What is Upward Communication: Examples, Objectives & Methods

In this blog, we have detailed everything you need to know about what is Upward communication with examples, variables, types, and how you can improve & foster upward communication in your organization.

What is Upward Communication?

Upward communication is a flow of information from lower-level employees to upper-level management in an organization.

This type of communication allows employees to provide upwards feedback, suggestions, and concerns to their superiors and can help improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the organization.

Some common examples of upward communication include employee evaluations, performance reviews, and suggestion boxes.

Example of upward communication at the workplace

Example 1.1

Below is the feedback form for employees for taking personal improvement inputs for the next appraisal period by an organization.


Example 2.1

Example of feedback taken from employees by the top management for their superior performance in the form of a questionnaire.  


Example 3.1

Below is an example of an upward communication letter written by an employee to his boss. The letter initiates a recommendation from Peter to his boss for changing old machinery.


Diagram of upward communication?

Diagram of the upward communication flow in a digital marketing firm

Variables of Upward Communication

There are two main variables that affect an upward flow of communication. They are:

1) Employee Silence:

Employee silence is a communication phenomenon where employees stay silent and withhold useful information from the management either intentionally or unintentionally. It includes three types –

    1. Acquiescent silence: Employees withhold information because they feel powerless to make a difference.
    2. Defensive silence: Information is withheld out of fear of self-protection and risk of offending management.
    3. Prosocial silence: Occurs when employees withhold information to seem altruistic and cooperative to the workplace.

2) Organizational Dissent:

This type of dissent occurs when an employee stands in disagreement with a particular aspect, status quo, or philosophy of the company. It includes three types of dissent: 

    1. Articulated/Upward Dissent: When an employee expresses dissent and offers constructive criticism to concerned persons who have high influence on organizational matters.    
    2. Latent/Lateral Dissent: This type of dissent refers to employees complaining about their issues with the organization to their coworkers.
    3. Displaced Dissent: This occurs when an employee expresses criticism about the organization to outside parties such as friends and family members.

Nature of Upward Communication

The upward communication flow in an organization is informative and suggestive in nature. It is a form of vertical communication which follows a bottom-up communication model. Employees engage in communication with superiors to report feedback about the work and performance of teams, convey ideas and recommendations, share workplace disputes and grievances, etc. 

Examples of upward and vertical communication

Performance reports and feedbacks sent by subordinates to the managers in the form of vertical upward communication.


Objectives of Upward Communication

The objectives of upward communication include the following:

  • Reporting Information: Employees communicate upwards to superiors to report useful information about job-related tasks and important company-related matters.
  • Expressing Grievances: Upward communication serves as a medium for subordinates to share their feelings and grievances about the job and the company policies with superiors.
  • Democratic Leadership: Upward communication promotes a democratic work environment where superiors give employees the opportunity to share their ideas and concerns and have them taken into consideration when making decisions. 
  • Feedback: Managers benefit from upward communication to gain feedback from employees about progress toward goals, evaluate the performance of individuals, and get insight into projects.

Related Reading: Why is feedback important in the communication process 

Significance of Upward Communication

In business communication, upward communication is of significance in the following ways:

  • It gives the management insight into the attitudes, feelings, ideas, and opinions of the workers in the company.
  • Employees communicate upwards to superiors to report important information which helps managers in decision-making.
  • Upward communication is used by managers to gain feedback about company policies and performance evaluations. 

Principles of Upward Communication

An upward line of communication must operate on the following 3 principles:

  1. Managers must actively listen when subordinates communicate information.
  2. Create a culture where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns with their superiors.
  3. The grievances and problems of subordinates must be taken into consideration and sorted, if possible.

Related Reading: Principles of effective communication in business communication

Important Functions of Upward Communication in Modern Organizations

1. Communication and Managerial Functions: Upward communication helps to improve communication channels between employees and management. It also helps managers in making effective decisions based on feedback received from subordinates. 

2. Boosts Employee Engagement: Upward communication promotes employee engagement by allowing employees to voice their opinions and feel heard, which can lead to increased job satisfaction and commitment to the organization.

3. Enhances Accountability: Subordinates form direct reporting relationships with managers. This ensures that employees are held accountable for their actions and performance. 

4. Employee Reaction to Company Policies: Upward communication helps the management identify how workers react to new company policies and procedures. Managers can use this information to make necessary changes and improve communication. 

Types of Upward Communication

Upward communication takes place through the following types:

1. Information about the Subordinate: This refers to the communication of personal and professional information from a subordinate to a superior. It can include the subordinate sharing information about family life, hobbies, problems related to the workplace, etc.

2. Information about Coworkers: In this type of upward communication, subordinates provide superior information about their coworkers – how they are performing, their attitudes, and other relevant information.

3. Organizational Procedures: In this form of upward communication, subordinates discuss company policies, rules, benefits, etc., with their superiors. This gives the management insight into how they can streamline and improve directives.

