What is Organizational Communication?

Written by Rebecca Turley

organizational communication

“The greatest gift you can give your team: clarity, communication, and pulling people together around a shared mission.”

From the outside, getting all the members of a team on the same page and collectively focused on the job at hand may look something like herding cats. But effective leaders know a thing or two about rallying the troops and inspiring them to achieve greatness.

Organizational communication is a broad term used to describe the process of directing and motivating teams to work toward a set of common goals. Largely considered an essential building block of successful businesses, organizational communication is always a top consideration among leaders with an eye on improving team efficiency, performance, and satisfaction.

Effective communication, of course, is an important component of organizational leadership, which is aimed at motivating and encouraging members of a team to reach strategic goals – that’s the heart and soul of organizational communication.

Why Is Organizational Communication So Important?

"If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself."

Organizational communication plays an important role in any leader’s toolbox because:

The Nuts and Bolts of Organizational Leadership

“Communication is the only task you cannot delegate.”

Cultural and personality differences… remote employees and teams… globalization – they’re but a small sample of the challenges facing the flow of communication in today’s workplace. Outstanding communication within an organization doesn’t just happen. It’s up to thoughtful, engaged leaders to ensure that organizational communication is effective, efficient, and nurtured at every level.

Organizational Communication: How the Message Is Delivered

video conference

Part of a leader’s focus on organizational communication includes a consideration of the ways in which information is delivered in an organization.

Engaged and informed leaders have a firm grasp of when and where to employ different forms of organizational communication. They understand when formal communication is required and when an informal approach works best. They have an appreciation for the value of communication between members of the team and how effective communication can mean the difference between a motivated, inspired, and focused team and one that is falling apart at the seams.

Organizational communication can be internal, external, asynchronous, or synchronous and can be carried out in a number of ways:


Formal communication keeps messages uniform throughout the organization, eliminates ambiguity, and meets specific legal requirements. Digital or printed documents and emails are examples of formal documents.


Not surprisingly, most communication is done informally. It’s an effective way of getting the word out quickly and effectively. Team meetings, brainstorming sessions, casual conversations, and phone calls are all examples of informal communication and are where ideas are born, issues are resolved, teams connect, and leaders motivate and inspire.


Horizontal, or lateral, communication takes place between people in similar roles or positions within an organization. This type of communication encourages cross-collaboration among departments and members of the team and keeps everyone in the organization up-to-date on a project’s progress. It also provides employees with opportunities to discuss issues of common interest and resolve issues.


Also referred to as downward communication, this traditional, top-down vertical form of communication takes place when leaders communicate with members of their team, manage conflicts, resolve issues, and provide feedback. Vertical communication can be formal and include tools like policy manuals, rules, and regulations. And it can be informal and include tools like in-person meetings, group chats, and Zoom meetings.


Vertical communication doesn’t just move in a top-down fashion. Leaders should always encourage upward communication from the members of their team as to keep the lines of communication flowing freely in both directions.

“Communication can’t always follow the top-down model. With the fluidity of information in business today, leaders need to be masterful listeners; they need to be able to receive as well as send.”

Organizational Communication: Why the Message Is Delivered

talking after meetingOrganizational communication allows leaders of people, teams, and businesses to accomplish any number of goals. Your reasons for communicating may include everything from conveying instructions to answering questions to listening to feedback to solving problems to motivating your team. When considering organizational communication, don’t let the purpose of your message get lost in translation.

William Neher outlined the five primary functions of organizational communication in his book, Organizational Communication: Challenges of Change, Diversity, and Continuity:

Organizational Communication: Strategies for Improving It

Leaders shouldn’t just be concerned with improving organizational communication; they should be well-versed in the ways they can make it happen.

Leaders can keep those lines of communication flowing and effective by: