Downward Communication: Definition, Advantages & Disadvantages

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  • 0:28 Advantages
  • 1:27 Disadvantages
  • 2:31 Examples
  • 3:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
Communication can flow down, up and laterally in an organization. In this lesson, you'll learn about downward communication, including some of its advantages and disadvantages. A short quiz follows the lesson.

Downward Communication

Downward communication occurs when information and messages flow down through an organization's formal chain of command or hierarchical structure. In other words, messages and orders start at the upper levels of the organizational hierarchy and move down toward the bottom levels. Responses to downward communications move up along the same path.

Advantages

Downward communication provides certain advantages to an organization:

Organizational discipline
Downward communication follows the organization's hierarchy, meaning that organizational discipline and member compliance is much easier to maintain.

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 organization. Employees receive feedback from the supervisors who manage them.

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

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

Disadvantages

Downward communication is not without disadvantages, including the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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