Upward Communication

What Is Upward Communication?

Upward communication is the flow of information from lower to higher levels in the organization’s hierarchy. Its main purpose is to provide feedback to higher-ups, inform them of progress toward goals, and relay challenges on several areas of organizational functioning.

In particular, upward communication consists of messagesOpens in new window sent vertically up the line from subordinates to superiors. This flow is usually from subordinates to their direct superior, then to that person’s direct superior, and so on up the organizational hierarchy.

A diagram of upward communication looks like this ...

A diagram of upward communication looks like this ...

Occasionally, a message might bypss a particular superior. A business report from the branch manager of a company to the managing director of the company is an example of upward communication. The typical content of upward communication is requests, information that the lower-level manager thinks is of importance to the higher-level manager, responses to requests from the higher-level manager, suggestions, complaints, and financial information.

Openness to ideas and input from people in the lower levels of the organization is often the hallmark of an effective and successful organization. Thus, upward communication is important as much as downward communicationOpens in new window.

Upward communication from subordinates to managers usually falls into one of the following categories:

  • Personal reports of performance, problems, or concerns.
  • Reports about co-workers and their performance, problems, or concerns.
  • Reaction to organizational policies and practices.
  • Suggestions about what tasks are required and how they can be achieved.

This communication flow is frequently sent up only one level in the organization to the person’s immediate supervisor and it helps the supervisors understand employee’s problems and their feelings towards various situations or other matters related to the company.

Benefits of Upward Communication

Upward communication serves several purposes which are beneficial to both managers and employees. For the manager, it is often necessary for:

  • keeping him aware of how employees feel about their jobs, co-workers, and the organization in general
  • sound decision making
  • collecting ideas on how things can be improved
  • helping the organization know employees’ accomplishments, challenges, and attitudes
  • receiving feedback, and encourages ongoing two-way communication

For the employees,

  • being able to communicate upward them a stake in the organization and promotes a sense of dignity or importance.
  • it provides the avenue to express their true feelings
  • it proves to the management their level of receptiveness to messages
  • it facilitates employee involvement in the decision making process.
  • being able to participate in decision making process meets their ego needs.

Problems of Upward Communication

Achieving effective upward communication—getting open and honest messages from subordinates to superiors—is an increasingly difficult task because job responsibilities of most managers and supervisors have expanded. Hence, managers are congested with too many tasks. This in effect, cause them to wear hostile countenances and appear unapproachable.

Upward communication will not occur in such environment where the higher-level managers give impression that they do not want distraction or entertain negative feedback.

Again, upward communication will not thrive in an environment where subordinates do not trust superiors and fear criticism and reprisals.

Moreover, upward communication seems particularly difficult in larger organizations because relationships in large organizations are more formalized.

To overcome these problems, senior executives need to decide what information they want to be communicated upward. Many organizations make special efforts to facilitate upward communication by putting structures in place such as employee suggestion boxes, employee surveys, face-to-face conversations between subordinates and their superiors, and so forth.

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