Problems of Upward Communication
Certain problems do unnecessarily crop up in upward communication. They are primarily psychological in nature. It is quite often seen that higher-ups do not like to be ‘told’ or even like to hear from their juniors anything against their wishes. Hence the piece of communication may quite often not even be allowed to go up. Or, it may be distorted or misrepresented. It may, in the absence of a healthy open door policy, be misinterpreted, mis-understood or suppressed. The employees may feel let down or becomes shy and reluctant to express themselves. In such a situation the communication event becomes a non- event. It is increasingly being taken care of by modern management that has come to appreciate the importance and right of the individual/groups of individuals to express.
The Concept of Ombudsperson
In this connection it is worthwhile to discuss the concept of ombudsperson (or ombudsman that is a Swedish word meaning a commissioner appointed to investigate the complaints of private citizens against government officials or agencies). Till quite recent times this concept remained only in Sweden. But now many American companies are making very profitable use of it. They have established a position for a person who investigates employees’ concerns General Electric, Mc Donnell Douglas and AT & T are just a few companies that are using the ombudsperson for promoting upward communication. It provides valuable upward communication link and prevents scandals and legal costs b timely action on the part of the appropriate persons.
When communication takes place between two or more persons who are subordinates working under the same person, or those who are working on the same level, it is called lateral or horizontal communication. A good example of this kind of communication is that between functional managers. It is necessary for the reviewing of the activities assigned to various subordinate having identical positions. They are serving the organization in different capacities but their goals are common. Their interaction is necessary to maintain co-ordination.
This variety of communication mostly takes place during committee meetings or conferences in which all members of the group, mostly peers, interact. During the course of interaction the views of each other are made known and decisions are arrived at. Here there are no superior subordinate relationships. The best example of lateral communication can be seen in the interaction of production and marketing departments. Strategies of marketing cannot be fruitful unless its plans are communicated to the production department. The marketing chief has to be in constant touch with the production chief in order to meet customer orders as per schedule.
Diagonal or crosswise communication includes the horizontal flow of information as also that among persons at different levels who have no direct reporting relationships. This kind of communication is used to speed information flow to improve understanding, and to coordinates efforts for the achievement of organizational objectives. It must be noted that a very great deal of communication does not follow the organizational hierarchy but cuts across the well drawn lines. Diagonal or crosswise communication usually takes the following oral and written forms.
In this type of communication, proper safeguards need to be taken to prevent potential problems. Special care has to be taken that,
- Crosswise communication builds up appropriate crosswise relationships
- Subordinates will refrain from making commitments beyond their authority, and
- Subordinates will keep their superiors informed of important interdepartmental activities.
In brief, diagonal or crosswise communication may create difficulties, but it is a necessity in many enterprises in order to respond to the complex and dynamic organizational environment. In order words we may say that in order to secure efficiency in decision-making, all messages do not necessarily route through vertical channel of communication. Organizations also build up environment for cross contacts.