DOWNWARD COMMUNICATION: Meaning, Examples & Benefits

Downward communication
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All information and instruction follow a flow within every organization. Generally, this flow depends on what the organization intends to achieve. The flow or direction of information can be vertical, horizontal, or diagonal. Vertical communication flow is either upward or downward and businesses use either of these to pursue their objectives. Wondering the best way to integrate downward communication into your business, here’s a run down of all you need to get started including its importance and examples.

What is Downward Communication?

This is a type of vertical communication flow. In the downward communication flow, information flows from top to bottom. We can also say it’s from top management to personnel. In typical organizational settings, messages travel down the chain of command to departmental heads and project managers through their internal communication channels. After this, the information spreads further throughout the organization till it gets to every employee. In simpler terms, this is what downward communication is all about, passing information from the management to the employees.

While it’s true that downstream communication isn’t the only means of communication within organizations, it’s one of the oldest. It’s quite effective when the organization wants to do the following: explain changes in their policies, change roles, assign a crucial task, launch a new product; and so on. This is because it gives the company’s executives, managers, departmental heads, and supervisors the absolute right to pass information without counteraction. 

Downwards Communication In Practice: How it Works  

Mizt is a construction-specialty company that wants to upgrade its employees’ databases. They want their staff to sign in to the office using their fingerprints rather than their ID cards. To achieve this, the top management uses downward communication to send the information to managers and departmental heads. These in turn will inform their subordinates, directing them to the personnel department for biometric capturing.

Examples of Downward Communication Messages

The following are examples of information that businesses can disseminate using downward communication:

#1. New Policies

One of the key examples of downward communication is new policies. When the board or the manager can come up with new policies or decisions, they’ll have to disseminate the information. The top-level management will issue these policies to managers, supervisors, and other heads of departments. They will then channel the policy to the entire team in their department. 

#2. Job Instructions

Managers, supervisors, and departmental heads use downward communication to give instructions about certain things. Illustrating what needs to be done and how it should be done. They can also explain changes to their processes and other initiatives. 

#3. Review and Feedback

When considering examples of downward communication, you’ll have to include reviews and feedback. This is because it’s a great tool for getting reviews and feedback on performance.

#4. Announcement

Most often, downward communication is used to announce holidays, company events, or guest lecturers.

#5. New Initiatives 

New initiatives are also examples of situations that demand downward communication. Mostly, companies take on new projects, and employees receive updates on those new initiatives through downstream communication.

Advantages Of Downstream Communication

Experts inarguably agree that downward communication isn’t the best style of communication for business and any organization. Companies can gain a lot from using downward communication, including greater project collaboration, raised employee morale, and enhanced overall performance. Therefore, downward communication must be clear and succinct with little or no uncertainty to aid the growth and success of firms. Integrating it into your system benefits the company in the following ways:

#1. It Maintains Organizational Discipline

Generally, downward communication requires little or no resistance or complaint. Instead, it follows the business hierarchical structure. The aftermath of this is absolute compliance and obedience.

#2. Efficiency

In terms of efficiency, each employee, irrespective of the department, is subject to authority. Since it’s way easier to maintain coherence from top to bottom, coordination is built and this increases efficiency and productivity. This aptly means instruction is coming from one who has a clear understanding of what he expects to achieve. Thus, the goals are effectively communicated.

#3. Ease of Delegation

Delegating duties and responsibilities is quite easier when it comes from a higher authority. 

#4. Clarity of Message

Downward communication is usually very clear. It requires word-to-word transmission without adding or subtracting anything from the original instruction from the top authority where the decision was taken. 

#5. Strengthens Hierarchical Structures

Depending on what organization it is as well as what it does, hierarchical organizations are sometimes the most effective. Everyone is answerable to someone, and therefore, gives their best at all times.

#6. Allows for Quick Movements and Changes

One other benefit of downward communication is that it allows for quick change and adjustment. Clear orders from authorities inspire prompt, determined action.

Disadvantages Of Downward Communication

Downward communication has some drawbacks, such as the following:

#1. Not Practicable in every organization

In non-hierarchical organizations, downward communication can lead to dissent.

#2. Not Suitable for Resolving Problem

When it comes to providing solutions to underlying problems, downward communication is not effective. This is because input from various aspects regarding the situation is needful in handling problems. And downward communication is more directional than every other form of communication.

#3. Slow Feedback 

Since the information passes downward, the feedback is relatively slow. This particularly has to use the upward communication style to send employees responses and then take another time to reply to their concerns. This means that sluggish responses might cause issues, particularly in a dynamic context.

#4. Distortion

One of the major disadvantages of downward communication is that it causes distortion. As they move through various organizational levels, downward messages can become skewed.

#5. Diminishes Employees’ Morale

Downward communication can be detrimental to corporate morale due to the time required for communication and the issue of skewed signals.

#6. Poorly Exploits Staff Knowledge

In a more practical sense, downward communication is quite authoritative. It’s more like a decree that must be obeyed. There’s no room for employees’ opinions or thoughts on the decision.

#7. Lack of Inspiration

This direction of communication lacks inspiration. The lack of motivation mostly results in sluggish feedback and reliance on official routes of communication

#8. Issues with Interpretation

This mode of communication is prone to misinterpretation. Why? Anyone can easily distort the message. Unfortunately, sluggish feedback also affects accurate interpretation.

