Upward Communication & Downward Communication (Full Guide)

part 1

Upward Communication: Definition, Advantages, Examples, Problems

What is upward communication?

Upward communication in an organization is the flow of information from lower level personnel (employees who are at lower level in an organizational hierarchy) to higher level personnel (such as management). This type of communication is used to inform upper management of what is happening in lower levels of the organization, provide feedback, and make requests. This form of communication is vital for the effective management of resources, timely decision-making, and employee development.

What is the difference between downward and upward communication?

Clear and effective communication is essential in any workplace and our work environments contain a diversity of different styles of communications. Two main forms of workplace communication are upward communication and downward communication.

  • Downward communication is formal messaging relayed from management to employees through a chain of command. These messages typically include information regarding policies, procedures, and significant notices that are pertinent to the organization. Top level management can reach employees in various ways that include speeches, meetings, memos, and messages through digital mediums. Usually, the goal is to keep all team members within the organization on one page with clear messaging.
  • Upward communication is where employees initiate interaction with executives and managers. These are characterized by notifying upper management of suggestions, complaints, or innovative ideas that could be utilized in their department.

How does upward communication flow?

Upward communication flows from the bottom of the organizational hierarchy to the top.

Why is upward communication important in an organization?

Upward communication is essential for effective decision-making and successful problem-solving within an organization. It allows for employees to provide their supervisor with feedback, suggestions and insights on how to improve the organization. Successfully implemented upward communication strategy helps employees feel more valued by their employer and increases their level of engagement with the organization. This type of communication is also important for supervisors as it provides them with a better understanding of their team, allowing them to make more informed decisions.

What are the objectives of upward communication?

The primary objectives of upward communication are to provide management with feedback and input from employees, ensure that employee needs are being met, and to facilitate clarity and understanding between all levels of the organization. Through upward communication, supervisors and managers can better understand how their decisions will affect their subordinates, allowing them to make more informed decisions. Upward communication encourages employees at all levels to share their ideas and concerns, fostering a culture of collaboration, equality, and mutual trust.

What are the types of upward communication? (How do you communicate upwards?)

Upward communication involves employees communicating their ideas, concerns, and feedback to their superiors and this can be done either in person, through meetings or email, or through a suggestion box or employee opinion surveys. The following are the main types of upward communication:

  • Formal reports, presentations, emails;
  • Informal audio calls, video calls, chats;
  • One-on-one conversations;
  • Team meetings;
  • Performance reviews;
  • Suggestion box;
  • Employee surveys and questionnaires.

What is an upward communication example?

Examples of upward communication include employee satisfaction surveys, performance reviews, reviews of business strategy, status updates and reports sent from team members to their managers.

A specific example of upward communication: an employee sending process improvement suggestions to their supervisor.

Why is upward communication needed?

Upward communication allows employees to provide feedback and express their opinions to their superiors. It is also a way for organizations to stay informed of any issues that might arise, helping them to make better decisions and remain in control of their operations. Having open channels of communication between all levels of an organization is essential for fostering a positive work environment and encouraging collaboration. Furthermore, upward communication can help to keep morale high, as employees feel valued and heard when they can share their ideas and perspectives with those in leadership positions.

What are the main benefits of upward communication?

The main advantages of upward communication include increased transparency, improved accountability and increased collaboration between employees and their supervisors.

  • For leaders: upward communication allows leaders to receive feedback on their decisions and strategies from their subordinates. This valuable feedback can help leaders make better decisions, as they are able to consider different perspectives and gain deeper insight into the motivations and concerns of their team.
  • For employees: upward communication allows team members to share their ideas and opinions, which can lead to a greater sense of ownership and responsibility for the task at hand, improve morale and foster a more collaborative atmosphere within the organization.

Which is an example of effective implementation of upward communication?

One example of effective implementation of upward communication is the use of employee surveys. These surveys allow employees to provide honest and anonymous feedback on different areas of the company, such as the effectiveness of management, job satisfaction, and the overall work environment.

What are the disadvantages and challenges of upward communication?

  • For employees it can be difficult to feel comfortable speaking up when they have an issue or concern, leading to a lack of open communication in the workplace.
  • For upper management it can be difficult to process all the information that comes from multiple sources, which may make them less likely to act on the feedback they receive. And if an employee’s feedback is not acted upon, this can lead to a feeling of powerlessness and disempowerment.
  3 Effective Vacation Request Email Examples

What are the limitations of upward communication?

