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Upward Communication: Definition, Advantages, Disadvantages & Examples

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Ashley D. Manker

In this lesson, we will discuss what upward communication is and how it's used in the workplace. We'll also go over the advantages and disadvantages of upward communication.

We also recommend watching What is Communication? - Definition & Importance and What is the Communication Process? - Definition & Steps

What Is Upward Communication?

Communication is a very important part of working in the business environment. Managers must be able to communicate with employees and employees must be able to communicate with managers in order to have a profitable business. Upward communication is the flow of information from front line employees to managers, supervisors and directors.

Upward Communication

Advantages of Upward Communication

Upward communication keeps managers aware of how employees feel about their jobs, policies and procedures, and the business in general.

Some advantages of upward communication are:

• Feedback: Managers can get feedback from employees that can help improve organizational development. Employees who are encouraged to provide feedback feel respected and that they have a say in how the organization is run.

• Mutual Trust: Mutual trust brings employees and managers closer to each other. As trust grows, relationships between employees and managers become stronger.

• Introduction of New Policies: Front line employees do the work every day. They can usually tell managers if something works or doesn't work. Employees can be instrumental in forming new policies or changing those that are outdated.

Upward Communication to Management

Disadvantages of Upward Communication

Upward Communication seems easy enough. But sometimes, employees face significant barriers attempting to communicate with managers.

Some disadvantages of upward communication are:

• Filtering: Filtering occurs when an employee passes a message intended for upper level management through an immediate supervisor. The employee's immediate supervisor may change the information in the message to reflect the supervisor's opinion or understanding of the situation. The change in the message could be deliberate or unintentional. Either way, upper management may not receive the intended message sent by the employee.

• Delay: Sometimes, front line employees hesitate to let managers know of a problem because doing so means acceptance of failure. Hence, delays may take place to decide whether to inform top management or to try to solve the problem themselves.

• Reluctance: In some cases, employees are reluctant to provide information through upward channels because they fear retaliation. If employees feel that their messages are viewed as complaints, they may feel that management will find a way to terminate them.

• Education or Experience: Upward communication faces barriers when front line employees have different educational backgrounds than the people requesting feedback. Front line employees may also lack the specific business experience to allow them to reply with terms that are readily understood by the receiving parties. For example, if an IT technician has an issue, the technician may use technical terms when communicating with management. If the manager does not have a technical background, the manager may not totally understand the issue.

• Cultural Differences: Cultural differences can affect the language in messages flowing upward to managers. This barrier can be more prevalent in companies with global operations, large international work forces or diverse local economic labor markets.

Examples of Upward Communication

Some examples of upward communication are:

• Performance Reports - They are prepared by lower management and reviewed by upper management

• Suggestion Boxes

• Employee Satisfaction Surveys

• Focus Groups

• Meetings with an Immediate Manager

• Meetings with Upper Level management

Conclusion

Upward communication ensures that tasks are being performed on time, provides accurate feedback and helps keep everyone on the same page with a common vision. Many organizations suffer because they lack effective upward communication. Even if they have upward communication systems in place, they may not be effective because upper management may not review the communication or may minimize or even ignore it.

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