Communication might be defined as the transfer of – facts, information, ideas, suggestions, orders, requests, grievances etc. from one person to another so as to impart a complete understanding of the subject matter of communication to the recipient thereof; the desired response from the recipient to such communication.

Some popular definitions of communication are given below:

(1) “Communication is a way that one organization member shares meaning and understanding with another.” -Koontz and O’Donnell


(2) “Communication is the process of passing information and understanding from one person to another.” -Keith Davis

(3) “Communication is the sum of the things one person does when he wants to create understanding in the mind of another. It is a bridge of meaning. It involves a systematic and continuous process of telling, listening and understanding.” Louis A. Allen

Features of Communication:

On the basis of the above definitions and the surrounding knowledge, we can gather the following salient features of the concept of communication

(i) Communication is necessary and required in all managerial functions. However, it is an integral part of the directing process; and assumes greater significance at the directing stage.

(ii) Communication is a function of every manager. Hence, it is a pervasive managerial function. All managers would have to make necessary communications to their subordinates, and get a feedback to their communications from the latter.

(iii) Communication is a continuous process, throughout the organisational life. It is the basis of organisational functioning. “No communication; no functioning of the organisation.” thus goes an old managerial adage (proverb).

(iv) Communication is a complete and rational process; only when the recipient of the message has understanding of the subject matter of communication. Communication is, in fact, a transmission of understanding from the sender to the recipient of the message – something, which is an imperative requirement from the human relations perspective, of communication.

(v) Communication usually is and ought to be a two-way process. This emphasizes on the feedback aspect of communication i.e. the sender of the message must get the necessary response (or reaction) of the recipient to the communication made to him.

(vi) Communication is always done with a purpose i.e. with the objective of evoking the desired response out of the recipient, to the communication made. For example, if the communication is a work-order by the superior to some subordinate; the latter must comply with the order – undertaking the necessary actions for the implementation of the order

(vii) Communication process requires, at least, two parties’ sender of message and the recipient of it. Naturally, one person would not make any communication to the self.

(viii) Communication is a circular process. Its process starts with the sender of the message and travelling through various stages completes with a feedback to communication from the recipient to the sender.

Process of Communication:

The process of communication consists of the following steps or stages:

(i) Message:

This is the background step to the process of communication; which, by forming the subject matter of communication necessitates the start of a communication process. The message might be a factor an idea, or a request or a suggestion, or an order or a grievance.

(ii) Sender:

The actual process of communication is initiated at the hands of the sender; who takes steps to send the message to the recipient.

(iii) Encoding:

Encoding means giving a form and meaning to the message through expressing it into – words, symbol, gestures, graph, drawings etc.

(iv) Medium:

It refers to the method or channel, through which the message is to be conveyed to the recipient. For example, an oral communication might be made through a peon or over the telephone etc.; while a written communication might be routed through a letter or a notice displayed on the notice board etc.

(v) Recipient (or the Receiver):

Technically, a communication is complete, only when it comes to the knowledge of the intended person i.e. the recipient or the receiver.

(vi) Decoding:

Decoding means the interpretation of the message by the recipient – with a view to getting the meaning of the message, as per the intentions of the sender. It is at this stage in the communication process, that communication is philosophically defined as, ‘the transmission of understanding.’

(vii) Feedback:

To complete the communication process, sending feedback to communication, by the recipient to the sender is imperative. ‘Feedback’ implies the reaction or response of the recipient to the message, comprised in the communication.

All told, communication is a circular process, as illustrated, by means of the following circular diagram:

Principles of Communication:

In order to be effective and meaningful, the managerial function of communication must be guided by the following principles:

(i) Principle of Understanding:

Communication must be such, as transmits understanding of the communication message to the recipient as per the intentions of the sender. A practical application of this principle requires that the message must be clearly expressed whether made orally or in writing.

Further, the message must be complete – leaving no scope for any doubts likely to confuse the recipient and compel him towards a misinterpretation of the message.

(ii) Principle of Attention:

Communication must be made in such a manner, that in invites the attention of the recipient to it. For a practical application of this principle, it is imperative that not only must the message be expressed in a pleasant and sound manner; but also the purpose of the sender in making communication, must be absolutely clarified.

(iii) Principle of Brevity:

The message to be communicated must be brief; as usually the recipient, specially an executive, would not have much time to devote to a single piece of communication. However, brevity of the message must not be sought at the cost of clarity or completeness of the message. The sender must strike a balance among these three factors -brevity, clarity and completeness.

(iv) The Principle of Timeliness:

The communication must be timely i.e. it must be made at the high time, when needed to be communicated to the recipient. An advance communication carries with it the danger of ‘forgetting’, on the part of the recipient; while a delayed communication loses its purpose and charm, and becomes meaningless, when the right time for action on it has expired.