There is a potential for misinterpretation of messages due to a lack of clear communication from the sender, as well as a lack of openness from the receiver. It is important for organizations to ensure that their upward communication is clear, accurate, and objective.

What are the factors that can distort upward communication?

There are certain factors that can distort the message:

  • Lack of feedback;
  • Fear of repercussions;
  • Hierarchical structure which limits access to senior management;
  • Misunderstandings that can lead to a misinterpretation of the message (for example due to cultural differences). 

Why is upward communication so difficult to achieve in organizations?

Unfortunately, this type of communication can be difficult to achieve due to a number of factors such as lack of understanding of how to effectively communicate, fear of reprisal, lack of trust in leadership.

There is a Cost to Poor Communication
A report called The Cost of Communication, revealed the actual monetary cost companies experience because of an abysmal communication strategy. Among the 400 companies surveyed, poor communication cost each an average of $62.4 million. Effective communication matters and when companies begin to approach upward communication and downward communication with a strategic plan, they see increases in employee engagement and profit.


part 2

How to Improve Upward Communication?

Upward Communication: The Importance of Management Buy-In

When a robust upward communication culture exists in a company, it motivates employees to feel they can share feedback about company processes and culture with upper management. Upward communication is one of the primary indicators of a healthy level of employee engagement. One of the most critical factors in keeping employees engaged is encouraging an environment where employees can come to managers about any concerns they have. If the culture is important, then upward communication can aid overall creativity and make employees feel they have a voice in approaching company goals and objectives.

While there are many positives to this form of communication, there are some issues that management needs to address to implement any upward communication strategies effectively. If an openness to employee ideas or suggestions is not uniform throughout middle and upper management, then employees could fear retribution for bringing any complaints or constructive criticism to top level management. Distortion of messaging is also a problem here.

If immediate managers are not comfortable with the message from their employees, upper management could hear a different messaging than the one intended. Also, top-level executives could entirely miss out on suggestions, complaints, or criticisms if middle and lower managers are unwilling to deliver the communications.

A comprehensive and structured upward communication strategy that is not only discussed but implemented is vital to prevent these and other relevant issues.

What are some problems with upward communication? What do you suggest to overcome difficulties?

Upward communication is often hindered by a lack of trust between employees and their supervisors. It can be challenging for employees to provide feedback to their superiors due to feelings of intimidation or fear of retribution. To overcome these difficulties, it is important for organizations to create an environment that encourages open dialogue and healthy communication. Leaders should foster a culture of respect and trust between employees and supervisors so that upward communication is seen as a valuable asset, rather than an intimidating obligation.

  • – Ensure that employees feel comfortable expressing their opinions by creating a safe environment where employees feel comfortable speaking up;
  • – Initiate regular meetings with staff members;
  • – Encourage feedback from employees;
  • – Having a clear organizational structure can help ensure that all relevant information is communicated in an organized and timely manner. 

Solutions to Upward Communication Issues

  1. To prevent the distortion of messaging of low-level management to upper management, the line of communication should be short. There should be key representatives that employees feel comfortable communicating with, especially if there is a fear that immediate supervisors can change or prevent the messaging.
  2. While downward communication can be formal, there should also be a structured and transparent process for employees to communicate with upper management. This method should be publicized and made known to anyone who is interested in participating. Whether it is a suggestion feed on ProsperForms or open-door office hours, there need to be a variety of ways for low and mid-level employees to reach upward.
  3. Upper management should create a culture of listening within the company. Much of this can start with mid-management, and supervisors who interact with low and mid-level employees. They should be encouraged to have an open-door policy that invites discussion or suggestions without fear of retribution. Human resources could be used to train supervisors on how to handle more severe complaints and issues.
  4. Upper management can increase quality feedback from low to mid-level employees by acknowledging suggestions or ideas that are creative and can benefit the organization. Upper management should also make an effort to implement any plans given and give credit to the person who made the suggestion. This significantly increases engagement and investment in the company.

How Are Other Companies Implementing Effective Upward Communication Strategies?

  • A Simple Way to Better Communication: Ask What Employees Want to Hear

    The CEO of CHI Health recognized his organization was suffering from a lapse in communication from upper management to mid-level supervisors. The CEO utilized a team to survey managers about the downward communication issues they were experiencing, and there was no shortage of issues. Employees were receiving executive communications before their supervisors, correspondence was often overwhelming, and leaders were not given the tools to answer employee questions. To handle these problems, the CEO agreed to incorporate a technical solution and weekly updates that included information supervisors, and their staff found directly relevant. Follow-up research revealed that employees were significantly satisfied with the new modes of communication, and the new leader homepage drew 93 percent overall satisfaction.
    See also: implementing daily and weekly updates.

