Communication from lower levels of an organization to the top is called upward communication. An organization needs suggestions and feedback from its employees on its routine work, and this system of obtaining employee reactions is known as upward communication.
Upward communication is needed
- to forward employee-feedback
- to report on official matters
- to give voice to the difficulties, grievances, dissatisfaction and work-related demands of employees
- to invite suggestions, creativity and participation in problem- solving
- to create a sense of belonging through participation
Suggestion schemes, complaints, grievance-procedures, counselling, open door policy, exit interviews are some of the common modes of this communication.
It completes the communication chain, as it is essentially a two-way process. Employees feel valued as part of organisational decision-making, and their participation becomes constructive. There is trust, and emotional bonding between management and employees, along with understanding and co-operation. When managements invite employees to play their specific roles in achieving the larger organisational goals, they respond with enthusiasm.
The authority earns subordinates‘ cooperation. It benefits from the suggestions and feedback on the decisions taken, helps in evaluating the decisions and modifying them wherever necessary.
If an organisation wants upward communication to be effective, it has to cut down the lines of authority and allow subordinates an easy access to the top management. It has to make the atmosphere in the organisation conducive for upward communication. This involves training executives to listen to communication from employees with empathy and respond to the communication promptly.
[Emergence of the Business Processing Units (BPOs) to address customer complaints and queries is precisely for this purpose. Such mechanisms are needed within the organisation as well.]
It must be admitted that no mode of communication is fool proof, and this mode, too, is no exception.
Upward communication may not fetch results if subordinates fail to take initiative and participate in the decision making. Long lines of authority, inability of the seniors to listen or to act, create further barriers. Delays due to slow transmission, distortion of communication further hamper the process.
Employees often fail to understand and handle upward communication. For instance, if the employees feel that the management is incapable of taking decisions without their help, or that it is lenient, it might lead to indiscipline and an attitude of non- cooperation in the organisation.