Informal Communication

What Is Informal Communication in the Workplace?

Informal communication (sometimes referred to as grapevine communication) is often free-flowing throughout an organization. It is characterized as being:

  • Quick
  • Relational
  • Natural
  • Spontaneous

It usually covers a diverse range of topics and doesn’t leave a paper trail. Informal communication often grows naturally via an organization’s employees and the social relationships that they have.

Unlike formal communication (which is communication within an organization that flows through predefined channels), informal communication doesn’t necessarily follow the hierarchical structure from the top of the organization down.

Types of Informal Communication

  • Single strand – this is where one person talks to another person, who then talks to another person.
  • Gossip chain – the most common informal communication type. This is a group conversation where everybody discusses a topic informally.
  • Probability chain – this is when a message is randomly passed between different people in an organization.
  • Cluster chain – one person shares information on a given topic with select individuals. Those individuals then go on to share the topic with another select group of individuals.

Advantages of Informal Communication

  • Improved productivity – due to its nature, informal communication can improve productivity across an organization as work-related issues are discussed and solved swiftly.
  • Healthy workforce relationships – as the communication is entirely informal, it can help create healthy relationships between teammates and friendships that promote better and more collaborative work.

Examples of Informal Communication in the Workplace

  • Messaging apps have become more prevalent in recent years, and there are many popular apps like Slack and Microsoft teams that allow your employees to communicate naturally.
  • The water cooler – the water cooler has become synonymous with informal communication. Of course, it doesn’t have to be around the water cooler – informal chats can happen anywhere in an office.
  • The dinner table – while this kind of informal communication is often referenced within a family setting, it can also be seen in organizations. At home, a child (employee) can ask a parent (boss) anything they like in an informal setting. This happens in organizations on lunch breaks as well – the hierarchy of formal communication isn’t there, and questions can be asked and answered in an informal setting.


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