In this blog, we have detailed everything you need to know about vertical communication with examples, types, advantages & disadvantages, and how you can improve vertical communication in your organization.
Definition of vertical communication
- According to Robbins and Coulter (2017), “Vertical communication is the flow of information both up and down the chain of command within an organization.”
- Bovee and Thill (2019) define vertical communication as “the exchange of messages between superiors and subordinates in an organization.”
- In their book “Organizational Communication: Approaches and Processes,” Miller and Jablin (2017) describe vertical communication as “the transfer of information, orders, requests, feedback, and other messages up and down the organizational hierarchy.”
What is Vertical Communication?
Vertical communication is a form of business communication between different levels of an organization, such as management and employees, and vice versa.
It follows a strict organizational hierarchy, usually in a top-to-bottom (superiors to subordinates) or bottom-to-top (subordinates to superiors) direction, also known as downward and upward communication.
This type of communication is important for business communication as it ensures that all employees are aware of important information and are working towards common goals. It also helps in maintaining clear lines of authority and decision-making within the organization.
Vertical communication in an organization
The vertical flow of communication in an organization plays a crucial role in exchanging information between different levels of the organizational hierarchy. It involves communication that flows both upwards from lower-level employees to their superiors and downwards from higher-level managers to their subordinates.
Vertical upward communication helps managers to understand the needs and concerns of their employees, while vertical downward communication helps to ensure that employees are aligned with the goals and objectives of the organization.
What are the Goals of Vertical Communication?
The goal of vertical communication is to effectively transmit information and directives between different levels of an organization, such as management and employees. Type of communication in vertical form can be used to provide feedback, give instructions, and delegate tasks.
In addition, it allows for effective decision-making and problem-solving within the organization, as well as promotes a sense of cohesion and unity among team members.
Examples of vertical communication
Below is an example of upward virtual communication in the form of a letter written by an employee name Peter to his boss for recommending changes in old machinery.
Downward vertical communication is also used to inform crucial information by top management, below example is an example of downward vertical communication.
After AT & T acquired BellSouth and Cingular Wireless, Ed Whitacre, then CEO of AT & T used downward communication to inform the former BellSouth and Cingular employees about the company acquisition strategy. Whiteacre held meetings to assure employees that he understood the changes resulting from the acquisition caused turmoil and confusion in the short term and asked them to continually provide excellent customer service during the transnational period. The face-to-face meeting gave employees the opportunity to ask questions.
Source” Erik S. Lesser/ The New York Times
Diagram of Vertical Communication
Different Types of Vertical Communication
Upward and downward communication come under the two types of vertical communication in a business organization. let’s understand them one by one:
1. Upward Communication?
An upward flow of communication refers to the transmission of information and messages between subordinates and their superiors. In this type of vertical network, communication moves from bottom to top where employees offer feedback and report work progress, grievances, performance evaluations, etc., to management.
2. Downward Communication?
Downward communication refers to a top-to-bottom level of communication. Under this type, managers communicate with employees to give them directives, feedback, training, and information about company policies. It is an authoritative and directive form of business communication.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Vertical Communication
In this section, we will look at the advantages and disadvantages of vertical communication.
Advantages of Vertical Communication:
1. Maintains Hierarchy: Vertical network communication helps in maintaining the organizational hierarchy of communication, from superiors to subordinates and vice versa.
2. Clarity: It provides clear instructions and expectations for tasks, reducing ambiguity and confusion.
3. Employee Grievances: It allows employees to share their problems and personal grievances with management which leads to a supportive and cordial work environment.
4. Feedback: Vertical feedback provides a direct line for superiors to give feedback and for subordinates to ask questions, improving performance and productivity.
5. Decision Making: It facilitates quick decision-making, as superiors can directly communicate with subordinates without delay.
6. Improved Communication: Vertical communication helps to improve overall communication within an organization, as it clarifies roles, responsibilities, and decision-making processes.
Disadvantages of Vertical Communication
1. Resistance to change: Vertical communication can reinforce existing power structures and make it difficult for new ideas to be considered or implemented.
2. Lack of transparency: Vertical communication can be opaque, making it difficult for employees to understand the reasoning behind decisions.
3. Decreased motivation: Employees may feel disempowered and unvalued if they are not involved in the decision-making process.
4. Delays in transmission: Vertical communication can be time-consuming, especially if messages have to be passed through multiple levels of management.
5. Decreased collaboration: Vertical communication can discourage collaboration and cooperation between different levels of an organization.
6. Lack of communication skills: Messages delivered through vertical communication can be distorted and misinterpreted if the sender lacks efficient communication skills.
