Is Horizontal Communication Right for Your Business?

horizontal communication

Table of Contents

What is Horizontal Communication?

Horizontal communication, or lateral communication as its sometimes called, refers to the exchange of information or communication between individuals or groups at the same hierarchical level in a business.

Improving workplace communication isn’t always easy. Many factors can hinder effective lateral communication, from misunderstandings and conflicting agendas to power imbalances and other challenges.

In this post, we’ll explore the benefits and challenges of horizontal communication and provide tips and best practices for improving communication within your company.


Advantages of Horizontal Communication

Let’s explore the potential benefits of horizontal communication, which include improved teamwork and collaboration, enhanced problem-solving and decision-making, increased efficiency, and productivity, greater employee engagement and satisfaction, and effective communication and relationship-building.

  • Improved teamwork and collaboration:

    • Allows coworkers to share ideas, knowledge, and resources.

    • Can improve teamwork skills and facilitate better collaboration across different departments.

  • Enhanced problem-solving and decision-making:

    • Improving lateral communication allows team members to share diverse perspectives and approaches.

    • Can lead to more effective critical thinking and collaboration skills within the team.

  • Increased efficiency and productivity:

    • Helps everyone coordinate their efforts and eliminate duplication of work.

    • Can lead to improvements in workflow and time management within the organization.

  • Greater employee engagement and satisfaction:

    • Allows team members to feel heard and valued by management.

    • Can contribute to a positive workplace culture and improve employee feedback.

  • Enhanced communication and relationship-building:

    • Fosters trust and interpersonal skills within the workplace.

    • Can improve communication and relationship-building within the business.

Drawbacks of Horizontal Communication

It is important to consider the drawbacks of horizontal communication because they can negatively affect the efficiency and effectiveness of communication within a business.. Here are the drawbacks of lateral communication:

  • Limited access to information:

    • May not have access to information that is only shared vertically within the business.

    • Can lead to a lack of understanding of the overall strategy and goals of the company.

  • Inefficient communication:

    • Can be time-consuming to engage with multiple people at the same level.

    • Can lead to duplication of efforts and a lack of coordination in the company.

  • Limited authority:

    • May not have the authority to make decisions or take action without the approval of a higher-level manager.

    • Can hinder the ability to respond quickly to issues or business opportunities.

  • Miscommunication:

    • Can lead to misunderstandings or miscommunication due to the lack of a clear chain of command.

    • Can result in conflicting instructions or a lack of follow-through on tasks.

While lateral communication has many benefits for your company, it is important to be aware of these drawbacks and take steps to mitigate them to ensure effective workplace communication.

Examples (or methods) of Horizontal Communication

  • A team leader meeting with their department to discuss an assignment and ask for input on the plan: This is an example of lateral communication because the team leader is talking with everyone laterally in the organization. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss a project and gather input from coworkers, which can improve results and decision-making within the group.

  • A group of coworkers emailing each other updates and documents related to a joint project: This is an example of horizontal communication because the coworkers communicate at the same level in the organization. The emails aim to share updates and documents related to a joint project, which can help improve collaboration and coordination within the team.

  • A coworker asking a colleague for assistance or advice on a task is an example of horizontal communication because the group member is communicating with a colleague at the same level in the organization. The purpose of communication is to seek assistance or advice on a task, which can help improve teamwork and knowledge-sharing within the team.

  • A group of employees participating in a brainstorming session to come up with ideas for a new product or service: This is an example of horizontal communication because the employees are communicating with each other at the same level in the organization. The purpose of the brainstorming session is to generate ideas for a new product or service, which can improve problem-solving and creativity within the team.

  • A team leader sends out an email to their employees to update them on the progress of a project: This is an example of horizontal communication because the team leader is communicating with their team members at the same level in the organization. The purpose of the email is to update the team on the progress of a project, which can improve coordination and productivity within the tea

  • A group of coworkers using a messaging app to communicate and share updates throughout the day: This is an example of horizontal communication because the coworkers communicate at the same level in the organization. The purpose of the messaging app is to communicate and share updates throughout the day, which can improve collaboration and coordination within the department.