4. Task at Hand: This refers to subordinates communicating with superiors about information relevant to the job. It includes asking for instructions, requesting additional resources, explaining the current progress of an assignment, etc.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Upward Communication 

Advantages of Upward Communication Disadvantages of Upward Communication
Upward communication provides the management with direct feedback from subordinates. Subordinates may hinder effective decision-making by only transmitting selected information to managers.
The workers in an organization can discuss their grievances and personal feelings with superiors. Employees may manipulate important information to attain personal goals. 
The subordinates can provide recommendations and suggestions for the growth of a company. Subordinates may hesitate to share their real opinions to superiors out of fear.

To know more check out our detailed guide on what are the advantages and disadvantages of upward communication

Methods for Improving Upward Communication

Upward communication can be improved using the following methods:

1. Grievances and Disputes: Encourage open and honest communication: Create a culture where employees feel comfortable sharing their grievances and problems with their superiors.

2. Suggestions and Recommendations: Allow employees to provide their thoughts and suggestions on organizational matters and company policies.

3. Open Door Policy: Provide opportunities for employees to speak directly with management: Hold regular meetings or open forums where employees can voice their concerns and ideas.

4. Performance Reports: Regular performance reports provide managers with information such as job performance, productivity, and compliance with company policies and procedures. 

How Can We Make Upward Communication Effective?

The management of an organization can implement the following strategic measures to make upward communication effective:

  • Establish Trust: Trust is a vital component of upward communication, as it allows employees to feel safe and secure in sharing their ideas and concerns with their superiors. When employees trust their superiors, they are more likely to be open and honest about their thoughts and feelings, which can lead to a more productive and effective workplace. 
  • Use Multiple Mediums: Upward communication can be improved by using multiple channels of upward communication such as routine group discussions, surveys, emails, project management software, instant messaging, etc. All these mediums help in making upward communication dynamic and flexible.
  • Show Utility: Managers must make subordinates feel their thoughts and ideas are being taken seriously by actively listening to them. Recommendations and suggestions from subordinates must be encouraged to create a congenial work environment. 
  • Decreasing Barriers: Removing barriers in upward communication involves creating an environment where employees feel comfortable and empowered to share their ideas and concerns with their superiors. One way to do this is by removing hierarchical barriers so that employees at all levels feel they can communicate with their superiors regardless of their position or level within the organization.

How to Foster Upward Communication in Organizations?

5 practical ways on how upward communication can be fostered in an organization:

1. Two-Way Communication: Managers should create an environment where employees at all levels feel comfortable sharing their ideas, concerns, and feedback by seeking out opportunities to interact with them both formally and informally.

2. Encourage Employee Participation: This is done by establishing a communication channel, such as a suggestion box or a regular employee feedback meeting, that allows employees to share their ideas and concerns with management.

3. Reward and Recognize Employees: Recognize and reward employees for their contributions, which will encourage them to continue sharing their thoughts and ideas.

4. Training Supervisors: The organization can offer training programs to superiors on the fundamentals of effective communication, active listening, and other communication skills to handle problems and employee dissent.

5. Create ‘Red Flag’ Mechanisms: In case of emergencies and urgent problems, there must be systems in place to immediately report the problem to the highest level in the organization.

Upward Vs Downward Communication

The differences between upward and downward communication can be highlighted in the table below:

Basis for Comparison Upward Communication Downward Communication
Flow Communication from lower to higher levels Communication from high to lower levels
Objective Providing feedback and suggestions to superiors Giving orders and directives to subordinates
Meaning Transmission of information from subordinates to superiors Transmission of information from superiors to subordinates

Must Read: Differentiate between upward and downward communication

Forms of Upward Communication

The various forms of upward communication include:

1. Suggestions: Employees may submit suggestions for improvements or ideas for new projects through suggestion boxes or an online system.

2. Requests: Subordinates may politely request superiors for matters such as: taking leaves, salary increase, additional resources for a project, etc.

3. Complaint: Employees may use a formal grievance process to raise concerns or complaints about specific issues or problems within the organization.

4. Formal Meetings: Employees may have regular meetings with their supervisor or manager to discuss their work and provide feedback on organizational policies and procedures.

5. Performance Evaluations: Employees may provide feedback on their own performance, as well as the performance of their supervisor or manager, during performance evaluations.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1) What is the difference between vertical and horizontal communication?

Ans: Vertical communication consists of either upward communication or downward communication where information flows from superiors to subordinates and vice versa. Whereas in horizontal communication or lateral communication, information flows between employees of the same rank or status in the organization.

Q2) What is the difference between diagonal and upward communication?

Ans: Upward communication refers to the flow of information from subordinates to superiors in the organizational hierarchy. Whereas diagonal communication can occur between individuals at different levels of the hierarchy and departments in an organization. 

Q3) What does vertical communication mean?

Ans: Vertical communication refers to the flow of information that moves either upwards (subordinates to superiors) or downwards (superiors to subordinates) in an organization’s hierarchy. This type of communication can use both formal or grapevine channels of communication

Q4) What are the barriers to upward communication?

Ans: The barriers to upward communication include:

  • Subordinates may purposely distort information for personal agendas. 
  • Time lag for information to travel from subordinates to top-level executives.

Q5) Is upward communication formal or informal?

Ans: Upward communication can be both formal and informal as it includes formal channels such as applications, suggestion boxes, reports, etc., and informal channels such as face-to-face conversations, phone calls, instant messaging, etc. 

Related Reading: Types of formal communication channels

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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