The use of informal communication at the workplace is not always considered appropriate. Some people think it serves as a means for gossip or that it amounts to employees flouting or ignoring their bosses’ strict rules about what can and cannot be said in the workplace when communicating with others.
Informal communication is a type of nonverbal communication standard in the workplace. It is unofficial and based on the informal, social relationships formed in a workplace outside of the normal business structure hierarchy. That’s why informal business communication can occur between the CEO and an hourly worker. This kind of communication is crucial for employee morale and encourages the feeling of belonging for employees and clients or customers.
To understand the difference between formal and informal business communication, one must first define what each of these means. Informal business communication occurs when the communication is not dictated by the established hierarchical organization of the business. On the other hand, formal business communication occurs when the communication adheres to a set policy and is structured by the hierarchical guidelines of the organization.
There are many kinds of informal communication in the workplace. A common type is when an employee has a friendly conversation with another employee about something that happened during the day, like a good or bad meeting. This kind of informal conversation is often used to clear up something between two employees or sometimes to help build a better rapport with them. In large business firms, group meetings are frequent, making informal communication very important to keep personnel communicating.
Informal communication is useful when there is an opportunity to share information, concerns, opinions, and solutions to problems.
Four kinds of informal communication can be used in the workplace:
1. Single strand – this is where one person gives information to one other person, and that person leaves and continues the process with another person
2. Gossip chain – this is where a group of people (usually three or more) will talk about one topic for a period of time and then leave to talk about another topic with another group of people. The main idea behind this type of informal communication is to get everyone’s opinion on a subject.
3. Probability chain occurs when one individual tells another individual some confidential information, but in turn, that individual shares it with yet another individual who also has information on the subject and so on until all employees know about it. The problem with this type of informal communication is that if too many people know about something, it can become common knowledge, which means it won’t be confidential anymore.
4. Cluster chain occurs when one employee tells other employees about something important or relevant that needs their attention/input.