Alternatives to Horizontal Communication

Vertical Communication

Vertical communication, also known as hierarchical communication, is the exchange of information or communication between individuals or groups at different organizational levels. It typically flows from higher levels of the organization, such as managers and executives, down to lower levels, such as employees. Vertical communication can take many forms, including formal meetings, written reports, emails, and verbal instructions.

Vertical communication serves several important functions in organizations. It allows managers to share information, expectations, and feedback with employees, which can help ensure that employees are aligned with the goals and objectives of the organization. It also allows employees to share ideas and concerns with management, which can improve decision-making and problem-solve within the organization. Additionally, vertical communication can help to create a sense of transparency and trust within the organization, as it enables open lines of communication between different levels of the organization.

However, vertical communication can also have drawbacks. It can be slower and less efficient than horizontal communication, as it involves more layers of the organization. It can also create a barrier to open and honest communication, as employees may be hesitant to speak up or share ideas with higher-level management. Additionally, vertical communication can lead to a lack of employee empowerment and autonomy, as employees may be expected to follow orders and instructions from higher levels of the organization without having the opportunity to contribute to decision-making. By considering the benefits and drawbacks of vertical communication, organizations can ensure that it is used effectively and efficiently within the organization.

Diagonal communication

Diagonal communication is the exchange of information or communication between individuals or groups that are not at the same level in an organization. It typically involves communication between individuals or groups at different levels of the organization but not in a direct line of authority.

Diagonal communication can be useful in a number of situations. It can bypass communication barriers or bottlenecks within the organization, as it allows individuals or groups to communicate directly without going through the usual communication channels. It can also be used to foster collaboration and knowledge-sharing between individuals or groups that may not normally have the opportunity to work together.

Diagonal communication can be particularly useful in organizations with a flat or decentralized structure, as it allows individuals or groups to communicate and collaborate more directly. However, diagonal communication can also have drawbacks, as it can potentially bypass the usual lines of communication and decision-making within the organization, which can lead to confusion or conflict. It is important for organizations to consider the potential benefits and drawbacks of diagonal communication and to ensure that it is used effectively and efficiently within the organization.

Improving Horizontal communication

So now you know everything there is to know about lateral communication; what can you do to improve things within your own department or business? There are a number of ways that businesses can improve horizontal communication:

  1. Encourage open and honest communication: Encourage employees to speak up and share their ideas, concerns, and feedback with their colleagues. This can help to foster a culture of transparency and trust within the group.

  2. Use technology to facilitate communication: Utilize tools such as messaging apps, project management software, and video conferencing to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of communication within the business.

  3. Encourage collaborative work: Encourage coworkers to work together and share knowledge and resources. This can help to foster a sense of teamwork and contribution within business.

  4. Encourage active listening: Encourage coworkers to listen actively to their colleagues and seek to understand their perspectives. This can help to improve understanding and reduce the potential for miscommunication within the business.

  5. Encourage diversity and inclusivity: Encourage colleagues to share diverse perspectives and ideas, and create an inclusive environment that values the contributions of all team members. This can help to improve problem-solving and decision-making within the company.

  6. Provide training and support: Provide employees with the training and support they need to develop the skills and knowledge necessary for effective communication and collaboration within the business.

By implementing these strategies, companies can improve horizontal communication within their teams and enhance teamwork and collaboration within the organization.

Software & Tools to Improve Horizontal Communication

Messaging and Collaborative Software

Tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts allow teams to talk in real-time through messaging, voice, and video calls. These tools also often include features like file sharing and integrations with other tools.

