## Communication Flows

### Learning OUtcomes

• Differentiate between downward, upward, horizontal, diagonal, and external communication flows

Communication within a business can involve different types of employees and different functional parts of an organization. These patterns of communication are called flows, and they are commonly classified according to the direction of interaction: downward, upward, horizontal, diagonal, external. As you learn about each of these, we will discuss how these flows function at Little Joe’s Auto.

## Downward Communication

When leaders and managers share information with lower-level employees, it’s called downward, or top-down communication. In other words, communication from superiors to subordinates in a chain of command is a downward communication. This communication flow is used by the managers to transmit work-related information to the employees at lower levels.  Ensuring effective downward communication isn’t always easy. Differences in experience, knowledge, levels of authority, and status make it possible that the sender and recipient do not share the same assumptions or understanding of context, which can result in messages being misunderstood or misinterpreted. Creating clearly worded, unambiguous communications and maintaining a respectful tone can facilitate effective downward communication.

## Diagonal Communication

Diagonal communication is the sharing of information among different structural levels within a business. This kind of communication flow is increasingly the norm in organizations (in the same way that cross-functional teams are becoming more common), since it can maximize the efficiency of information exchange. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Diagonal communication routes are the straight lines that speed communications directly to their recipients, at the moment communication is necessary. Communications that zigzag along horizontal and vertical routes, on the other hand, are vulnerable to the schedules and availability of the individuals who reside at each level.

### Little Joe’s Auto: Diagonal Communication

Francis returns to his customers and tells him he thinks he’s got a way to make the deal work. Brian, the finance manager, approves the deal per his conversation with Little Joe, so all that’s left is the final inspection in the service department. The customers have told Francis they need to be home by 3 pm, but when Francis sees the time and looks over at the line of cars waiting for final inspection, his stomach drops. There’s no way he is going to get them out of the dealership by three, and he’s afraid he’ll lose the sale. He heads over to the service department to find Marcie, the service manager. He finds her in one of the service bays and explains his situation, asking if there’s any way his customer can be moved ahead in the line. Marcie checks her clipboard, does some quick calculations, and calls over one of the service techs. She tells him to locate the 2015 Sonata and get it up on the lift next. Smiling, she turns to Francis and says, “Mission accomplished.”

## External Communication

Another type of communication flow is external, when an organization communicates with people or organizations outside the business. Recipients of external communication include customers, lawmakers, suppliers, and other community stakeholders. External communication is often handled by marketing and sales. Annual reports, press releases, product promotions, financial reports are all examples of external communication.

### Little Joe’s Auto: External Communication

The last thing Francis does before he hands the keys to his customers is to affix a Little Joe’s Auto license plate frame to the front and back of the Sonata. Now everyone who sees his customers driving their new car will know where they bought it. He hopes this sale will generate more business for himself and the dealership, so along with the keys to the car, he gives them several business cards and a coupon for a free oil change. At 2:30, Francis waves good-bye to his customers as they drive their new Sonata off the lot.

In order to close this deal, the communication at Little Joe’s Auto has flowed in every direction—upward, downward, horizontally, diagonally, and externally.

## Contribute!

Did you have an idea for improving this content? We’d love your input.