(v) The Principle of Appropriateness (Or Rationality):

The communication must be appropriate or rational, in the context of the realization of organizational objectives. Communication must be neither impracticable to act upon; nor irrational, making no contribution to common objectives.

(vi) Principle of Feedback:

Communication must be a two-way process. The feedback (or reaction or response) of the recipient to the message, must be as easily transferable to the sender, as the original communication made by the sender.

The idea behind emphasizing on the feedback aspect of communication is that it helps the sender to modify his subsequent communications in view of the reactions of the recipient – making for better and improved human relations.

(vii) Principle of the Constructive and Strategic Use of Informal Groups:

The management must not hesitate in making a constructive and strategic use of informal groups, for ensuring and facilitating speedier communication in emergency situations. Such a use of informal groups would also help develop good human relations by upgrading the status of informal groups and their leaders.

However, management must assure itself that rumors are not spread by informal groups and for this, a guard over the manner of functioning of informal groups, while transmitting a formal communication, is but imperative.


The following points can illustrate the importance of communication in human resource management:

  1. Base for Action:

Communication acts as a base for any action. Starting of any activity begins with communication which brings information necessary to begin with.

  1. Planning Becomes Easy:

Communication facilitates planning. Planning is made easy by communication. Any type of information regarding the human resource requirement of each department of the organization with their qualifications, the type and kinds of job etc. can be collected through communication which helps in human resource planning. Policies and programmes for their acquisition can be prepared and implemented. In the entire process communication plays a vital role, it also facilitates managerial planning of the organisation.

  1. Means of Coordination:

Communication is an important tool for coordinating the efforts of various people at work in the organisation.

  1. Aids in Decision-Making:

The information collected through communication aids in decision-making. Communication facilitates access to the vital information required to take decisions.

  1. Provides Effective Leadership:

A communication skill bring manager near to his subordinates and exchange ideas and submits appropriate proposals, knows their opinions, seeks advices and make decisions. This enables a manager to win confidence of his subordinates through constantly communicating with them and removing probable misunderstandings. In this way he leads his people to accomplish the organisational goal.

  1. Boosts Morale and Motivation:

An effective communication system instills confidence among subordinates and workers ensuring change in their attitude and behaviour. The main cause of conflict and dissatisfaction is misunderstanding which can be removed through communication skills. The removal of misunderstanding makes manager and his subordinates understand each other and create good industrial relations. This boosts up the morale of the people and motivates them to work harder.

Types of Communication – Formal and Informal:

Communication, very broadly, is classified into the following two categories:

(a) Formal communication

(b) Informal communication

Formal communication is that, which takes place in an enterprise, in a formal manner via the scalar chain or the line of command.

This type of communication has the following variations:

(1) Downward communication

(2) Upward communication

(3) Sideward (or horizontal) communication

(1) Downward Communication:

Downward communication moves downwards in an organisation, from the top management to middle and lower level managements travelling via various links in the scalar chain. Such communication is imperative for organisational purposes.

Mostly it consists of communicating plans and policies of the enterprise to lower level managers; and in particular, issuing orders and instructions to subordinates, for initiating action according to these for execution of assigned jobs.

(2) Upward Communication:

This type of formal communication is really a feedback to downward communication. Upward communication proceeds upwards in an organisation from the lower level management to middle and upper levels of management, travelling via various links, in the scalar chain.

Upward communication, usually, takes the following forms:

(i) Reports by subordinates to superiors on work-performance

(ii) Grievances, problems or difficulties of subordinates forwarded to superiors, at appropriate levels.

(iii) Suggestions and ideas of subordinates to upper management, for kind consideration and appropriate implementation.

(iv) Clarifications sought by subordinates from superiors as to the orders and instructions issued by the latter (i.e. superiors).

(3) Sideward (Or Horizontal) Communication:

This type of formal communication takes place among managers, placed at the same rank, in the organisation. It is necessary for achieving co-ordination of actions of individuals, doing the similar type of work, under managers of equal ranks.

For example, a communication between two assistant production managers is an instance of horizontal communication. Sideward communication, might take place through the ‘gang-plank’, as suggested by Fayol; or through the scalar chain, in a hierarchical manner.

(b) Informal communication:

Informal communication, also called grapevine communication, takes place through informal groups, existing inside or outside the formal organizational structure. This communication has no formal manner of routing. It might spread from any person to any person, in any manner and in any direction, like the structuring of a grapevine.

Point of comment:

In fact, the basic cause behind the formation of many informal groups is the necessity for a mutual exchange of information related to organizational matters or social or personal matters of individuals comprised in informal groups. Hence the need for informal communication.


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