Top-down communication: What it is and how to implement it

como implementar la comunicación descendente

A company’s internal communication greatly influences its performance in the public eye. By internal communication we mean contact between departments, reporting (or upward communication) and, finally, downward communication, which follows the chain of command.

But what is downward communication, to what extent is it important for companies, and how can a human resources strategy be implemented to improve its effectiveness?

What is top-down communication?

Downward communication is that which follows the chain of command, so it is transmitted from superior to subordinate. In general, it refers to the transmission of orders, either from management to middle management or from middle management to employees.

Therefore, unlike the other types of internal communication, downward communication is not bidirectional. That is, there tends to be no feedback from the person taking the order and, if there is, the superior may choose to ignore it.

Just as other types of internal communication are proliferating, top-down communication is becoming less and less popular: the importance of employee feedback is increasing and companies are becoming more horizontal, which means favoring bottom-up communication and maximizing employee autonomy.

Despite this, orders remain key in any company, as decision-making still rests with management. Therefore, communicating them effectively is a must for most companies. And to achieve this, it is important to know the characteristics of downward communication, the parameters that we can regulate:


  • It is a unidirectional communication:

As mentioned, downward communication seeks to transmit information from one sphere to another. This is why at the time it is carried out, employees are rarely asked for feedback, although this is a practice that is changing.

  • It is usually managed by Human Resources:

Downward communication can be of three types: from management to managers, from managers to employees or from management to employees. With the exception of manager-to-employee, information is usually distributed by the company’s HR department.

  • It does not have a specific channel: 

Just as there are very marked channels for upward communication, downward communication can be carried out through a wide variety of channels. In the end, each company chooses the ones that work best for it and maintains them over time, but it has freedom of choice.

The most common channels are e-mail, the Intranet or face-to-face, the latter being more common in manager-employee communication. Despite this, some companies use bulletin boards or implement face-to-face more frequently.

  • It is informative in nature: 

This, bearing in mind that giving orders is, after all, providing information. Despite this, it should be noted that only using it in this way tends to be a bad practice. Increasingly, companies are opting to use top-down communication to give feedback to employees and congratulate them when they deserve it. Communicating in a disinterested way is good for the business climate.

  • The message can be misinterpreted: 

It is realistic to assume that managers, in general, have a broader knowledge base than managers and, of course, employees. Because of this, information that is very clear to a manager can be misinterpreted by employees.

Similarly, two-step downward communication can generate a telephone effect, where some of the information gets lost in the chain. Therefore, it is most effective for communication to be direct and, whenever possible, personal, as feedback can be sought instantaneously.

Best practices in downstream communication

1. Ask for feedback:

Asking for feedback is not only a good practice when implementing top-down communication, but it has countless benefits. In addition to making the employee feel heard and valued, asking for feedback when giving an order is an ideal way to improve.

It is very likely that your employee knows his field of work much better than you do, and by simply asking him if he has any doubts or what he thinks of the action, you could obtain very valuable information.

2. Don’t just communicate orders

In any leadership course for companies, you will learn that if you only communicate with your employees to give them work, your relationship will tend to worsen over time. Although this is not a problem for certain employee profiles, the truth is that many people value having a good relationship with their manager.

Therefore, it is advisable to maintain a good relationship with your employees, be proactive and talk to them casually. In this way you will not only improve downward communication, but also the working environment of your company.

3. Teambuilding

Teambuilding is indispensable for any company, as it is a way to foster a good work environment. Within this, Teambuilding activities also serve to bring employees and managers closer together and build closer relationships. In this way, the distance between departments is reduced, which improves the willingness of employees to listen to their superiors.

In other words, implementing Teambuilding activities is a way to improve the relationship between employee and manager, a relationship that will always influence work dynamics.

4. Cut the chains

A common problem in large companies is long chains of information: the manager gives an order to middle management, who pass it on to HR for transmission to the relevant employees. In this process, two people have had to reinterpret the information, which usually means losing information along the way.

Therefore, one of the ways to improve downward communication is with direct contact. This way you avoid losing some of the information while freeing up work in other departments. Of course, you have to assess who has more workload, as well as the importance of the information: if it is not particularly important, there is no problem in having someone else manage it.

5. Choose the most appropriate channel

Depending on the message you want to convey, it is likely that one channel will be more effective than another. However, every company is different, and what works best in one may not be as effective in another.

For example, companies that work telematically benefit more from videoconferencing, while face-to-face companies may convene meetings in the office to provide the same information. On the other hand, a telematics company will use chat more than face-to-face to give orders. And all this varies depending on the size of the workforce and the number of employees per manager.

This is why it is important for each company to analyze its needs to create the most appropriate top-down communication plan.

6. Take cultural differences into account

Large companies are made up of a wide variety of people from different cultures and with different habits. This is why standardizing the communication process too much is a bad practice.

This refers to the personal touch. No employee wants personalized mailings, but it is beneficial to identify employee preferences. For example, there are profiles that do not appreciate being teased, while for others it is a method of lightening the mood. Although identifying these tendencies in large teams can be very complicated, any manager of less than 10 employees should be able to do so.