  • Stellar Communication Starts at the Beginning

    Employee onboarding is one of the best opportunities companies have to introduce new hires to processes, procedures, and the company culture. Unfortunately, many organizations do not recognize the importance of employee onboarding as a way to facilitate upward and downward communication. Ball Corporation, a manufacturing and packaging organization, acquired a competing organization. Ball executives were left in the challenging position of uniting the employees of competitors with their own, but they rose to the challenge. Ball’s team implemented “The Power of Day One” campaign that formally welcomed the new employees and leaders, provided a newsletter that shared essential messaging and information and showed welcome videos from executives. In a post-event survey, 99 percent of new employees felt welcomed. This interaction sets the tone for positive communication in the future. Learn more: how to design an effective employee onboarding process.


Part 3

Downward Communication: Definition, Advantages, Examples

What is downward communication?

Downward communication is the flow of information from a higher level to a lower level of an organization. It typically involves communication from a superior, such as a manager or supervisor, to a subordinate. The purpose of downward communication is to provide instructions, guidance, and information to help employees do their jobs more effectively. It also serves to ensure that everyone involved understands what is expected of them in terms of their job duties and performance.

Why is downward communication needed in an organization?

Downward communication helps ensure that employees have access to the information they need to do their jobs effectively. By providing employees with clear instructions, goals, and objectives, organizations can ensure that everyone is working towards the same common vision. Downward communication can help decrease the likelihood of confusion and misunderstanding between management and employees.

How does downward communication flow?

Upward communication flows from the top of the organizational hierarchy to the bottom and it allows managers to:

  • Provide direction and guidance to their staff;
  • Provide information on expectations, goals, and performance feedback;
  • Help employees understand their roles and responsibilities within the organization;
  • Help ensure that employees have access to the resources they need to complete their tasks efficiently and effectively.

What are the types of downward communication? (How do you communicate downwards?)

Downward communication is the transfer of information, ideas, and decisions from higher levels of an organization to lower levels, and it can be done in a variety of ways, such as through emails, memos, meetings, and performance reviews. By using these communication methods, managers can effectively communicate important information to their team and ensure everyone is on the same page.

The following are the types of downward communication:

  • Formal letters, emails (often containing directives, orders, instructions);
  • Informal audio calls, video calls, chats;
  • Direct one-on-one conversations. While formal letters and emails typically contain more detailed information, direct supervisor-subordinate conversations provide employees with the opportunity to ask questions and seek additional guidance;
  • Group meetings. Group meetings can be used to disseminate important information to a large number of people at once;
  • Performance reviews.

What are some examples of downward communication?

Downward communication is essential for organizations as it helps maintain structure, ensure that tasks are completed efficiently, and allows supervisors to provide guidance and direction to their staff.

Here are some specific examples of upward communication: 1) a manager sends an email to their employees with instructions on how to complete a task; 2) top management providing updates on company policies to employees;

What are the objectives of downward communication?

The objectives of downward communication are to ensure that all employees have a clear understanding of the organizational goals, their duties and responsibilities, and expected standards of their performance. It also serves to provide regular feedback and instruction to employees, allowing them to monitor their progress and identify areas for improvement.

Why is downward communication important?

Downward communication is an essential part of any successful business. It’s important for managers to clearly communicate expectations and goals to their employees in order to ensure that the team is all on the same page and working together to reach them. Successfully implemented downward communication strategy creates an open dialogue between managers and team members, allowing for a sense of ownership over the company’s objectives. By creating an environment of trust and respect, downward communication can help foster a positive workplace culture and encourage productivity.

Which is an example of effective implementation of downward communication strategy?

One example of effective implementation of downward communication strategy is when managers provide team members with frequent, clear, and concise updates. This allows managers to ensure that employees are well-informed and can act accordingly. They also provide employees with feedback on their performance and progress, which allows to ensure that employees are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, know their development goals, and motivated to do their best work.

Is upward or downward communication better?

