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Difference between Formal and Informal Communication

Communication plays an essential role in our lives. One needs to have good communication skills in order to excel in any field. On an organizational level, communication is of utmost importance. People exchange their ideas, opinions, perceptions with one another through communication. Communication can be oral/ verbal, or written. Oral communication includes speaking out, talking to each other regarding different things, while written communication includes writing down or penning a letter in order to communicate with the person. Sign language is also a part of communication wherein people use various signs and symbols in order to converse with other people. Body language, eye contact, expressions, etc., are important aspects of communication. So, today we will be discussing two significant types of communication, i.e., formal communication and informal communication. Let us begin by understanding the primary meaning of the same.

Difference between Formal and Informal Communication

Formal Communication

Formal communication is defined as the communication in which the information is reached through proper channels or routes. It is also called official communication. The main aim of this communication is to properly converse and making sure that the information has reached correctly. This communication is considered as an effective communication mode as it saves time through its systematic flow of communication. Examples of formal communication include reports, post descriptions, work command, information related to sales and inventory, etc. There are four kinds of formal communication, i.e., upward communication, downward communication, vertical communication, and horizontal communication. The superior and the subordinate conversation comes under formal communication. One of the major disadvantages of formal communication is that rules and regulations are very rigid.

More importance is given to the rules; instead of the person. It results in low cordiality among relationships between the superior and subordinates.

Informal Communication

Informal communication is defined as communication that does not undertake formal methods to communicate. People/ subordinates do not follow the rigid rules of the organization. People converse freely without any bondage. On an organizational level, informal communication is the spontaneous kind of communication in which the subordinates and the superior can talk freely. There are no official rules, systems, or guidelines to communicate. Talking to your friend or family is a common example of informal communication. One of the major advantages of informal communication is that it is very flexible. There is no rigidity or any kind of formality to hinder the communication. Grapevine communication is a significant kind of informal communication. The disadvantage of this kind of communication is that rumors or misinformation spread at a rapid pace. Now, let us look at some of the differences between formal and informal communication.

S.NO. FORMAL COMMUNICATION INFORMAL COMMUNICATION
1. Formal communication is defined as the communication which takes place through formal/ official routes and channels. On the other hand, informal communication is defined as the communication which takes place unofficially between two or more people.
2. There are rigid rules and regulations in formal communication. There are no rigid rules or regulations in informal communication.
3. The other name of formal communication is 'official communication.' The other name of informal communication is 'grapevine communication.'
4. There is more reliability of the information in formal communication. There is less reliability of the information.
5. The process of formal communication is slow. The process of informal communication is rapid.
6. Formal communication majorly includes written communication. Therefore, there is a documented evidence for every piece of information. Informal communication includes verbal communication. So, there is no documented evidence related to it.
7. Formal communication is time-consuming. Informal communication is very fast and rapid.
8. Formal communication is effective as there is a systematic flow of information. There is no systematic flow, but work-related issues and time is saved in the informal communication.
9. Secrecy is maintained in formal communication. Secrecy is not maintained in informal communication.
10. Formal communication moves only through official or pre-defined channels. Informal communication moves freely and rapidly.
11. There is authenticity of the information provided through official channels. There is no authenticity of the information in informal communication.
12. The main aim of formal communication is to fulfill organizational objectives. The main aim of informal communication is to meet personal interests and needs.

So, these are some of the significant differences between formal and informal communication. Both kinds of communication are practiced by several organizations. The main goal of this is to meet the organization's and personal objectives. Now, there are several types of formal and informal communication. So, let us discuss them.

Types of Formal Communication

  1. Vertical Communication: This kind of communication is held on various organizational levels. In this, the message is passed from juniors to team members to the manager.
  2. Horizontal Communication: This kind of communication takes place among the peers of the same or different departments.
  3. Diagonal Communication: This kind of communication takes place among the subordinates working on different levels. For instance, a graphic designer communicating with the sales manager.
  4. Upward Communication: In this kind of communication, the information is transmitted from lower to a higher level, i.e., from subordinates to superiors. This kind of communication boosts the morale of the employees.
  5. Downward Communication: In this kind of communication, the information is transferred from higher to the lower level, i.e., from superiors to subordinates. Downward communication is an effective way of communication.

Types of Informal Communication

  1. Single Chain: In this type of communication, person A passes information to person B and, person B passes it to person C. This is how the single-chain moves in informal communication.
  2. Gossip Chain: In this kind of communication, a person passes information to several people. Those people pass it on to several others. This is how the gossip chain works.
  3. Cluster Chain: A cluster chain works when two or three people start a trend which is followed by others. Social media is the common example of a cluster chain wherein one person begins the trend/ challenge, and others follow it.

So, these are the significant kinds of formal and informal communication. To create a better environment and achieve the company's goals, both types of communication are required. The morale of the employees is boosted and the organization also fulfills its objective. Both formal and informal communication goes hand in hand. Thus, for smooth and efficient working of the organization, both formal, and informal communication is necessary.


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