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Many managers devote a significant proportion of their time to communications both within and
outside the business.
Communication can be simply defined as the flow of information from one person to
Effective communications are, therefore, vital to the success of the business, since the delegation of
work, the feedback of information and the controlling of the business all rely on accurate, quick and
effective communication flows.
Good communication will reduce conflict and will prevent any misunderstandings of what is required
Formal v Informal Communication
Formal communication refers to the official channels of communication which exist in a business,
such as information being passed through 'line' and 'staff' relationships (e.g. between superiors and
subordinates, or between people on the same level). These information flows will be concerned with
the content of the jobs and may be in one of several forms, spoken, written, or electronic for
Informal communication refers to the unofficial channels of communication that exist in a business
(often spoken as opposed to written communication). This is often referred to as the 'grapevine'.
This can be concerned with the content of the jobs (e.g. two employees commenting on the poor
performance of a task by their superior), or it can be discussing non workrelated matters (e.g.
arranging a staff social function).
It could also refer, for example, to the anonymous passing of information to the media relating to
unethical business practices.
Communications can also be classified in terms of direction, vertical or horizontal. Vertical
communication can be topdown (e.g. directions and instructions given from superior to
subordinate) or it can be bottomup (e.g. feedback from subordinate to superior).
Horizontal communication refers to contacts and flows of information between people at the same
level in the business. Where there is no facility for feedback, (often under an authoritarian
management style) then this is referred to as oneway communication.
There is a danger here, however, that the message will be misunderstood or poorly performed, since
the employee performing the task is unable to ask his superior for assistance or clarity.
It is a widelyheld view among many businesses today that communication must be
multidirectional (i.e. topdown, bottomup and horizontal) in order to involve employees and
make them feel valued by the business (e.g. implementing systems of quality circles or works
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This will help to improve their job satisfaction and level of motivation, as well as
encouraging lower rates of absenteeism and labour turnover.
Quantitative communication involves the transmission and interpretation of data and numerical
information (e.g. sales figures or financial data).
Qualitative communication involves the use of language, either spoken or written. However, these
messages are often complicated by the use of nonverbal communication (e.g. body language),
which can often confuse the recipient of the message and lead to the misinterpretation of the
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This is often referred to as 'noise' and simply means anything that will distract the recipient of the
message or cause either a failure to receive the message or a misinterpretation of the message.
There are a number of factors which can cause communication breakdown:
a. Too much technical language ('jargon') being used
b. Poor presentation and use of grammar
c. Too much information being sent ('information overload')
d. Geographical and time problems (e.g. communications between different countries in