Vertical Communication

Breaking Down Vertical Communication

Vertical communication is communication that flows up and down the organization, usually along the chain of command or formal reporting lines; it takes place between managers and their superiors and subordinates.

Important Hint!
  • Vertical communication is the flow of information both up and down the chain of command.
  • It involves an exchange of messages between two people or it may flow through several different levels in the organizational hierarchy.

The communications network of most organizations consists of vertical lines of communication providing upwards and downwards means of transmitting information.

Upward communication,Opens in new window in particular, consists of messages transmitted vertically up the line from subordinates to superiors. In this flow, employees communicate ideas, suggestions, comments and complaints or feedbacks upwards to their direct superior.

Downward communicationOpens in new window occurs when information flows downward in the organization’s hierarchy from superiors to subordinates. This vertical communication line is used by group leaders and managers to assign goals, provide job instructions, inform employees of policies and procedures, point out problems that need attention, and offer feedback about performance.

Studies have also shown that upward communication is more subject to distortion than is downward communication. Subordinates are likely to withhold or distort information that makes them look bad. The greater the degree of difference in status between superior and subordinate and the greater the degree of distrust, the more likely the subordinate is to suppress or distort information. For example, subordinates might choose to withhold information about problems from their boss if they think the news will make him angry and if they think they can solve the problem themselves without his ever knowing about it.

In vertical communication, employees are given the chance to give feedback, although the final decision is taken by top management. With vertical communication, management interacts with employees and makes room to address their concerns. It creates an enabling environment for participation in decision-making. However, vertical communication tends to be dominated by what flows in the downward direction.