Downstream Communication Styles: Forms

Within an organization, there are diverse ways to disseminate information using the downwards communication model. Some of these are as follows;

#1. Verbal Communication

This is perhaps the oldest form of communication. It is common to every communication model. Verbal communication can be done on the phone or face-to-face. The most prevalent form of communication is oral. Verbal communication has an advantage; employees get to ask questions and the management receives feedback.

#2. Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication includes other means of communicating that aren’t words of mouth. written communication. Businesses can also decide to disseminate information in a written format. These can come in the forms of the following:

  • Circulars
  • Circulars
  • Letters and so on

While letters are used to communicate important organizational directives. Whereas manuals, circulars, and bulletins cover procedures and rules.

Employee handbook

One of the first things you’d receive after joining a firm is the employee handbook. This book contains the organizational rules and regulations, ethics, and core values. It also entails the business’s organizational goals and objectives. The handbook lays out will enable the new employee to perfectly understand the company’s code of conduct and business ethics.

Email Circular

Mostly, this is an internal memo sent to the entire team. These email bulletins serve as a means for higher management to communicate information to the team.

Company-Wide Directives

There are times when top management will decide to communicate a new development or policy to the employees. Most often, they opt to get to employees through departmental heads and managers. These will in turn pass the information to others. 

Getting The Best From Downwards Communication

You can employ downstream communication efficiently by following the methods listed below:

#1. Recognize the Ideal Form of Communication

There are several ways that organizations can explore using the downward communication style. It doesn’t have to be an email circular or random newsletter at all times. Test diverse means of communication to see which of these is most suitable for the information you intend to pass on to employees. Examining the intricacy of the material might be useful when determining which mode of communication is optimal. 

#2. Fully Understand the Information

Consider this the first step in maximizing top-to-down communication. If you’ll get the most out of this, you must fully understand the information itself. This is quite useful if you intend to pass the information to others.  So if you’re a manager who feels your team members will have issues with comprehending a new resolution, make sure you bring this up before presenting it to them. 

#3. Allocate Time for Questions and Clarifications When Necessary

“Questions on their breed clarity.” Designating time for questions will help employees comprehend the importance of the information you’ve given to them. The importance of question and answer cannot be overemphasized in downward communication.

#4. Honesty and Integrity

Employee commitment to the growth of an organization can increase when there’s transparency and integrity. By being open and honest about the complexity or difficulty of corporate changes or directives, they can prepare for the task ahead and in so doing give their best. 

Importance of Downward Communication

While it’s true that downward communication isn’t the most ideal style of communication in certain organizations, we wouldn’t fail to highlight some of its importance to businesses. 

1. Communicate Vision, Mission, Objectives, Ethics, and So On

Generally, the first importance of downward communication is traceable to executing business visions. When employees understand the business values, work ethic, company’s vision, and mission, it reprograms their reasoning. So, educating staff on what is expected of them is one of the primary importance of downward communication.

#2. Useful in Giving Out Instructions

We cited a practical example of how this communication style works. Imagine the managers of each department asking their subordinates to visit the personnel office on a particular day of the week. That was an instruction, and every member will do everything to possibly get it done on the said day of the week. This reveals another important benefit of downward communication.

Upward and Downward Communication

Upward communication is directly inverse to downward communication. While the first flows from the bottom to the top, the second flows from top to bottom. Let’s explore what upward communication is for clarity.

What is Upward Communication?

When information travels upward from the lower levels of an organization (team members, workers, and workforce) to the top management, this is “upward communication.” Most often, upward communication is used when gathering feedback, lodging grievances, making ideas, reviewing performance, conducting satisfaction surveys, and conducting effective functioning surveys. These are a few instances of upward communication. This form of communication is also referred to as participatory, which, unlike downstream communication, is more authoritative than participatory.

Similarities Between Upward and Downward Communication

The following are some of the similarities between upward and downward communication 

  • Upward and downward communication have the same objective in terms of enhancing business performance.
  • Depending on what you intend to achieve, upstream and downstream close the communication gap between employees in the firm.
  • Both communication models are useful in certain conditions. This means it doesn’t apply to every goal and objective.
  • Both are relatively slow models of communication.
  • They both provide a peek at the organizational structure.

Upward and Downward Communication: Key Differences

There are several differences between upward and downward communication, some of them are as follows;

  • Upstream communication is participative, while downstream communication is authoritative.
  • Upward communication occurs less often compared to downward communication.
  • In upward communication, the flow of information is from bottom to top, whereas in downhill communication, the direction is from top to bottom.
  • Upward communication moves more slowly than downward communication by nature.
  • Both serve different purposes. While employee participation in upward communication is used to vent grievances, offer feedback, and generate ideas, downward communication is used to distribute orders, recommendations, and responsibility assignments inside an organization.
  • It is customary for downward communication to outweigh upward communication.
  • Reports, suggestion boxes, and meetings are the typical means of upward communication. On the other hand, audio-visual media, notices, and circulars are frequently used in downward communication.

Conclusion

Communication is undoubtedly a bedrock of business success. Thus, businesses must adopt it to stand firm, compete with competitors, and remain productive while efficiently maximizing resources. A productive workplace is built on good communication. Depending on the situation on board, companies can reach several milestones by interchanging downstream communication with other communication flows.

Downward Communication FAQs

Must downstream commuincation be verbal?

Not entirely. The following are other examples of downward communication: audio, visual, and audio-visual.

Is downward communication effective?

Yes, it is. However, it is most effective when a business wants to direct or coach people on a particular thing.

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