What Is Diagonal Communication: Examples, Advantages & Features

What is diagonal communication?

Diagonal communication is a type of business communication where the exchange of information occurs between individuals or teams, not on the same department or level in the organization. It is also known as crosswise communication. 

The diagonal flow of communication instigates cutting across departmental lines by letting people from different departments who have no direct reporting relationship interact with each other.

Diagonal communication in an organization is used to ensure different teams in the organization are adhering to the overall goals of the company. 

In modern organizations, diagonal communication facilities tackle challenges in ways vertical and horizontal communication cannot. 

During the various stages of production, one department may require assistance from another department. Individuals from different departments can also be put into a task team to carry forward special objectives. 

Characteristics of Diagonal Communication

A diagonal communication network has the following characteristics:

1) No line of command: It allows individuals in the organization with no direct reporting relationship to interact with each other. Messages can be transmitted from one level to another by anyone in the organization.

2) Inter-departmental communication: One of the main purposes of diagonal communication is inter-departmental communication. Different departments in a company can communicate and coordinate with each other to reach common goals.

3) Extended recommendations: A key characteristic of diagonal communication is that it helps in finding solutions and recommendations by seeking assistance from other departments and managers with extensive knowledge bases and experience. 

4) Speed: Diagonal communication channel improves the speed of informational flow in an organization. Messages are transmitted quickly as there are no formalities as such to be followed and the channel of communication is mostly oral.

5) Crosswise Communication: Communication is not vertical or horizontal in nature. It is rather a hybrid of both. This allows flexibility and provides a broader range of communication.

Types of Diagonal Communication

Diagonal communication is a cross between horizontal and vertical communication as it uses common elements from both. In an organization, an employee can communicate with another individual on a similar level in another department (horizontal communication) or interact with a manager from another sector of the business (vertical communication). 

Diagonal communication relates to horizontal and vertical communication in the following types: 

  • Horizontal Communication: Diagonal communication may move laterally in the form of an employee communicating with another employee of similar status from another department. For example, a subordinate from the sales team may interact with a co-worker from the marketing department. This interaction can be formal in nature or part of informal communication. 
  • Vertical Communication: Diagonal communication can move vertically in an organization in the form of a subordinate of one department communicating with a manager of a separate department.

There are two types of vertical communication:

  • Upward communication: Upward communication flows from bottom to top, i.e, from a subordinate to a superior. In relation to diagonal communication, a trainee or subordinate from one department can consult a manager or a higher-ranking employee from another department for assistance.

Related Reading:

What Is Upward Communication A Detailed Guide With Examples

Upward Communication: Advantages & Disadvantages With Examples

  • Downward communication: Downward communication in an organization has an upward to downward flow. This occurs when superiors communicate with subordinates. This can happen diagonally as well in the form of a manager from one department interacting with a subordinate that directly does not work under them.

Related Reading:

What is downward communication with examples and types

Advantages And Disadvantages of Downward Communication

Example of diagonal communication in an organization

Example:1.0

When a supply chain manager in an organization communicates with the finance manager to prepare an audit report of the inventory used within the last financial year.

Example:2.0

To prepare a new sales training program the HR executives interact with Sr. line sales managers from the sales department for training modules and territory requirements.

Example:3.0

The Operations head sends a message to field supervisors for creating a new standard operating procedure (SOP) for the new line of machinery attached.

Example:4.0

The performance marketing analyst from the digital marketing department conducts a meeting with the CFO of the company to discuss the budget for the upcoming quarter’s of marketing camping.

Example:5.0

When a talent acquisition head demands the list of additional manpower requirements from manufacturing department executives.

 

Diagram of diagonal communication

Diagram-of-diagonal-communication-flow-within-an-organization
Graphical representation of diagonal communication flow between managers and top management

How is diagonal communication applied in an organization? 

Diagonal communication is highly beneficial in a large organization as there are multiple departments, each carrying out its own set of tasks. This gives rise to a larger communication network between various managers and teams.

It benefits a company in reaching its goals when there is interdependence between different sectors. This helps in increasing work coordination and achieving tasks faster.

Diagonal communication makes room for assistance on issues and project matters from other departments and capable workers.

For example, a sales executive can reach out to a manager or subordinate from the marketing team to seek information in order to come up with an effective sales pitch. 