Slack

Slack is a messaging app designed to facilitate lateral communication and collaboration within departments. It provides a centralized platform for communication, allows for the creation of channels for specific projects or teams, and enables everyone to share files and documents and engage with each other regardless of location. Slack can be an effective tool for improving lateral communication within teams by providing a central hub for the business, allowing employees to easily share information and collaborate on projects, and enabling communication with each other regardless of location.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a collaborative platform that combines chat, video meetings, file storage, and integration with other Microsoft apps. It’s a great tool for improving communication within a group and can facilitate horizontal communication in several ways. MS Teams can use the chat feature to communicate with each other in real-time, share files and documents, and create channels for specific projects or departments. The video meetings feature allows team members to have face-to-face conversations, even if they’re not in the same location. Plus, the integration with other Microsoft apps like Word, Excel, and OneNote makes it easy for teams to collaborate on projects and documents. Microsoft Teams is a user-friendly platform that can help teams communicate and collaborate more effectively.

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is a communication platform that allows users to send messages, make phone calls, and have video chats with other users. It can be an effective tool for improving horizontal communication within an organization by providing a centralized platform for communication, enabling team members to communicate with each other in real time and allowing team members to communicate with each other regardless of location. Hangouts can be accessed from any device with an internet connection, which makes it easy for team members to stay connected and collaborate on projects. In addition, Hangouts allows users to share files and documents, further enhancing team collaboration. Google Hangouts is a convenient and user-friendly platform that can help teams communicate and collaborate more effectively.

Project Management Software:

Tools like Asana, Trello, and Basecamp help employees organize and track tasks, projects, and progress. These tools often include features like task lists, calendars, and file sharing.

Asana

Asana is a project management tool that allows individuals to track and manage their work in one place. It features a visual board interface that allows users to create tasks, assign them to other individuals, and track their progress. Asana also provides a centralized platform for communication, allowing users to easily share files and documents and communicate with each other within the platform. Additionally, Asana provides visibility into the work of the team, allowing users to see the progress of their colleagues and better coordinate their efforts. Overall, Asana is a useful tool for improving communication and collaboration within a group of individuals.

Trello

Trello is a project management tool that allows teams to organize and track their work using a visual board interface. It allows team members to create tasks, assign them to members, and track their progress. Trello also provides a centralized platform for communication, allowing team members to easily share files and documents and communicate with each other within the platform. Additionally, Trello provides visibility into the work of the team, allowing members to see the progress of their colleagues and better coordinate their efforts. Trello is a useful tool for improving team communication and collaboration.

Basecamp

Basecamp is a project management tool that allows individuals to organize and track their work in one place. It features a visual interface that allows users to create tasks, assign them to other individuals, and track their progress. Basecamp also provides a centralized platform for communication, allowing users to easily share files and documents and communicate with each other within the platform. Additionally, Basecamp provides visibility into the work of the group, allowing users to see the progress of their colleagues and better coordinate their efforts. Overall, Basecamp is a useful tool for improving communication and collaboration within a group of individuals.

Video Conferencing Software:

Tools like Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet allow employees to have virtual meetings and presentations through video conferencing. These tools often include features like screen sharing, recording, and virtual breakout rooms.

Zoom

Zoom is a video conferencing tool that allows anyone to communicate and collaborate remotely. It allows users to participate in meetings, webinars, and video conferences with other individuals from anywhere with an internet connection. Zoom features a range of tools and features to facilitate communication, including screen sharing, virtual hand raising, and instant messaging. It also allows users to record meetings and save them for later reference. Overall, Zoom is a useful tool for improving communication and collaboration within a group of individuals who are not in the same location.

Skype

Skype is a communication tool that allows people to communicate and collaborate remotely. It allows users to make voice and video calls and send instant messages to other Skype users from anywhere with an internet connection. Skype also allows users to share files and documents and participate in online meetings with other individuals. It is available on a range of devices, including computers, tablets, and smartphones, making it easy to stay connected with others regardless of location. Overall, Skype is a useful tool for improving communication and collaboration within a group of individuals who are not in the same location.

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is a communication tool that allows individuals to communicate and collaborate remotely. It allows users to make voice and video calls and send instant messages to other Google Hangouts users from anywhere with an internet connection. Google Hangouts also allows users to share files and documents and participate in online meetings with other individuals. It is available on a range of devices, including computers, tablets, and smartphones, making it easy to stay connected with others regardless of location. Overall, Google Hangouts is a useful tool for improving communication and collaboration within a group of individuals who are not in the same location.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is lateral communication the same as horizontal communication?

Although often used interchangeably. Lateral communication and horizontal communication are similar in that they both refer to the exchange of information or communication between individuals or groups that are on the same level within an organization. However, there is a subtle difference between the two terms.

Lateral communication typically refers to communication between individuals or groups that are not in a direct line of authority but are at the same level within the company. It is often used to bypass communication barriers or bottlenecks within the business and to facilitate collaboration between individuals or groups that may not normally have the opportunity to work together.

Horizontal communication, on the other hand, refers to communication between individuals or groups that are at the same level within the organization, regardless of whether they are in a direct line of authority. It is focused on communication within teams and departments and is often used to improve teamwork, collaboration, and decision-making within the business.

Is upward communication the same as vertical communication?

Upward and vertical communication are similar in that they both refer to the exchange of information or communication between individuals or groups at different levels within an organization. However, there is a subtle difference between the two terms.

Upward communication refers to communication that flows from lower levels of the organization to higher levels. It is often used to provide feedback, report progress, or seek guidance from supervisors or managers. Upward communication is important for enabling employees to have a voice and for fostering a culture of transparency and open communication within the organization.

Vertical communication, on the other hand, refers to communication that flows between different levels of the organization, regardless of the direction. It can include both upward and downward communication and is focused on communication between different levels of the organization, such as between employees and managers or between departments.

Overall, both upward and vertical communication is important for facilitating effective communication within organizations and for enabling different levels of the organization to work together effectively.

Is downward communication the same as vertical communication?

Downward and vertical communication are similar in that they both refer to the exchange of information or communication between individuals or groups at different levels within an organization. However, there is a subtle difference between the two terms.

Downward communication refers to communication that flows from higher levels of the organization to lower levels. It is often used to provide employees instructions, policies, or information and is an important part of the managerial process. Downward communication is important for ensuring employees have the information and guidance to do their jobs effectively.

Vertical communication, on the other hand, refers to communication that flows between different levels of the organization, regardless of the direction. It can include downward and upward communication and is focused on communication between different levels of the organization, such as between employees and managers or between departments.

Overall, both downward and vertical communication is important for facilitating effective communication within organizations and for enabling different levels of the organization to work together effectively.

Is Horizontal Communication Right For Your Business

There are several factors that you should consider when deciding if horizontal communication is right for your business:

  1. The size and structure of your organization: Horizontal communication is typically more effective in smaller organizations or in organizations with flatter hierarchies. If your organization has a large number of employees or a highly hierarchical structure, horizontal communication may be less effective.

  2. The nature of your work: Horizontal communication is most effective in work environments where teamwork and collaboration are important. If your business relies heavily on individual contributions or if your employees work independently, horizontal communication may be less effective.

  3. The needs and preferences of your employees: It is important to consider the needs and preferences of your employees when deciding if horizontal communication is right for your business. Some employees may prefer more direct communication with their supervisors, while others may prefer to communicate more horizontally with their peers.

  4. The availability of communication tools: In order for horizontal communication to be effective, you will need to have the right communication tools in place. This may include tools like project management software, video conferencing tools, or instant messaging platforms.

Overall, it is important to carefully assess your organization’s needs and consider all of these factors when deciding if horizontal communication is right for your business.

Table of Contents

Collaboration Software
Collaboration Software

What is Collaboration Software?

Collaboration software is an essential tool for many modern teams, providing a central hub for communication, project management, and document sharing. It allows teams to

Read More »