What is Communication? Definition, Features, Types, Importance, Process, Barriers, and Ways To Reduce

What is Communication?

Communication is the process of exchanging messages, ideas, views, or any information between two people, groups, teams, or organizations through an appropriate medium. It is simply sharing information from one person to another.

In organizational settings, such an exchange of information is called organizational communication. For the communication to be effective, the message should be sent in a way that the message received is as close to the meaning as possible of the message intended.

Communication is the essence of management functions. Without its effectiveness, no managers can perform managerial activities effectively. It is pervasive in nature. It helps to transmit organizational matters in a meaningful way as such the matters are sent and received appropriately within and outside the organization.

Communication is not limited to words or written form, it can be done even when people do not speak such as by eye contact, actions, expressions, etc. However, its main objective remains the same i.e. to share and receive information.

Objectives of Communication

The following are the main objectives of organizational communication.

  • To exchange the organizational matters within and outside the organization.
  • To facilitate the coordination among the organizational elements.
  • To facilitate smooth functioning.
  • To establish a healthy working relationship between all organizational members.
  • To overcome the resistance to changes.

Characteristics of Communication

Communication is a two-way process where the transmission is done between the sender and receiver. The following are its main features:

Two Parties

Communication to be there at least there must be two parties or people i.e. a sender and a receiver. The sender creates a meaningful message and the receiver is the target for which the message is created.

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It is a pervasive function of management as it is the most essential to all organizations at all levels of management. Managers must use communication to perform any of the managerial functions.

Two-Way Process

For its effectiveness, it should be a two-way process. In organizational settings, top management create plans and transfer them to lower level for implementation. And, the lower management should report to them for the achievement or failure of such plans.

Different Forms

There can be various forms of communication used in organizations based on purpose and organizational culture. Such as verbal, non-verbal, oral, written, or symbolic.

Continuous Process

Communication continues till the existence and performance of the organization. It is the basis of organizational functions. It has been playing an important role in implementing managerial functions.

Communication Structures

The structure of communication is also known as a channel or network which is a pattern of contact among members for a smooth flow of information in the organization. It regulates the flow of information in the organization.

Related: What is Organizational Structure?

  • Chain Structure – In this, one person in a communication network communicates with only one person either vertically up or down. They must follow the chain of command.
  • Y-Structure – The structure in which all information is controlled by two main persons at the top level of the structure is called Y-structure.
  • Wheel Structure – The wheel structure looks like a wheel of a car where the central person is pivotal. In this structure, subordinates communicate with and through one manager.
  • Circular Structure – In a circular network, the message moves in a circle. Each person can communicate with two neighborhood colleagues at the right and left only.
  • Free Flow Structure – Under such a communication structure, there is no restriction on the flow of information.

Process of Communication

The person or point where a meaningful message is created and who transmits to the target person or place is the sender. Whereas a place or a person which is expected the information or message to receive and understand is called the receiver.

The media and source through which the message is transmitted are called the communication medium. The communication process completes with the effective coordination of the sender, medium, and receiver. The following are the elements or steps of the communication process.


A sender is a person who has the willingness to communicate, has a need to do, or is under an obligation to pass the information to another person, department, or organization.


The message is the subject matter of the communication. It is in the form of information, command, instruction, guidelines, or legal documents. Senders create the message, idea, or information and target to send to another party for a specific purpose.


Encoding is the process of transmitting a message in an understandable form so that it will be easy to communicate. The purpose of encoding is to make the message understandable to the receivers.

Medium or Channel

Every message needs to be transmitted to the target receiver through a medium or channel. In organizations, managers use mediums such as print, pictures, sounds, telephones, g-mail, gestures, etc.


A receiver is a person who is expected to receive and understand the message of the sender. Communication does not take place if it is not received by the receiver.


It is the process whereby the receiver interprets encoded messages into meaningful information to them. The encoding process has two steps – the first receiver receives the message and then interprets it.


Feedback is the response the receiver gives back to the sender regarding how effectively he understood the message. Feedback determines whether or not the message is understood as expected.

