What Does It Mean to Communicate Vertically & Horizontally as a Manager?

Management teams communicate horizontally to discuss goals and strategies.
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Managers in organizations often engage in both vertical and horizontal communication. The effectiveness of each form of communication carries weight for the manager's work group as well as across the company. Vertical communication involves interaction with employees as well as upper level managers. Horizontal communication occurs between leaders of different departments or work teams.

Vertical Downward

    Much of the emphasis in vertical manager communication is on downward communication. This occurs when managers share company policies, information and direction with subordinate employees. This is critical in keeping employees on the same page within the department and with the bigger picture direction of the firm. Managers also use downward communication to train, develop and motivate employees to achieve greater skills and optimal job performance.

Vertical Upward

    Managers also engage in upward communication from employees. Effective managers listen as well as they articulate messages. Informal conversations where employees talk about their lives and concerns are important to relationship building. Approachable managers typically hear about problems and issues before they have spiraled out of control. Also, effective managers encourage employees to offer feedback and to share ideas that may lead to improved work processes, efficiency and overall production.

Formal Horizontal

    Managers may participate in cross-organizational leadership teams or committees. In smaller organizations, all managers may meet periodically to review company strategies, goals and departmental tactics. These formal communication processes are important to ensure that each area of the business is aligned in working toward overall company objectives. Each department uses strategies and tactics to complete its role. Information technology managers, for instance, must understand what marketing managers want to accomplish to develop the appropriate technology infrastructure and support systems.

Informal Horizontal

    Informal horizontal communication among managers is also important to development of a culture of teamwork and collaboration. Without this, each functional unit may become isolated and view other departments more as competitors than partners in achieving shared goals. Managers may meet for lunch or simply seek each other out on a regular basis to maintain relationships and to discuss spontaneous ideas and issues that come up in daily activities.

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