Today, organizations turn to creative and fun ways to support effective communication in the workplace. Whether it’s team communication tools or video presentations, the process has become more streamlined and open than ever before.

That said, when it comes to getting the job done, a lot of organizations still prefer vertical communication. It’s a linear way to share information, assign work or update employees about any changes. This is a formal way to interact in the workplace and may be downward or upward.

Let’s explore the definition of vertical communication with examples.

Meaning Of Vertical Communication

As the name suggests, vertical communication follows a linear system where information flows from one person to the next based on their titles. This type of communication is mostly reserved for sensitive information or if an organization follows a hierarchical structure.

Here are some examples of vertical communication.

  1. Gita is a senior associate at an auditing firm. She works in a large team overseen by a team leader. Her team leader has informed her that one of her associates isn’t updating their tracker. She then raises this concern with her associate to resolve the issue.

  2. Petit Inc. is a small business with only 10 employees. For the sake of effectiveness, they follow a hierarchy with defined roles. The owner, Meghna, finds out that due to a power outage, they won’t be able to work on Thursday. She informs her chief supervisor to share this update with their staff.

In both of these situations, the messages follow a chain of command. Rather than directly, information is shared successively.

Types Of Vertical Communication

Vertical communication can be both downward or upward—depending on the type of information. This type of communication is mostly in a written format—emails, reports or memos—to keep track of the information. However, spoken vertical communication is also a significant aspect because it’s a more direct form of conveying ideas or messages.

Here are the two types of vertical communication:

  1. Downward Communication

When information flows from senior management to associates, it’s called downward communication. Here, the management usually sends an email or informs the next person-in-charge. The information can be of a critical nature—which is another reason why it’s not directly shared with employees.

  1. Upward Communication

When information flows from associates to senior management, it’s upward communication. This is when employees have to update their managers about their work status, share findings or research and inform them of something important.

Benefits And Drawbacks Of Vertical Communication

Vertical communication isn’t restricted to a rigid, traditional workplace. There are several organizations that follow a flat organizational structure and rely on vertical communication. It depends on the type of information—its importance and urgency—that determines whether communication will flow vertically. Vertical communication has its benefits and drawbacks in the workplace:

  • Benefits

  1. Sensitive Information

When the information is of a sensitive nature, it’s better to first share it with senior management than the entire organization. For instance, it may be related to new investments, employee oversights or performance reports.

  1. Workplace Relationships

Vertical communication helps maintain relationships and mutual respect in the workplace. You know you have to go through your team leader before communicating with your manager. This way your team leader will appreciate your initiative strengthening your rapport with them.

  1. Error-Free Work

Sharing your work in a hierarchy makes it error-free because it’s edited and proofread multiple times. First, your team leader will review it before the manager can sign-off. This helps organizations stay on track and avoid setbacks.

  • Drawbacks

  1. Laziness

Employees may start sleeping on work quality with the belief that it’ll be reviewed several times before being finalized. This leads to complacency in the workplace where employees stop making an effort. They start relying on others to take care of their tasks for them.

  1. Subject To Misinterpretations

Messages that are shared verbally are open to interpretation. The way the sender moves, speaks and acts can impact the way the message is received. This can lead to confusion, misinterpretation and a lapse in judgment.

  1. Disgruntled Employees

Oftentimes, employees at the associate-level feel left-out or overlooked because of a hierarchical flow of communication. They may want to share their ideas with senior management but the layers of authority may end up discouraging them.

Implementing a system to track vertical communication can help organizations reap the benefits. Keeping a check on how information is being shared internally is important for learning and development. It can have a significant impact on businesses that overlook the need to monitor the authenticity of communication. As an employee, you have to make sure you know who you’re talking to for a carefully-designed message.

With Harappa’s Speaking Effectively course, you’ll learn how to share information in the workplace. From crafting a near-perfect message to understanding the PAM (Purpose-Audience-Message) framework, you’ll soon be an ace communicator.


Explore topics such as What is CommunicationBusiness CommunicationTypes of CommunicationChannels of Communication & Horizontal Communication from Harappa Diaries and learn to effectively perceive, respond and interact with others.

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