Downward Communication

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What is Downward Communication?

Communication which flows from a top level to a low level in an organisation is known as downward communication.

In other words, communication that takes place from superiors to subordinates in a chain of command is a downward communication.

This flow of communication is used by the managers to convey work-related information to the employees at lower levels. Employees require this information for carrying out their jobs and for meeting their manager’s expectations.

It may include efficiently managing the tone of the message, and also showing skill in a delegation to make sure the job is done efficiently by the right person.

Managers use this type of communication for the following purposes:

  • To give an idea: With the help of downward communication objectives, policies, rules are explained to the subordinates by superior to give complete understanding.

  • To encourage: Employees are required to be motivated to work more to achieve organisational objectives. Management has to resort to downward communication to encourage lower-level employees.

  • To maintain discipline: Such communication follows the organisational hierarchy, so every section unit or department must follow the set rules or procedure. As a result discipline is ensured.

  • To inform job rationale: An important objective of this type of communication is to give information regarding the rationale of the task assigned and its relation to other organisational task.

  • To explain about change: Changes are dependent to circumstances. When there is any change in respect of plans, policies, procedures or rules etc. such are communication with explanation through downward communication.

  • To give direction: To direct any assignment, job or task to the subordinates, superior makes downward communication.

  • Assignment of job: To assign job according to efficiency of the workers, superior makes justification through downward communication.

  • To control: Since necessary instructions are forwarded through downward communication, employees are very much aware about their task and activities. Therefore such communication can act as a control tool.

  • To evaluate: Supervisors evaluate works performed by the employees. Downward communication is used to inform the employees of their evaluations.

Advantages of Downward Communication

The advantages of downward communication are as follows:

  • Efficiency: Downward communication offers efficiencies because instructions and information come from the sources in power that are able to coordinate activities from the top of the organisation.

  • Ease of delegation: Delegation is much easier if the delegation comes directly from the vertical communication structure representing the chain of command.

  • Organisational discipline: Downward communication follows the organisation’s hierarchy, meaning that organisational discipline and member compliance is much easier to maintain.

  • Effective communication of goals: Upper management can easily communicate goals and assign responsibilities regarding achieving those goals.

Disadvantages of Downward Communication

The disadvantages of downward communication are as follows:

  • Interpretative problems: Downward communication presents interpretation problems because of the distortion effect and the slow feedback for message clarification.

  • Distortion: Ever played the grapevine game? Downward communications can become distorted as it proceeds through multiple levels of the organisation.

  • Not motivating: Given slow feedback and the dependence on formal channels of communication, this method of communication doesn’t really help with motivation.

  • Slow feedback: It takes time for messages to go down the organisation and then up the organisation and then back down again. This means that feedback can be slow, resulting in problems, especially in a dynamic environment.

  • Lowers morale: Given the time communication takes and the problem with distorted messages, downward communications can have a negative impact on organisational morale.

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