Advantages of diagonal communication in an organization

Diagonal communication offers the following merits to an organization:

1) It is considered to be a direct, fast, and selective method of communication.

2) Spreads messages quicker as compared to other methods of communication. 

3) It enables capable and smart individuals from other departments to contribute and provide assistance with problems. 

4) It facilitates interdependence between different departments leading to better cooperation for carrying out large goals.

5) Diagonal communication can be used to interlink high-performing individuals from different departments and create task teams for special objectives.

Disadvantages of diagonal communication in an organization

Diagonal communication has the following demerits:

1) It does not follow the official line of command and disrupts organizational structure.

2) Diagonal communication may lead to the spread of misinformation and incomplete data. 

3) Diagonal communication can lead to confusion and distortion of the message as it can be delivered by anyone of any rank.

4) It leads to grapevine formation and gossip.

5) The organization can find it difficult to monitor diagonal communication.

Why is a diagonal channel of communication not popular?

Diagonal communication implies the direction of communication in a crosswise direction. This reason results in the formation of grapevine information that cannot be effectively monitored by the organization.

This type of communication may also give birth to gossip and the spread of biased opinions and misinformation. Information can flow freely from any individual of any rank, therefore sometimes, it can cause distortion of facts due to a lack of understanding, poor reporting skills, etc.

Difference between horizontal, vertical, and diagonal communication

Difference Criteria

Horizontal Communication

Vertical Communication

Diagonal Communication

Flow

Lateral flow

Upward or downward flow

Crosswise flow

Purpose

Peer to peer communication

Superior to subordinate communication

Communication between different departments

Chain of command

Does not follow organizational hierarchy

Follows a hierarchical structure

Follows no line of command

Distortion

Free of distortion

Message may be distorted during transmission

Can be distorted in certain cases

Medium

Mostly done in oral format

Often done in written official manner

Done both orally and in writing depending on purpose

Similarities between diagonal and horizontal communication

Diagonal communication and horizontal communication share the following similarities: 

  1. Both forms of communication can be oral or written in nature.
  2. Both horizontal and diagonal communication are forms of internal communication
  3. They both achieve the common purpose of creating a system of effective communication in the workspace.
  4. Horizontal and diagonal communication use the same elements of communication to facilitate the flow of information.

What is horizontal communication?

Horizontal communication is also known as lateral communication. In this type of business communication, information flows between individuals on the same level in the organizational structure.

In this peer-to-peer form of communication, the channel of communication used is usually informal and is mostly free from distortion of information. 

Check out our in-depth guide on what is horizontal communication to know more.

What is vertical communication?

Vertical communication in an organization follows the hierarchical chain of command. It refers to communication that flows either upward or downward. Upward communication implies communication from down to top (subordinates to superiors) and downward communication implies the transmission of information from top to bottom (superiors to subordinates).

Managers giving instructions and tasks to subordinates and receiving feedback from them comes under the banner of vertical communication. 

What are the 7 C’s of Communication?

The 7 C’s of communication are a set of principles that are applied to oral and written forms of communication to achieve maximum efficiency. They are:

  • Completeness: The information provided in the communication process should be complete and contain all required facts and figures.
  • Conciseness: The content should not be wordy and should only be communicated in as few words as possible. 
  • Consideration: The communicator must factor in the audience’s background, point of view, education level, etc. while communicating information to them.
  • Clarity: The information communicated should be clear and specific to the context of the information. 
  • Concreteness: The message exchanged from sender to receiver must not be confusing and hazy. It should be to the point. 
  • Courtesy: The tone in which the information is conveyed should be polite and courteous to the listener/reader. 
  • Correctness: The content should be free from grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.

Must Read: 10 Principles of Effective Business Communication With Examples & 7C’s

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q1) Is diagonal communication formal?

Ans: Diagonal communication can be both formal and informal depending on the channel of communication the sender uses to contact the receiver. It can happen in an informal manner in the form of a face-to-face conversation at lunch or by use of formal means such as the communication section in the company portal.  

Q2) What is the other name for diagonal communication?

Ans: Crosswise communication and Cross-functional communication are the two other names for diagonal communication.

Aditya Soni

Aditya is the head of content at clearinfo and is responsible for improving the site's organic visibility. He is a certified SEO trainer and has worked with SaaS companies and startups to enhance their digital marketing presence. He is also an ahref fanboy. Click to connect with him on Twitter, and LinkedIn.  

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