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Upward Communication

Stephen Rampur
In order to know what employees expect from the management, upward communication in the workplace is extremely necessary.

What is Upward Communication?

In a company, only passing orders from managers to subordinates is not important. There should also be a flow of information from employees to the top-level managers. Upward communication is termed as the flow of any kind of information from lower levels in the hierarchy to the upper ones in a company.
So, the channels of information would typically be: Executive > Team Leader > Project Manager > Program Manager > Practice Director > Director > Board of Directors.
A proper flow of information from ordinary employees to the higher management aids in clear communication, which is better for carrying out any task. In other words, healthy communication aids in bridging the communication gap between employees, managers, and the top management.

Upward Communication Barriers

Time and availability can be a major barrier in this type of communication. An employee may presume that his line manager or the top management won't have time to address to his piece of information or be concerned due to a busy schedule. Another barrier to clear is modification of the actual information due to some reasons.
Many a time it happens that the information from an employee is not clearly understood by his superior, who in turn misinterprets it to the management. This might happen due to a lack of attention, time, or using inappropriate means of communication.
In order for a process to work most efficiently, there should be proper communication within related entities of any system such as at the workplace. Basically, there are two types of concepts in the world of corporate communications namely, upward communication and downward communication.
Owing to the significance of communication, the management is conducting specific training sessions on communication skills and strategies and encouraging employees to attend. If the management needs to determine the expectations of employees, they need to consider proper channels for communication up the hierarchy.
Not able to provide feedback is also a barrier to effective communication up the hierarchy. In many cases, employees are not given a chance to provide feedback, which has a negative impact on productivity. Education and level of expertise might in some situations turn out to be a barrier.
The sender of the messages might have a different educational background and lower expertise than the receiving entities, which might make receiving or understanding the information difficult.
Cultural differences also may be a reason for unclear communication with higher management. Employees may not communicate with their superiors and the management because of a difference in values, language and background, which is mostly found in cross-cultural teams in multinational companies.

Overcoming Upward Communication Barriers

To eliminate the barriers of good upward communication in the workplace, there are some considerations the management can focus on. The first one is that the management should make sure to ask feedback from employees present in the chain of communication.
This will make employees feel that their feedback is being given importance to. This will eventually lead to better employee participation in project completion.
The management should increase the channels of communication for employees. Employees should be encouraged to participate in meetings with top officials for clarification. For employees to be openĀ in their views, manager should have good relation with them. He should communicate with them regularly which will create a sense of togetherness and openness.
Managers should be trained to handle people from different cultural backgrounds. This will rule out the problems arising due to employees being from different cultures.
Corporate parties and team building activities are good methods of encouraging employee participation. Suggestion boxes and graffiti walls are creative techniques of creating a clear line of upward communication. While addressing concerns of employees, managers need to 'listen' instead of 'hear'. This will rule out chances of information being altered.
There are many advantages of upward communication such as boosting employee morale to improve productivity, being aware of what employees expect, and improving decision-making processes. It is a proven fact that proper communication at all levels has reduced workplace conflicts and increased employee productivity considerably.