Vertical Vs Horizontal Communication
The differences between vertical and horizontal communication are highlighted in the table below:
|Basis for Comparison||Vertical Communication||Horizontal Communication|
|Meaning||Vertical communication flows between superiors to subordinates or vice versa.||Horizontal communication refers to communication between employees of the same rank or managerial status.|
|Direction||Upward or downward movement||Lateral movement|
|Flow||Between management and employees or subordinates and superiors||Between employees of the same rank or job position|
|Nature||Authoritative and directive||Informal and casual|
|Purpose||To report information and give directives||Building friendly relationships with co-workers|
|Forms||Company meetings, circulars, instructions||Casual conversation, memos|
|Barriers||Employee dissent, improper communication skills||Rumors, Gossip chain communication|
What is the Difference Between Vertical Communication and Internal Communication?
Vertical communication takes place between individuals or groups of different levels of hierarchy in an organization. It refers to the flow of messages in a top-down or bottom-up direction, with information and directives being passed from higher-level managers to lower-level employees and vice versa.
Internal communication, on the other hand, refers to the flow of information and messages within an organization, regardless of the level or hierarchy of the individuals or groups involved. This type of communication can flow in any direction – up, down, horizontally, or diagonally.
In summary, vertical communication is a type of internal communication that flows in a hierarchical direction while internal communication is a broader term that covers all communication within an organization, including vertical, horizontal, and diagonal communication.
Why is Vertical Communication Structure Important?
Vertical communication in business communication is important for several reasons:
- It helps to ensure that information and directives are passed down from management to employees in a clear and timely manner.
- It helps to build trust and accountability by ensuring that employees understand what is expected of them and that they are held accountable for meeting those expectations.
- It enables effective problem-solving by allowing employees to bring issues and grievances to the attention of management.
- It allows for effective feedback and evaluation, by enabling managers to provide regular feedback to their employees about their performance and progress.
Major Barriers to Vertical Communication
The barriers faced while using a vertical model of communication include the following:
- Power imbalances: Those in higher positions may not be willing to listen or communicate with those in lower positions.
- Fear of retaliation: Employees may be hesitant to share information or give feedback for fear of negative consequences.
- Lack of trust: Without trust between individuals, communication may be limited.
- Miscommunication: Misunderstandings can occur due to different perspectives or lack of clarity.
- Information overload: Too much information can make it difficult to process and understand important information.
How to Improve Vertical Communication?
An organization can improve the impact of vertical communication by doing the following:
1. Encourage open communication: Create a culture where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas.
2. Promote active listening: Encourage those in higher positions to actively listen to and consider the perspectives of those in lower positions.
3. Build trust: Encourage transparency and honesty in communication to build trust between individuals.
4. Provide training: Provide training for employees on effective communication and how to overcome communication barriers.
5. Encourage feedback: Create opportunities for employees to provide feedback and suggestions.
What are the Advantages of Horizontal Communication as Opposed to Vertical Communication?
Horizontal communication, also known as lateral communication, is considered better than vertical communication in certain situations due to several reasons.
Firstly, horizontal communication promotes equality and collaboration between team members as it allows for a free-flowing exchange of ideas and opinions.
Secondly, it helps to avoid bureaucracy and slow decision-making as information is shared directly between peers rather than going through multiple layers of management.
Furthermore, horizontal communication can lead to increased job satisfaction as employees feel heard and valued. It also encourages innovation and creativity by fostering open communication across departments.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What is lateral and vertical communication?
Ans: Lateral communication, also known as horizontal communication refers to the flow of information between employees at the same level or managerial status in an organization. On the other hand, vertical communication is a system of communication where information flows in a top-to-bottom (superiors to subordinates) or bottom-to-top (subordinates to superiors) direction.
Q2. Vertical communication is also known as?
Ans: Vertical communication may also be referred to as top-down or bottom-to-top communication.
Q3. What are top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top communication?
Ans: Both are types of vertical communication. Top-to-bottom communication is also known as downward communication which refers to the flow of information from higher levels to lower levels in an organization. Whereas bottom-to-top communication refers to the transmission of information from lower levels to higher levels in the organizational hierarchy.
Q4. What is the difference between vertical and upward communication?
Ans: Vertical communication refers to communication that follows the hierarchy of superiors and subordinates in either an upward flow (employees to management) or a downward flow (management to employees). Upward communication is a part of vertical communication that focuses only on the flow of information from the bottom levels to the top levels of an organization.
Q5. What is the difference between vertical and downward communication?
Ans: Downward communication is a part of vertical communication which emphasizes the flow of information from management down to employees in a top-to-bottom direction. Whereas vertical communication refers to a broader scope of communication where information can flow both downwards and upwards.
Q6. Is vertical communication a two-way communication?
Ans: Yes, vertical communication is a two-way communication system. It consists of upward and downward communication where information and messages flow from superiors to subordinates and vice versa.