Difference Between Formal And Informal Communication

Difference Between Formal And Informal Communication

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Rashmi Karan
Manager - Content
Updated on Nov 30, 2023 11:48 IST

Both formal and informal communication is crucial for any business. Both are important and effective in their usage and application. Formal communication refers to the communication carried out through official channels in the organization. Such communication usually happens between managers or employees or superiors and subordinates. It may be oral or written, but the entire record of such communication is kept within the organization.

Informal communication is usually used for communication on a personal level, although it also occurs in the workplace and within the workplace. It is usually done face-to-face or through a phone call or message. Compared to formal communication, it has no official recognition and is not supported by specific organisational communication principles. However, it is said that it is the best way to maintain a positive atmosphere. The article discusses formal and informal communication and the differences between them.

Formal and Informal Communication

What Is Formal Communication?  

Formal communication is a communication system that is based on officially designated channels and systems. In an organizational environment, formal communication is described as the sending and receiving of official documents, letters, memorandums, reports, and policy or procedure manuals, among others. The main characteristics of formal communication are-

  • Involves pre-established protocols: This indicates that the communication must go through specific channels according to the hierarchical levels of the company.
  • It can be oral or written: While some agreements only need simple conversations, others must be done in writing, such as documents or memos.
  • Relationships are formal: This formality usually occurs in companies where relationships between employees are severe and formal since the company establishes them in advance.

This form of communication is supported by authoritative organizational structures and guidelines, which help ensure that everyone understands it. An example is sensitive information intended only for the recipient and must be communicated formally.

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Two main advantages of formal communication are:

  • A written document or any other documentary evidence always supports it.
  • In general, it has a significant influence on the organizational structure.
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What Is Informal Communication?

This type of communication is based on personal relationships with someone and, for the same reason, is free from all kinds of organizational formalities and corporate rules. Compared to formal communication, informal communication does not have a specific classification. Therefore, for the same reason, it can take very different forms.

Characteristics of informal communication 

It is reliable: It has much more reliable information than the management level. However, rumours can arise with false information.

It does not demand accountability: The exchange of messages in this type of communication is free of responsibilities before the high executive levels and the company’s authority.

It has less control: The managerial level of the company does not manage this communication process. This is because the employees are in charge of directing and controlling information communication.

However, one of the main disadvantages of informal communication is that written documents do not support it; therefore, it is not usually possible to use it as evidence or proof in case of need. An example of informal communication at work is when an employee interacts with another employee in a casual and impromptu way. They can talk about a cricket match, their Friday plans, or even share their vacation plans.

The main advantage of informal communication is its speed and agility, which drive decision-making.

Now, let us check out the difference between formal and informal communication.

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Difference Between Formal And Informal Communication

Formal Communication Informal Communication
Trustworthy Less credible and lacks support
The organization creates formal communication channels through the hierarchical levels and the established norms. Informal communication is spontaneous by all the company members without following the official levels.
Transmits instructions, orders, and everything related to the organizational system. Informal communication speeds up all the necessary procedures and even helps obtain additional information.
Known as official communication Can sometimes be regarded as rumours
Slow process due to bureaucratic procedures Quick and immediate
The company itself creates the design of formal communication Informal communication is improvised and occurs impulsively
The information in formal communication must follow a chain of command and predefined channels and be kept secret The messages flow freely
Maintains a clear context of privacy No privacy barriers
Documentary evidence of formal communication is always available Supporting documents in informal communication do not exist or are not available.
Formal communication must go through many processes before being communicated. No such process is involved.

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The difference between formal and informal communication is usually quite broad; however, its existence is necessary within the company. The formal one is much stricter, must follow some protocols, and is limited to assigned activities. On the other hand, the informal one is spontaneous; it must not follow any protocol and occurs due to the need for communication.


Which communication channels are commonly associated with formal communication?

Formal communication channels often include official meetings, presentations, written reports, company newsletters, formal emails, official documents, and designated communication platforms within an organization.

Which communication channels are associated with informal communication?

Informal communication channels include informal conversations, social media platforms, personal messaging apps, informal emails, phone calls, text messages, and impromptu discussions outside formal work settings.

Can both formal and informal communication coexist within an organization?

Yes, in most organizations, both formal and informal communication coexist. While formal communication ensures the flow of official information and maintains order, informal communication helps build relationships, foster teamwork, and facilitate social connections among individuals.

How does formal communication differ from informal communication?

The main difference between formal and informal communication lies in its structure, rules, channels, and level of professionalism. Formal communication is official, planned, and follows predefined protocols, while informal communication is spontaneous, relaxed, and occurs naturally.

About the Author
Rashmi Karan
Manager - Content

Rashmi is a postgraduate in Biotechnology with a flair for research-oriented work and has an experience of over 13 years in content creation and social media handling. She has a diversified writing portfolio and aim... Read Full Bio