Informal Communication at Workplace: A Guide
Have you ever been a part of gossiping or a random chit-chat in your office’s canteen? Do you feel it’s intrinsically rewarding but extrinsically a major dereliction of duty? Have you received any rebukes from your superiors for the same?
If the answer to any of these questions is a yes, then you are already aware of the concept of informal communication. But guess what, all of us are.
From making jokes about superiors in canteens to digital pages dedicated to memes, the times might have changed but the trend seems to be not going anywhere.
However, what really has changed over the years is the way in which informal communication has an altogether different meaning attached to it now. What’s this meaning and how can any organization use it for its own good? Let’s find out.
What Is Informal Communication?
Informal communication refers to a type of casual and spontaneous communication that takes place without following the formal chain of the network in an organization.
This type of communication springs out of an employee’s personal need to identify with others in order to achieve intrinsic satisfaction by socializing. However, this might be one of the objectives of this type of communication, but definitely not the only one.
Think of informal communication like a truck that’s headed to a particular destination but helps several passengers to reach their own destination in the midway.
Such communication form had much more haters than any other, just a few years back. This is because of zero control or curbs that can be levied on it. However, repeated interventions only make employees hysterical about their own rights, thereby forcing them to leave such a dogmatic organization.
Companies today are much more equipped to use such a form of communication for their own benefit. But before we move further, let us first look at the various features of informal communication.
Features Of Informal Communication
Informal communication is mostly spontaneous, hence, it does not follow any fixed chain of authority or accountability in the organization. It does not take into account the formal structure of the organization rather the informal needs of the employees. Some of the features include the following.
Employees are free to talk to their immediate supervisor or a remote worker or even the CEO for that matter. Similarly, the top management is free to talk to the immediate authority under them or someone as low in the organizational hierarchy as a daily wage worker.
Born out of social relations
The need for informal communication arises because of the personal and social needs of employees to interact with each other.
Zero location hindrance
No, the canteen is not the only zone of chatting with fellows. In fact, this type of communication can happen right after a board meeting outside the conference hall to discuss the effectiveness of the entire event.
Zero time hindrance
Similarly, lunch hours aren’t the solely dedicated hours of the daily talkers. Informal communication is not time-bound and can take place anytime.
Since there is no official responsibility assigned to any one employee for the communication, such conversations can never be verified.
You must be thinking if such communication can be of any good to an organization? Well, yes. Let us look at why organizations need to allow such communication to breed without any censorship.
Advantages Of Informal Communication
Even though the source of the information passed in such communication is hard to find, the benefits definitely supersede this setback. Let us look at some.
Facilitates Team Spirit
Once employees know that their supervisor has a similar music taste and isn’t that tough a person to deal with, the chances of a good project presentation increase manyfold times.
Saves A Lot Of Time
Consider information being passed through a fixed chain and communication being spread through the word of mouth spontaneously. Well, we clearly have the winner in terms of speed.
Improves Employee Morale
In the formal network, people in top authority often tend to underestimate the lowermost strata in the organization. Informal communication makes them realize their own potential by talking to others who recognize it on a daily basis.
Since this form of communication is free of organizational bias and fear of authority, employees tend to give their honest opinion, thereby providing a chance for a real change.
But, how are organizations exactly using such forms of communication? Is there a way they can be used without leading to rumours or fake news?
How To Use Informal Communication For The Greater Good Of The Business?
Even though informal communication might be a norm in today’s culture, yet organizations find it difficult to mould it in their own manner for the greater good.
As a result, they end up using headphones or games as a distraction for workers to keep them away from communicating with each other. Sure enough, social distancing, huh!
But a good leader always views every business calamity as an opportunity, and this for sure isn’t calamity in the absolute sense.
This section will help you understand how you can incorporate informal communication from the business point of view.
Make It A Part And Not Leave It Apart
Informal communication does not always involve gossiping or rumours, in fact, sometimes they lead to actual criticism of the company’s policies and programs.
Once leaders try to cut off employees from heading to such conversations, they start looking for a new spot and a new time to discuss it. Reason? Human behaviour. They do what they aren’t told to do.
It will be best to actually let such conversations happen in the vicinity, just so one could hear the honest opinions of the employees. Constructive criticism cannot be just avoided because it is coming from your own subordinates.
The biggest crime levied against informal communication is the cropping up of gossip or rumours without appropriate source confirmation.
But apart from pondering over how to curb them, have you tried to find out the reason behind such gossips? Gossips often become a part of employee conversation because organizations lack transparency to hold open-ended discussions.
Involve various interest groups or their representatives while taking important decisions. You can even discuss crucial issues with them. This will help with building confidence and cooperation between all the members of the organization.
Threat And Negative Promotions Are Not Good
Sometimes, members in the top organization tend to threaten workers to stop gossiping or else pay for it. The payment comes in the form of a delayed promotion or a pay cut, or over time with less pay.
However, this often shows the incapacity of the business to deal with its in-house critics. There are plenty of other steps, but such negative criticism degrades the overall image of the organization.
Identify The Overall Motive Of The Talk
Informal communication mostly is of 2 types. One that is light in nature and fosters team spirit and cooperation and the other being the one that leads to conflicts and misunderstandings.
Ensure that the light ones are allowed to take place while creating enough room for discussion for the latter.
Timely get-togethers can play a major role in facilitating good informal communication. What’s better than organizing one and being the head there? You can use your communication skills to share the company’s ideals without making it sound like an instruction.
You can even mould the conversation as you want because of being the organizer. These events can help you open a heart-to-heart with your colleagues while ensuring you can communicate your own ideas as well.
Informal communication might be a discomfort for a company loyalist. However, informal communication must be allowed in order to facilitate team spirit and honest opinions. Also, what a particular employee says is inherently his own belief and hence, a matter of subjectivity prevails.
Go On, Tell Us What You Think!
Did we miss something? Come on! Tell us what you think about our article on informal communication in the comments section.