Define Perceptual Process. What is Formal and Informal Communication?


Communication involves something being sent to a receiver. What the receiver does with or to the communicated message is the most vital ‘part of the whole system. The perceptual process thus becomes a key element in our understanding of organizational communication. The perceptual process in general is subject to many factors such as emotions, needs, values, and interests. This may lead to important difference in the way any two people perceive the same persons or message. Sheldon Zalldnd and Timothy Costelo have summarized much of the literature on perception in the organizational setting. Most communications take place in interaction with others. How one perceives the “other” in the interaction process vitally affects how one will interpret the communication.


In any organization, the formal system of communication is deliberately established. Who should report to whom in what frequency, how should written communications move in the hierarchy, which is the first level where action should be initiated and then passed on to successive higher levels-all these are formally laid down to guide communication along desired lines. But as Simon pointed out, even if there is an elaborate system of formal communication, this system will always be supplemented by a complementary system of informal communication. Information, advice and even orders flow, many a time, along informal channels of communication.

The informal network of communication is based on social relations within the organization: Two. persons at different levels in the organization may be communicating with each-other in a way not formally charted out in the organization. The social relations like friendship of enmity may create such informal condition of communication. The phenomenon of informal communication has been acknowledged as the “grapevine” that creates an actual system of relationship in the organization, which is vastly different from what is formally prescribed. In so far as the “grapevine” supplements the formal sources of information in the organization, it has its usefulness in organizational life.

Often the tendency, however, is to discourage openness and spread rumor, hence the informal channels may not always play a constructive role. Yet, as Simon observes, “the grapevine is valuable as a barometer of public opinion in the organization members, and their attitudes towards these topics.” It needs to be cautioned that too much reliance on the informal channels may lead to the undermining of the system of formal communication in the organizations.

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