What are the advantages and disadvantages of downward communication?

In Downward Communication, top management of an organization transmits decisions taken by it, along with its intended goals, vision, culture and ethics through various levels of authority. All decisions taken by the top management are passed down the ladder of authority for their implementation.

The messages that flow though this channel are orders, memos, rules, practices, procedures, circulars, regulations. Written orders, bulletins, bulletin-boards, posters, house-journals are commonly used modes of this communication. As it proceeds from superiors to the subordinates, this communication is also called ‘Top-Down‘ communication.

Downward Communication is needed

  • to get the work done
  • to prepare the workforce for challenges
  • to tackle misinformation and suspicion arising out of it
  • to create a feeling of pride and confidence in the workforce in order to motivate it and to boost its morale.
  • to transmit work ethics and the organisation‘s culture

Advantages

This type of communication demands complete obedience and ensures disciplined, orderly implementation of orders. It leads to efficient functioning of the organisation and eliminates dissent. Tasks and positions of authority are well defined. This brings clarity in the minds of people who are responsible for taking action, thus avoiding confusion. It helps in uniting different levels of authority and brings in team spirit.

[For example, an American or British crisis management team in action, or the NSG commandos in action in Mumbai during the terror attack, illustrate how downward communication ensures effective implementation of ideas. Many family–run business houses, too, work efficiently for this reason.]

Requirements

It is important that the decisions are taken after due deliberation. The vision of the authority must be effectively percolated, so that it correctly and completely reaches the last person in the chain. The authority must set a good example so as to inspire confidence in the subordinates and win their co-operation.

Disadvantages

Being one-way communication, it can have some glaring disadvantages.

Lack of vision and arbitrary decision-making can prove detrimental and harmful to the organisation. Balance in sharing information is important, so is judicious use of discretion. Unnecessary information leaks can jeopardise organisational goals. A reticent authority, unable to share necessary details with subordinates, could prove equally harmful.

A hierarchical transmission of information delays implementation of decisions. Similarly, oral communication leads to information loss, distortion and lack of accountability.

Absence of a feedback mechanism at the subordinate level leads to frustration. As a result, subordinates develop lack of trust in the authority, and feel exploited, leading to a tense relationship.

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