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An HR Glossary for HR Terms

Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms

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Informal Communication

Informal Communication in the Workplace

Informal communication is casual communication between coworkers in the workplace. It is unofficial in nature and is based in the informal, social relationships that are formed in a workplace outside of the normal hierarchy of business structure. That is why informal business communication can take place between the CEO and an hourly worker. This type of communication is important in the workplace as it can help with employee morale and can encourage the feeling of belonging for the employees as well as a client or customer.

What is the Difference Between Formal and Informal Business Communication?

Formal communication is the sharing of official information about the workplace. It is dictated by the established hierarchical organization of the business. Informal communication does not follow any rules of predetermined policy that formal does and is the opposite of formal communication. Without looking at specifics, the answer to the question, “What is the difference between formal and informal business communication?” is mostly based on whether the communication is defined by the business structure and its set communication rules, and whether the communication is casual or professional.

Examples of Informal Communication in the Workplace

Good examples of informal communication in the workplace can be seen whenever one employee interacts with another employee in a casual and conversational way. They can talk about the game that was on last night or even about a company policy change.

One of the great informal communication examples is to think of it like a conversation between a family at a dinner table. Any child can turn to the mom or dad of the family (or the boss of the company) and casually ask them questions about something they brought up in a family meeting. It’s a calm and carefree scenario to discuss things.

In the following sections, we will discuss the different types of informal communication in the workplace and examine some advantages and disadvantages of such communication.

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Types of Informal Communication

There are four different types of informal communication:

  1. Single Strand: One person communicates with one person and then they go and communicate with another one person. Communication is traveling from one person to another one person.

  2. Gossip Chain: Group conversation where everyone is talking to each other informally.

  3. Probability Chain: Each individual randomly tells another individual the same message.

  4. Cluster Chain: One person shares information with a group of selected individuals and in turn each of those individuals shares that information with others.

All of these different types of informal communication are all about how information flows between employees outside of a professional and formal meeting scenario.

Informal Communication Advantages and Disadvantages

Informal communication is casual and carefree while formal communication can seem cold and distant. Both these types of communication are important for the workplace, but informal communication is beneficial because it can bridge gaps between departments and create a sense of belonging. Informal communication is friendly and inviting and is a great sign that someone has a friend in the company.

Informal communication is an advantage to business because if employees have friends to communicate with they will enjoy their job more, which can increase productivity. A disadvantage to informal communication is just that, it’s informal. Unofficial or unconfirmed information can be spread to employees, leading to mass disinformation. A great benefit to informal communication is that employees have someone to go to when they don’t understand an aspect of the business. It is a great way for employees to feel connected and to keep abreast with how the business works.

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