The process of conveying information from one group or entity to another through the use of mutually understood symbols, signs and semiotic rules, commonly referred to as communication. It is a vital aspect in life. The completion of any transaction, process or task that requires more than one person can only be done with communication. In an organization, however, the conveyance of information is carried out in the structural levels within the business. There are four organizational communication flows including horizontal, diagonal, upward and downward communication. While all these are important in organizational communication, the method of communication depends on the structure, size, and nature of an organization.
What is Horizontal Communication?
Also referred to as lateral communication, horizontal communication is the relay and exchange of information across same-level organizational departments. It is important in sharing ideas, wishes, information as well as attitude between colleagues and peers, and also interdepartmental coordination. Though commonly used in large scale enterprises, it has also been adopted by medium and small scale enterprises.
Some advantages of using horizontal communication in an organization include:
- Promotes mutual understanding and coordination of activities
- Provides an avenue for clarification especially in departments working on the same project
- Due to the coordination of managers, opinions and ideas are shared which makes it easier to achieve organizational goals.
- Boosts teamwork among different departments
- Through employee empowerment, communication, motivation and job satisfaction is increased
- Decreases misunderstanding hence ensuring smooth functionality in an organization
- Problems are quickly solved
- Guards against the distortion of intended messages
However, horizontal communication has some disadvantages including:
- Since this communication occurs among people in the same position and rank, rivalry and hostility are common. Some parties may even go to the extent of intentionally hiding information from the other party.
- It may cause interdepartmental conflicts especially in instances where there is prevailing suspicion, conflict or distrust in the departments involved.
- Overemphasis of horizontal communication may significantly reduce the effectiveness of other means of communication, such as vertical communication.
What is Diagonal Communication?
This is communication between employees at different levels in an organization. For instance, the communication between the managing director and a sales representative is classified as diagonal communication.
This type of communication has been adopted by many organizations for various reasons including:
- Fosters a relationship between the lower level and senior employees.
- Ensures messages retain the originality without being distorted
- Reduces the senior employees’ workloads
- It can be used as a motivational tool for the employees
- Challenges the management of an organization and helps in pointing out the weak areas
It can however cause more harm than good if:
- The right communication channel is not used. For instance, it can lead to damaged careers and trust issues if employees fail to inform their managers on arising issues and go ahead to email the managing director.
- It can create unhealthy competition in the organization
- It can be time-consuming which adversely reduces the effectiveness
Similarities between Horizontal and Diagonal Communication
- Both are channels of communication that ensure communication in organizations is carried out efficiently and effectively
Differences between Horizontal and Diagonal Communication
Horizontal communication is the relay and exchange of information across same-level organizational departments. On the other hand, diagonal communication is communication between employees at different levels in an organization.
While the role of horizontal communication in an organization is to coordinate interdepartmental activities, the role of diagonal communication is to relay instructions between subordinates and superiors.
While horizontal communication involves people of the same rank and status, diagonal communication involves subordinates and superiors.
Level of formality
Horizontal communication has low levels of formality while diagonal communication has high levels of formality.
Horizontal communication has various advantages including the promotion of mutual understanding and coordination of activities, provision of an avenue for clarification especially in departments working on the same project and teamwork, just to name a few. On the other hand, advantages of diagonal communication include fostering a relationship between the lower level and senior employees, ensuring messages retain the originality without being distorted, reducing the senior employee’s workloads, motivating employees and challenging the management of an organization and helps in pointing out the weak areas.
Horizontal communication may cause rank, rivalry, and hostility for people at the same position, interdepartmental conflicts and reduction of effectiveness of other means of communication. Diagonal communication, on the other hand, may lead to damaged careers and trust issues if employees fail to inform their managers on arising issues and go ahead to email the managing director, unhealthy competition in the organization and time wastefulness.
Horizontal vs. Diagonal Communication: Comparison Table
Summary of Horizontal vs. Diagonal Communication
The modern business setup needs organizations to develop and put in place effective communication processes. This enables them to cope with strained relationships, business processes, language differences, and the human resource. While communication processes differ from organizations, the use of a wrong communication process can potentially make or ruin a business. Care should, therefore, be taken before adopting one.