Types of Organizational Communication

In organizations, managers can use different types of communication as to the purpose, urgency, nature of the receiver, etc. The most common types are mentioned below:

Formal Communication

It represents communication made through a formal channel of command in the organization structure. Here, the flow of information is controlled by the top management of the organization. It can be further referred to as the way through which instructions, plans, policies, and procedures move in the organization. It has further four types:

  • Downward – In such a communication information flows from superiors to subordinates.
  • Upward – Information flows from subordinates to superiors.
  • Horizontal – It is the process of communicating information through and with the same hierarchal level in the organizational structure.
  • Diagonal – Here, two parties from different departments of two different levels are involved in interchanging the information.

Informal Communication

It implies communication among people through informal contacts or indirect channels. It is not designed by the top-level management but coexists with the formal system. It does not follow the formal chain of command. It has mainly two forms:

  • Grapevine – It is an informal pathway for the flow of information among people.
  • Rumors – Rumors are widely spread opinions without authority for their truth.

Related: Formal Vs. Informal Group

Interpersonal Communication

It implies communication between and among two or more people in the organization. It is the process of sharing information between two or more people face-to-face or through any other direct channel. It can be oral or written.

  • Oral – It involves the exchange of information with the help of spoken words.
  • Written – It involves transmitting messages in written words in the form of letters, memos, reports, etc.

Non-Verbal Communication

Communication through gesture or body posture is often referred to as non-verbal communication. If there is face-to-face communication between two persons, they can better understand their feelings, emotions, and attitudes with the help of non-verbal type.

Importance of Communication

Management functions like planning, organizing, controlling, staffing, directing, leadership, motivating, etc. are essential to accomplish the targeted goals of the organization. But they can not be done effectively if the communication is not there.

Communication is an indispensable function of management without which the success of an organization can not be imagined. Its benefits can be pointed out below:

  • The basis for decision-making and planning
  • Fosters coordination
  • Effective leadership
  • Increases managerial efficiency
  • Motivation and morale
  • Effective control
  • Smooth functioning
  • Job satisfaction
  • Healthy work relationships.
  • Ensures goal achievement, etc.

Barriers To Communication

Message transmission can be more effective when the receiver understands the message exactly the same way the sender has expected. But, it is not always possible because of various obstacles. The common barriers to effective communication are mentioned below:

Process Barriers

If information is disturbed in the different stages of the communication transmission process, such barriers are called process barriers. Reasons for process barriers may include:

  • Excessive use of symbols in encoding creates problems for the sender.
  • Lack of using feedback and follow-up also creates a disturbance in information transmission.

Physical Barriers

Transmission of information may be disturbed by some of the distances like organizational structure, location, layout, etc. Such obstacles are related to physical barriers. It may be caused by:

  • The physical distance between the sender and receiver.
  • Because of a complex organizational structure.

Psychological Barriers

Those obstacles which arise due to the motives, attitudes, behaviors, etc. of the sender and receiver are called psychological barriers. It may be because of:

  • Differences in the perception of the sender and receiver are also a strong barrier.
  • Emotional factors such as anger, hate, fear, love, jealousy, etc. also influence message transmission.

Semantic Barriers

Semantics is the study of the meaning of words. This barrier occurs when people interpret the same thing in different ways. This can be because of the use of complex words, sentences, etc.

Technological Barriers

Technological barriers are related to the equipment, devices, and information and communication technologies used in the organization.

Ways To Reduce Barriers

As we discussed, different barriers can arise while communicating information within or outside the organization. However, attempts can be made by the manager to reduce such barriers. Some of the ways to reduce such barriers and encourage effective communication are pointed out below:

  • Use simple language.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Utilize feedback.
  • Ensure two-way communication.
  • Avoid information overload.
  • Develop mutual trust and confidence.
  • Encourage teamwork.
  • Use appropriate channels.
  • Maintain consistency.
  • Understand the receiver and communicate the message, etc.

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