What is Formal Communication?Characteristics, Advantages

Formal communication is a method of communication that is generally controlled and directed by the employees or managers of a company. In order to put organizational communication in sequence and to ensure the uninterrupted,correct and in-time flow of information as and when required, the communication path is internationally created. It can either be in written or oral forms.

Meaning and Definition of Formal Communication

According to Hunt___“Formal communication is that communication which follows the chain of command established by the organization hierarchy”

According to C.B. Mamoria___”Formal communication are those that are official and that are a part of recognized communication system which is involved in  the operation of the organization.”

Characteristics of Formal Communication

  • Written and Oral: Formal communication can both be written and oral. Daily works are handled through oral communication, while the policy matters require written communication.
  • Formal Relations: This communication is adopted among those employees where formal relations have been established by the organisation. The sender and the receiver have some sort of organisational relations.
  • Prescribed Path: A pre-defined path or channel is followed by the formal communication in the course of its movement form one individual to another.
  • Organizational Message: Formal channel of communication does not deal with personal messages. It conveys only the messages of organizational purpose.
  • Deliberate Effort: Formal communication channel does not establish on its own but sincere efforts have to be made for it. The efforts for designing the channel should be in synchronisation with the organizational objectives.

Advantages of Formal Communication

1. Maintains Authority of the Officers: There is a sustained and persistent association among the seniors and subordinates under the formal communication network. This maintains a decorum and righteousness of the line executives. Formal communication aids in affirming the authority of line executives over their subordinates. These executives are accountable to their superiors and are responsible for getting the work done from their subordinates.

2. Provides clear and Effective Communication: Under this communication network, the subordinates and their superiors are in direct contact with each other. Both the managers as well as the subordinates can apprehend the emotions,tendencies,competencies,etc. of each other. Superiors can comprehend the exact time and situation when their subordinates require a particular piece of information.

3. Maintains Systematic Information Flow: In this communication there is a direct contact between the subordinates and their immediate bosses. This helps in developing an effective level of understanding between them. And thus communication is more fruitful and worthwhile.

4. Develops Strong Relationship: A subordinate is not well informed and does not have much knowledge about the company and the issues faced by the company but a superior is in a better position to find remedial measures easily for organizational problems as he is more informed than that of his subordinates. This helps in maintaining cordial relations between the superiors and their subordinates.

Disadvantages of Formal Communication

1. Increases Workload: Formal communication increases the workload of the superiors. His workload increases as every piece of information is conveyed through him and he acts as a channel of formal communication.

2. Affects Formal Relationship: Generally, in case of large business enterprises, communication between top level officials and subordinates at the lowest level of organizational hierarchy is quite rare.

3. Dilute Accuracy of Messages: Message forwarded from the top level to the lowest level of the organizational hierarchy are often diluted in terms of the accuracy of the message. This happens because of colouring and filtering that takes place at the middle level of the hierarchy.

4. Decreases Pro-Activeness of the Message: Each and every incidence or occurrence in a firm cannot be predicted or anticipated thus, action necessary to handle such unexpected incidences cannot be formalised.

Types of Formal Communication

On the basis of Flow of Communication

1. Single Chain: This kind of formal communication channel prevails between a subordinate and his senior official. Since there may be a number of levels in an organization, each individual within those levels is both superior as well as subordinate, except the person at the top or bottom. The flow of communication in an organizational hierarchy through a single chain can be systematic and easy to manage; however, if is extremely unproductive and time taking activity.

2. Wheel: Under the wheel channel of communication, all subordinates working under the supervision and directions of one superior communication through only their senior as he is the ‘hub’ or effective centre to the wheel. In this channel, there is no horizontal communication as none of the subordinates are permitted to communicate or be in contact with each other. The major disadvantage of this channel of communication is lack of coordination.

3. Circular: Circular type of communication moves in a circular manner. In a circular channel, every individual can be in contact and communicate with two persons adjacent to him. The communication flow in this channel is very slow and laggard.

4. Free Flow: In free flow channel,each and every person is allowed to communicate and be in touch with any person in the organization. As a matter of facts, it is a very adjustable and informal system. Basically it is an unstructured channel of communication.

5. Inverted: In this channel of communication, a person is permitted to communicate with his immediate senior and his senior’s  senior. In the subsequent condition, the subject matter of communication is specified. In this channel the flow of communication is quick and effective.

On the Basis of Level of Communication

1. Vertical Communication: Flow of information either in an upward or downward manner is the result of vertical communication. Vertical communication can be divided as following:

2. Downward Communication: The communication by top hierarchy with their subordinates is called downward communication. This communication includes orders, rules, information, policies, instructions, etc. The chief advantage of the downward communication is that the subordinates get useful timely information which helps them in their work performance,

3. Upward Communication: This is quite the reverse of the downward communication. This flows from the subordinates to the superiors. The subject-matter of this communication includes suggestions, reactions, reports, complaints, etc. This sort of communication helps the superiors in taking decisions.

4. Horizontal Communication: Horizontal communication takes place when two individuals of the same level exchange information. Horizontal communication is used by the same level officers to solve the problems of similar nature and profit by the experience of other people. The subject-matter of horizontal communication includes information, requests, suggestions, mutual problems and coordination-related information.