing can be face-to-face, over the

phone, or in writing. Subordinates should make an effort to identify the preferred

means of receiving communication from their manager or other higher-ups. For

instance, sending a written report to someone who prefers to receive information in

the form of a concise email is less likely to bring about the desired effect.

The availability of communication channels affects employees’ overall satisfaction

with upward communication. For example, an open-door policy sends the signal to

employees that the manager welcomes impromptu conversations and other

communication. This is likely to make employees feel satisfied with their level of

access to channels of upward communication and less apprehensive about

communicating upward.
For management, upward communication is an important source of information that

can inform business decisions. It helps to alert management of new developments,

levels of performance, and other issues that may require their attention. Whistle-

blowing involves upward communication when employees communicate directly with

top management about matters requiring attention or discipline (e.g., harassment from

another employee), including perceived ethical or legal breaches.

“Upward Communication.” Boundless Management” is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

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