Both types of communication are the important components of a successful workplace because organizational communication is a two-way street: it allows both sides of the organization to provide feedback, exchange ideas, and make informed decisions that benefit the company as a whole. Upward communication is important for sharing of information from a lower-level employee to their higher-level manager or supervisor, while downward communication is important for sharing of information from a manager to their subordinate employees. By utilizing both types of communication, organizations can ensure a healthy flow of information between all levels of its staff.

What are the main benefits of downward communication?

  1. Improves efficiency and increases productivity
    Effective downward communication helps streamline tasks. When employees are clear on the expectations of their role, they can work more productively to achieve desired outcomes.
  2. Enhances motivation
    Clear communication from management can help motivate employees and foster a positive working environment.
  3. Improves understanding
    Downward communication ensures that all team members understand the company’s goals and objectives.
  4. Encourages collaboration
    Effective downward communication encourages collaboration between managers and employees.

What are the factors that can distort downward communication? What are some problems of downward communication?

  • Unclear instructions from supervisors.
    If the instructions are too complicated or vague, it will be difficult for staff to understand what they need to do, resulting in misunderstandings and a lack of productivity.
  • Unclear expectations from supervisors.
    Poorly communicated and unclear expectations can cause confusion among employees.
  • Lack of feedback from supervisors.
    Without constructive criticism or positive reinforcement of good work, employees may not know if their efforts are making any impact on the organization’s goals or objectives. This can cause them to feel unmotivated and disconnected from their workplace.

Part 4

How to Improve Downward Communication?

Downward Communication: A Problem of Speed and Clarity

According to a 2015 Gallup study, employee engagement increases when managers provide consistent and clear communication. So, management that incorporates a routine downward communication strategy has the right idea. Internal communication from management can help prevent silos by delegating duties and policy across departments and depending upon the tone of messaging can make management more approachable. However, there are some known issues with downward communication.

Since messaging trickles down through a “chain of command,” the original intent and motivation of the communication can be distorted. Specific details could be left out or altered to benefit the person delivering the messaging. Downward communication, in its purest form, does not leave room for an immediate response from subordinates, and the result is that one-way messaging can come off authoritative and closed off to feedback. Also, because of the number of eyes who need to see the communication, downward communication can be a slow-moving process.

How to make downward communication more effective?

  • Create a process for sharing clear and concise instructions;
  • Providing feedback regularly can help ensure that teams are kept up-to-date on any changes or new policies.

How Can Management Solve Issues Surrounding Downward Communication?

Solutions to Downward Communication Issues

  1. The landscape of communication has become increasingly digital. Therefore, there are multiple ways for management to convey information about simple and more complex topics using mediums that today’s worker frequently uses. In addition to quarterly meetings or email memorandums, top level management can reach out through an in-house company blog, ProsperForms feeds, or emails that cover formal and informal topics.
  2. To prevent distortion, communication from upper management should encourage employees to approach those in charge of the message to clear up any confusion or answer any questions regarding the correspondence. This makes top management approachable and sends a message that they care about how employees interpret their messaging.
  3. Digital solutions such as ProsperForms can be useful for storing previous messages that employees can refer back to, and depending upon the capabilities can allow employees to submit questions or comments. It can also cut down on the amount of correspondence sent to email since essential messages can reside there indefinitely.
  4. Any correspondence regarding the enforcement or introduction of rules will naturally be authoritative. Therefore, it is vital for messaging to be clear and informative without utilizing a tone that is a turnoff to employees. It is best to consult with the company’s communication department for tips on the best language to use.

How Are Other Companies Implementing Effective Downward Communication Strategies?

According to a 2017 Gallup Poll, only 33 percent of workers within the United States felt engaged at work. This number dropped 50 percent when employees from around the world were included. Healthy and meaningful communication between upper management and low to mid-level employees impacts engagement. Some companies recognize this and have incorporated creative ways to streamline internal communication.

  • Inspiring New Ideas and Collaboration

    Follet, an education-focused organization, received feedback from employees who wanted a way to contribute ideas and collaborate with other employees. Management at the company realized the importance of giving employees a voice and they implemented a solution which allows employees to easily contribute suggestions and ideas to upper management and other employees. In mere months following the launch, the company had almost 500 suggestions with the company implementing ones that fit.

See also:

How to Give Performance Feedback? Techniques and Examples (Star Feedback)

2000+ Performance Review Phrases: The Complete List (Performance Feedback Examples)

How to Create a Perfect Company Mission, Vision, Values Statement? (Awesome Template)


Posted in: Communication