Types of Communication in the Workplace

by E.M. Rawes - Updated September 26, 2017
Many types of communication can occur simultaneously.

No matter what industry you are in, communication is key in the workplace. Without proper communication, your company is not going to achieve its objectives. Within a standard company, communication can take the form of internal, external, formal and informal, upward and downward, lateral and diagonal, small group and nonverbal. All these types of communication come into play in order for the company to convey all necessary information.

Internal Communication

Internal communication is any communication that occurs inside of the workplace. This type of communication is achieved through any medium (for example, email, phone, fax or face to face).

External Communication

External communication is any communication between a member of your company and someone outside of your company. When you talk to a customer, send an email to a potential client or call a supplier about an order, you are doing external communication.

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Formal and Informal Communication

Communication in the workplace is either formal or informal. Formal communication is any communication that promotes the workplace objective. Informal communication involves discussing topics that do not pertain to work. Informal communication is harmless if it is appropriate and you only talk about non-work topics on your lunch break. Informal communication can cause serious problems if it is inappropriate (for example, rumors, gossip or crude jokes).

Upward and Downward Communication

Upward communication is the questions, inquiries and even complaints that employees direct toward their superiors. Downward communication is the guidance and leadership management gives to employees. If a manager explains an assignment to a subordinate, that is downward communication. If an employee asks her boss questions pertaining to that assignment, that is upward communication, according to Communication Skills for Professionals.

Lateral and Diagonal Communication

Lateral (or horizontal) communication is the messages exchanged between employees on the same hierarchical level. When two board members hold a discussion or when two secretaries hold a discussion, this is lateral communication. Diagonal (or cross-wise) communication occurs when messages are exchanged between employees of various different hierarchical levels. If a vice president holds a discussion with a human resources manager, this is diagonal communication.

Small Group Communication

Small group communication occurs when a meeting is held. This can be a staff meeting, a board meeting, a sales meeting or any other type of meeting where a group of employees meets and exchanges messages. Usually, one or two individuals lead the meeting and initiate the topics for discussion.

Nonverbal Communication

Eye contact, facial expression and other forms nonverbal communication are signs that your boss or another employee is pleased (or displeased) with your work. If your co-worker rolls her eyes at you, you are probably going to feel like she is unhappy with you. On the other hand, if your boss smiles at you after your presentation, you'll feel secure that you did a good job. Sometimes, a smile is worth a thousand words, according to Workplace Communication.

About the Author

E.M. Rawes is a professional writer specializing in business, finance, mathematical and social sciences topics. She completed her studies at the University of Maryland, where she earned her Bachelor of Science. During her time working in workforce management and as a financial analyst, she reinforced her business and financial know-how.

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