What is Formal Communication?
According to Sarah Trenholm, “Formal communication occurs when information flows through a structured chain of command officially that is recognized by the organization.”
In the words of Bovee Thill and Schatzman, “Formal flow of information follows the official chain of command.”
The efficiency of an organization depends on a regular flow of messages which the flow of need to be organized into a well ordered network, to ensure that communication flows easily and that executives are kept informed of what is going on.
For example, executive ‘A’ occupying a top position, passes an order to his immediate subordinate ‘B’ who, after retaining the useful information, passes the desired order to the next man ‘C’ for necessary action and so on. In this way the channel is a formal one. In the same way, communication may travel from below and pass through stages or points, again reinforcing the formal structure or character of the organization.
Advantages of Formal Communication
The advantages of formal communication are as follows:
- It helps in maintaining the authority structure of the organization and becomes easier to fix responsibility of subordinates for activities carried out by them.
- An immediate superior has a direct contact with the subordinates so, a better understanding is developed between them and communication is made more effective.
- Better co-operation and co-ordination among employees are achieved in case of formal communication.
- Overlapping of communication does not take place in this case, as information will be passed on only through the proper formal channel.
- Information passed through formal channel is more trustworthy and can be easily relied upon.
- Formal communication helps maintain and respect the protocol of the organizational structure.
- Memos, circulars, instructions, guidelines, clarifications, agreements, reports, etc., form a part of the formal communication. These facilitate in the smooth functioning of the organization.
- Follow up actions and compliance becomes easier if information is passed through formal means.
- There is no chance of bias to creep in, as the information has to be passed on according to the organization’s structure and everyone is included in it, whether the person is liked by others or not.
- There is minimal chance of information leak or flow of gossip in case of formal communication.
Disadvantages of Formal Communication
The disadvantages of formal communication are as follows:
- Formal communication is time consuming. Even a small piece of information passes through long formal channels and hence takes a lot of time to reach every level in the organization.
- Formal communication does not allow social and emotional bonds to be created, in the absence of which the organizational climate does not become very congenial and employees do not feel at ease and comfort.
- The formal channels of communication can actually inhibit or stand in the way of free flow of information between organizational levels. For example, in a big factory, an assembly-line worker will communicate a problem to a supervisor, rather than to the plant manager. Higher-level managers may sometimes not even come to know something of vital importance because of a weak communication network.