Organizational Psychology (PSY510)
Any communication that flows downward from a manager to employees is downward communication.
Downward communication is used to inform, direct, coordinate and evaluate employees. When mangers
assign goals to their employees, they are using downward communication. Managers are also using
downward communication by providing employees with job descriptions, informing them of organizational
policies and procedures, pointing out problems that need attention, or evaluating their performance.
Downward communication does not have to be oral or face-to-face contact. When management sends
letters to employees' homes to advise them organization's new policy, it is using downward communication.
Usually organizational media is used for this purpose: newsletter, gazettes, Hotlines, etc.
Katz and Kahn have described the following as the purposes of downward communication:
1. It is used to give directives
When managers give orders to the employees, it is basically downward communication. Therefore,
downward communication is used to give directives.
2. It is used to give information
Organizational procedures, practices, policies etc. are all conveyed to the employees using downward
3. It is used to give feedback to employees
Managers give feedback to employees using the channels of downward communication.
4. It is used to provide ideological information
Ideological information and organizational vision and mission are communicated to the employees
through downward communication channels. Therefore, it also serves as a means to communicate the
Following are some of the ways to improve downward communication in organizations:
1. People tend to ignore useful information
2. People follow paths of least resistance, so information must be tailored accordingly
3. They accept message consonant to their values
4. They reject messages incongruent to their beliefs
5. Need fulfilling messages are accepted
6. Total situation of organization affects flow of messages
Upward communication flows to a higher level in the group or organization. It is used to provide feedback
to higher-ups, inform them of progress towards goals, and relay current problems. Upward communication
keeps managers aware of how employees feel about their jobs, coworkers, and the organization in general.
Managers also rely on upward communication for ideas on how things can be improved.
Some organizational examples of upward communication are performance reports prepared by lower
management for review by middle and top management, suggestion boxes, employee attitude surveys,
grievance procedures, superior-subordinate discussions, and informal gripe sessions where employees have
the opportunity to identify and discuss problems with their boss or representatives of higher management.
Upward communication keeps managers aware of how employees feel about their jobs and the
organization. The extent of upward communication depends on the organizational culture. If manager have
created a climate of trust and respect and use participative-decisions-making or empowerment, there will be
considerable upward communication as employees provide input to decisions. However, in a highly
mechanistic and authoritarian environment, upward communication still takes place but will be limited both
in style and content.
Ways to improve:
1. Allow employees to appeal beyond immediate boss
Procedures should be developed to allow employees to appeal beyond the immediate boss, i.e. develop
procedures to communicate grievances.
2. Boss should have open doors
Organizational Psychology (PSY510)
Another method to improve upward communication is that the managers should have open doors
policy, i.e. employees should be allowed to directly walk up to the mangers and discuss their problems.
There should be no gap between the employees and the managers.
3. Opportunity for counseling exit (interviews those leaving organization)
The human resource department can have valuable information by interviewing those people who are
leaving the organization. This is also a means to improve upwards communication.
4. Participative decision making
Decision making in the organization can be participative, i.e. employees should be involved in decision
making in the organization. This is also an improvement in upward communication.
An ombudsman is a person with the task of investigating complaints from the employees. If the
management appoints an ombudsman, it would allow complaints of the employees to be communicated
effectively to the top managers and hence be helpful in removing grievances.
7. Managers to develop listening skills
Managers need to develop listening skills which do not make the employee feel uncomfortable when
communicating with the manger. This shall also improve upward communication in the organization.
The ability to be an effective listener is often taken for granted. We confuse hearing with active
listening. Hearing is merely picking up sound vibrations. Listening is making sense of what is heard.
Listening requires paying attention, interpreting and remembering sound stimuli.
Following are some of the factors to be taken into account in order to be an active listener:
a) Maintain attention
b) Use restatement
c) Show empathy
d) Draw out
e) Encourage suggestion
f) Know when to speak and when to be quite
Communication is vertical and horizontal, but the new stress is to see it as interactive rather than vertical or
horizontal. Interactive communication is the generation of meaning through exchanges using a range of
contemporary tools, transmissions, and processes. It involves communication that takes place between
groups on the same organizational level. It today's chaotic and rapidly changing environment, horizontal
teams, for instance, rely heavily on this form of communication interaction.
Interactive communication is useful for the organization and leads to:
· Task coordination
Groups and departments may communicate easily to each other about the tasks and performances of
· Problem solving
Groups and departments involved in such communication can leverage ideas, expertise and help from
each other in problem solving.
· Information sharing
It is a useful way of sharing information laterally and immediately.
· Conflict resolving
It can be used to resolve conflicts between employees, group etc.
Communication Across Cultures
Effective communication is difficult under the best of conditions. Cross-cultural factors clearly create the
potential for increased communication problems. The need arises because of shrinking world, world market;
emergence of MNCs etc.
Problems in cross-cultural communication arise because of the following reasons:
· Perceptual Problems
Perception of people is influenced by their cultural training. Different things may be perceived
differently across different cultures. For example, opening comments about family/wife may be like in
one culture while they may not be liked in another. Therefore, perceptual problems dominate cross-
Organizational Psychology (PSY510)
It is the problem of considering another person belonging to a particular class which is either deemed
inferior or is disliked. Therefore, across cultures, communication is also likely to be affected by
· Halo effecting problems
Halo effect is considering all related to one as similar to him or her. It is also a problem while
communicating across cultures.
· Ethnocentric problems
This may be defined as considering the practices of your own culture as superior while considering
other inferior. This is often a problem while communicating across cultures.
Improving Communication Across Cultures
Communication across cultures can be improved in the following ways:
· Cultural training programs
People who have to communicate across cultures can be given special cross cultural training programs
to sensitize them with the practices of the client cultures.
· Provide historical/social/cultural reading/taped material to employees to know the other culture
It is similar to cultural training, but involves less formalized efforts. Employees again need to be
sensitized to the culture they are dealing with.
· Training/exposure of both husband and wife is better than only one person alone
Research shows that whenever a family is to be sent to another country, training of both husband and
wife is necessary in order for the employee to deal effectively with culture of the new country.
· Luthans, Fred. (2005). Organizational Behaviour (Tenth Edition). United States: McGraw Hill Irwin.
· Mejia, Gomez. Balkin, David & Cardy, Rober. (2006). Managing Human Resources (Fourth Edition).
India: Dorling Kidersley Pvt. Ltd., licensee of Pearson Education in South Asia.
· Robbins, P., Stephen. (1996). Organizational Behaviour (Seventh Edition). India: Prentice Hall, Delhi.
· Huczynski, Andrzej & Buchanan, David. (1991). Organizational Behaviour: An Introductory Text
(Second Edition). Prentice Hall. New York.
· Moorhead, Gregory & Griffin, Ricky. (2001). Organizational Behaviour (First Edition). A.I.T.B.S.
Publishers & Distributors. Delhi.
· Tapscott, D. (1997). Growing up digital: The rise of the net generation. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. (2001). Essential academic learning
21st Century Skills; effective communication: http://www.ncrel.org/engauge/skills/effcomm5.htm
Table of Contents: