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Differences Between Formal and Informal Communication

Formal vs Informal Communication

Here is the list of 10 key differences between formal and informal communication based on some important parameters.

BasisFormal CommunicationInformal Communication
Information ControlFollows a proper chain of controlMoves freely in all directions
ReliabilityMore reliable, backed by evidenceLess reliable, and leaves no trail
TimeTakes time to be communicatedTakes very less time to flow through different channels
ScopeHas a predefined agenda on the topicsHas no boundary or agenda
SecrecyDependent on official policies and proceduresNo guaranteed secrecy due to the involvement of various individuals
RecordsThere is appropriate documentation involvedNo documentation is involved
HierarchyUsually has a long chain of commandHas a very short chain of command
AgendaHas a motive for organizational objectivesHas no motive other than personal engagement
LanguageUses a fixed, formal, and respectful language, prohibits the use of slangCan use any language with no prohibition for slang
ExamplesMeetings, speeches, one-on-ones, conferencesGossip, singular talks, text messages

What is Formal Communication?

Formal communication is the form of communication in which information is conveyed through a proper structure and defined channels. It usually involves transferring official information through a specified hierarchy, in a chain-like structure.

Typically, in an organization, the structure starts with leaders and senior staff in different departments and then flows down to lower-level employees. These employees are expected to use formal communication channels when carrying out their responsibilities.

What is Informal Communication?

Informal Communication is multi-faceted; it does not follow any structure or proclaimed norms. It is a candid form of communication moving freely within an organization. The topic of interest in informal communication is not predetermined and individuals engaging in it usually involve in a diverse range of topics.

Informal communication, known as the ‘grapevine’ in organizations, is faster and doesn’t leave a written record. It allows employees to openly discuss work-related issues, saving time and money for the company. Examples include team chats and discussions about salary issues.

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