Upward Communication in Business

Communication is a process where a message sender intentionally stimulates a desired message in the mind of a receiver. Sometime the speaker’s purpose is to inform, to entertain, and to persuade or is a combination of all three. Understanding from the outset that the intent is to persuade, the communicator will entertain and inform while influencing the receiver to select a specific course of action. Traditional administrators always understood the importance of communication skills. To be successful, they sent messages that clearly outlined what they wanted and how it should be done. They practiced their communication skills daily by sending messages upward, downward and horizontally in the organization. Administrators generally transmitted information upward in the organization relating to job assignment, performance, problems, organization practices or policies and the methodology for accomplishing tasks. They understood that positive upward communication was more likely to be used by those above them than negative communication. They further understood that upward communication should be timely and was more likely to be accepted if supportive or current policy. They understood that upward communication was more likely to be effective if it went directly to a receiver who could act on it.

What is upward channel of Communication?

The behavioral scientists have shown the relationship between the communication and performance. The findings related with it have a tremendous effect on the management practices of today. The business management has become concerned more than ever before about what is going on at several levels below them. They have employed some fairly new techniques like open- door policy, suggestion schemes, etc. and they are still anxious to know any new or revolutionary method to get information from the lower ranks. It is generally found that the superiors are better communication-senders because they are better talkers and writers that their subordinate. The subordinates are generally more cautious and less confident that their superiors when they are to pass some information through upward channel of communication.

The two-way flow of communication in any business organization is supported by efficient and effective upward communication. The management can keep itself in touch with the needs, requirements, difficulties and grievances of the employees when it receives messages from the employees. The management is also helped to make sound decisions on the basis of the sufficient information secured from the subordinates. In order to improve the productivity, it is not necessary to put pressure on the employees or try to motivate the employees towards more loyalty and hard work by merely putting articles in the company magazines. But, on the other hand, it is necessary for the management to develop the procedure for encouraging upward communication to receive the information regarding production, quality-control, absenteeism, inventory control, profits, costs, new schemes and programmes, inventions, advertising, sales, complaints, research, etc and constructive suggestions regarding various other matters that promote the welfare of the organization.

When the management receives information and suggestions from the subordinates regarding the matters given above and many others, it is able to issue the fresh directives to the employees regarding their works and procedures. The management can also get an idea of how the subordinates receive the directives and how the directives are followed. When the management realizes the problems, difficulties and grievances of the employees, they can try to find out the solutions. The upward communication gives an opportunity to an employee to express his frustrations of the work situation and helps him to relieve the pressures of the pent-up emotions, which are associated with their daily problems.

Methods of Upward Communication

  • Meetings: The meetings with the employees are found to be very useful in building upward communication. The higher-ups are to encourage the employees to talk about their constructive suggestions, job problems and needs. They are also to be encouraged to express their views on whether the management practices help their job performance or interfere with it. The meetings enable the management to ascertain the worth of their objectives imparted to the workers.
  • Counseling: The workers can be encouraged to see the counsel of their superiors. When the employee comes to his superior with the personal or official problems and difficulties which adversely affect his working in the organization, the superior has to earn the trust and confidence of the employee by encouraging him to talk freely and by taking firm steps to solve his problems. The managers get valuable information b the method of counseling, if they can successfully encourage the employees to talk freely about themselves and also about the organization.
  • An Open-Door Policy: The purpose of open door policy is to remove the blocks in the way of upward communication. The employees are encouraged to walk into the manager’s cabin without any hesitation for having a problem and without being afraid that they would invite disfavor of their manager. Though the open-door policy has good purpose, it is very difficult to implement because of the socio-psychological barriers that come between the managers and the employees.
  • Correspondence: The employees are encouraged to write letters. First the management sends enquiry letters to the employees and the replies are encouraged. This is a direct and personal way for the employees to transmit the information to the management.
  • Reports: The management may ask the subordinates to present the reports. The reports are the basic tools used by the management in decision-making. In the large business organization, where a large number of employees are engaged in different activates, the reports from the subordinates are extremely important and indispensable for the success of management functioning. As the senior managers cannot keep a personal watch over all the business activities, he requires reports about the progress of the work done by the employees.

Problems of Upward Communication

  1. Positive Encouragement: The upward communication goes to minimum if the management does not positively encourage it. What goes unrewarded does not thrive in the organization. Lack of rewards for employee feedback stands as a problem in upward communication. The management must stake positive action to initiate the employees to communicate upward. Simply waiting for the employees to come in with some information is of no use.
  2. Concealing Unfavorable facts: The employees tend to conceal their difficulties and the on-the-job problems from their superiors. Especially, they conceal the ignorance and inability from the boss. They feel the risk in imparting unfavorable information to the boss because of the belief that the surest way to get ahead is to agree with the boss.
  3. Delay, Distortion and Filtering: Usually, the upward communication is subject to delay, distortion and filtering, especially when the lines of communication are long. Each level in the hierarchy is reluctant to take a problem to the higher authority, because in doing so, he is afraid that he may lose the favor of his superior. At each level, an effort is made to solve the problem. All this will result in delay, distortion and filtering.
  4. Bypassing and Suspicion: Some workers become so bold in the process of upward communication that they by-pass their immediate —superior authority, which results in the bypassed authority’s getting suspicious about the intentions of the subordinates.
  5. Poor Listening: Poor listening skills of the superior often discourage the speaker to communicate the message listening. Listening does not mean just hearing a message. It requires careful attention and exact decoding of the signals received from the speaker. If the superior goes on shuffling the papers while listening to his subordinates, he pays divided attention to the speaker’s message. This divided attention is usually interpreted as his lack of interest in the message. The superior’s divided attention can adversely affect the superior-subordinate relationship. Poor listening skills of the superior do not allow him to attend and interpret the message accurately. If the superior does not develop his listening skills, it will surely minimize the opportunity for both the superior and subordinate to benefit from the upward communication.
  6. Communicating Criticism:The subordinates carefully screen or filter the information before transmitting it to the high status persons. It is very difficult for any subordinate to communicate criticisms on the superiors and management policies.

Effective Upward Communication

  • The lines of communication should be kept as short as possible to avoid the distortion by filtering, screening and editing.
  • To find out how the employees feel about their jobs, it is always convenient to conduct the employee attitude surveys.
  • There should be a formal system to handle the suggestion objectively and seriously.
  • Positive efforts must be taken by the superiors to eliminate the fear and awe of the authority from the minds of the workers.
  • Constructive suggestions for the improvement of the organization must be suitably rewarded. If the information transmitted by the employees is ignored, they will quickly abandon this channel. Therefore, the upward communication must be reinforced and rewarded with adequate attention.
  • The management must ensure the workers that they feel genuinely concerned for the problems and grievances of the subordinates.
  • It is essential to build a corporate atmosphere of trust. There must be mutual trust in the relationship between the superiors and the subordinates. If the workers think that they are going to be rewarded with punishment for their feedback, they will never provide it.

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