Communication involves the exchange of information, experiences, and data. In business management, communication is crucial and managers may spend up to 90% of their working time on it. Communication plays a significant role in coordinating activities within the enterprise and establishing external contacts. It is a vital system within an organization that enables message flows. Communication is also an essential working tool for individuals to perceive their organizational roles and for integrating organizational units. From the perspective of open systems theory, an organization is a developed network of communication channels designed to collect, collate, and analyze information about the environment, and to transmit processed messages back to the environment. Through communication, decisions can be developed and implemented based on feedback, and objectives and procedures can be adjusted according to situational requirements.
Upward communication, specifically, is a critical element for successful interaction between an organization’s staff and management, as it defines the effectiveness of the organization’s performance. This essay aims to discuss the phenomenon of upward communication and its impact on organizational performance effectiveness.
Upward communication is the process of transferring information from the performers (staff) to the head (manager). This type of communication is most often seen in the form of reports on activities and innovations. Upward communication (from the bottom up) also functions as a warning the top of what is being done at the lower levels. In this way, management becomes aware of current or emerging issues and suggests possible options to remedy the situation. One of the last managerial innovations in upward communication is the creation of groups of workers who regularly, usually 1 hour per week, discuss and resolve problems in production or service. These groups are known as quality circles.
Implementation of upward communication involves overcoming a number of difficulties:
Slow ascent of information on higher levels of the organization when managers do not risk raising issues because they fear a backlash leadership;
Filtration of the information to employees of lower levels when they think it would not important for them to hear what their boss has to say;
Deliberate distortion or changing of the message, so that it helped to achieve one’s personal goals.
If the two-way flow of information (upward and downward communication) is weakening due to the limited uplink communications, the company begins to experience a lack of data needed for informed decision-making, losing understanding of the needs of employees, and thus loses its ability to ensure effective implementation of its functions and social support.
This process involves the exercise of initiative, positive action, sensitivity to weak signals and the ability to adapt to different information channels, but above all, it requires awareness and conviction that sent up messages are very important.
Implementation of upward communication, especially in the large and complex structures of organizations, is associated with overcoming specific difficulties. The first is in a delay which is a slow ascent of information on higher levels of the organization when managers do not risk raising issues because they fear a backlash from leadership. Therefore, at each level of concern information is “inhibited,” as managers try to solve the problem by themselves. The second, closely related to the first factor, is filtering. It is seen in some form of “censorship” from the bottom, as the natural inclination of all employees brings to the attention of the leaders only that, as they seem to like to listen to the boss.
Sometimes in an attempt to avoid filtering, employees seek direct access to the manager, avoiding immediate superiors and skipping one or more steps in the communication hierarchy. The positive aspect of this release is reducing the degree of filtering and delay, and the negative – is insubordination, which causes resentment “bypassed” of managers, usually the practice is not encouraged. Another issue that appears periodically is the need for a response. Since ascending initiates communication workers, they act as senders and urgently need feedback. Prompt response management encourages further messages from the bottom up. Conversely, the lack of response inhibits upward communication.
Employees need to know how to deal with the managers, therefore, upward communication can be seen as the transfer of any information from subordinate employees up the career ladder (Chow, Hwang, & Liao, 2000). Due to the increase in the quality of communication, there is a rise in the productivity of all employees.
The starting point of improving upward communication is the formulation of policy guidelines inquiries by staff, including the areas of responsibility of senior management, controversial topics, issues on which the opinion of managers is required, or recommended changes. In addition to policy statements, there is a need to develop practical methods for improving the uplink communications.
Asking employees questions is a managerial practice that demonstrates leadership’s interest in their views, desire for additional information, and evaluation of their roles. Questions can be categorized as open or closed, with open-ended questions allowing for a broader range of responses. However, regardless of the question’s form, upward communication cannot be improved if the manager is unable to actively listen to the answer.
Active listening involves not only hearing but also processing emotional messages and regularly demonstrating interest in the conversation’s topic. Training courses are available to improve these skills, such as focusing on the interlocutor’s goals, evaluating arguments, and analyzing the discussion by pausing.
To overcome barriers to upward communication, managers must ensure that employees can ask questions and address concerns. This fosters relationships between employees at different levels of the career ladder and increases their involvement in office activities.
Meeting of workers. One of the most effective methods of upward communication is managers’ meetings with small groups of employees, in which employees have the opportunity to speak out about their issues, and management techniques, talk about their needs, etc. These meetings (provided adequate response management) contribute to the degree of employee participation in the labor process and reduce rates of employee turnover.
The manager should increase the number of ways that employees participate in the life of the organization. They should participate in general meetings to better understand the goals and objectives of their work. It is necessary to ensure that employees are not afraid to ask questions, so the manager needs to establish good relations with them. In addition, managers should be able to communicate with different people of various nationalities, etc. This ability can help to minimize the number of problems between supervisors and subordinates.
Open-door policy. The open door policy suggests that the treatment of employees to supervisors (primarily), or the heads of a higher rank on any issues of concern are encouraged by a senior management organization. However, to achieve this noble goal, many psychological and social barriers between managers and employees must be overcome, as these make employees refrain from trying to enter in the “wide-open” door of supervisors (Garnett, Marlowe, & Pandey, 2008). Some employees are afraid to manifest incompetence, others do not want to recognize any problems, and others are afraid to displease managers.
Participation in social groups. Informal, entertaining events provide unique opportunities for the implementation of “above-plan” upward contacts. Such a spontaneous exchange of information allows managers to understand the real situation in the company much faster than formal communication (Tourish & Robson, 2006). Therefore, employers should not skimp on entertainment such as parties in the departments, sporting events, picnics, etc., upward communication is not meant to be the main purpose of such events, but very often it is their most important side “product”.
Communication in the organization covers all means, formal and informal, through which information is transmitted between the employees up, down, and across. For business, challenge is to channel these numerous messages, so that these improve relations with customers, maintain employee satisfaction, develop knowledge sharing throughout the organization, and, most importantly, increase its competitiveness. The role of communication in the organization cannot be underestimated. Effective communication is crucial for the formation of the work activities such as planning, organization, management, and control. It helps managers to do their jobs and perform their responsibilities.