The HR Dictionary

Informal Communication

Informal communication occurs when two or more people in an organization spontaneously exchange information outside of an official context. Informal communication relies on interpersonal relationships, such as those between friends, coworkers, family, and club members, and is therefore exempt from formality and organizational conventions. Since it can be challenging to determine when a conversation begins and ends, informal communication in the business world is referred to as a ‘grapevine.’

Formal vs Informal Communication

Official information must travel through authorized, predetermined channels and methods in order to be considered formal communication. Information is regulated and must be intentionally communicated in order to be effective. A hierarchical structure and chain of command are followed in formal communication. While carrying out their job responsibilities, employees are required to adhere to formal communication channels.

Informal communication, in contrast, refers to multifaceted communication. Informal communication is unrestricted by pre-established channels and communication routes and can flow freely throughout the organization. 

Types of Informal Communication

  • Single Strand - Information is passed down a line of people in a single-strand chain until it reaches its intended receiver. Information travels through the network from one person to the next. It can spread linearly from one individual to the next. This kind of informal communication network is best compared to an athletic relay event.
  • Gossip Chain - One individual finds the knowledge and passes it along to everyone in the gossip chain. In this network, there is a single person who communicates directly with each of the other users. Here, everyone involved in the communication network converses casually with one another. This chain is similar to a wheel where information is passed to other employees by a central individual who remains stationary. Within a loosely organized organization, one person disseminates information that may or may not be true.
  • Probability Chain - An informative network called a probability chain is one in which each member randomly transmits the identical message to the other members. Information is passed arbitrarily from one person to another under this communication arrangement. The probability chain is a random process in which someone communicates information in line with the probabilistic rules to others, who subsequently convey the knowledge to others in a similar fashion.
  • Cluster Chain - A cluster chain is an informative network in which the message is first communicated to the chosen recipients, who then communicate it to additional chosen recipients, and the cycle repeats itself. After getting the information, some of them pass it along to a select few others while the others decide to keep it to themselves.