Informal Communication - Definition, Types and Example - (2023)

Informal communication is a type of organizational communicationthat occurs unofficially without using any formal methods, structures, or hierarchy of an organization. It occurs when coworkers communicate informally at work.

It is unofficial and is based on the everyday social ties that develop in the workplace outside of the conventional business hierarchy. As a result, the CEO and an hourly worker can have an informal business conversation, so this communication is vital because it can boost staff morale and provide clients and customers with a sense of belonging.

What is Informal Communication?

Definition: Informal Communicationis defined as the unofficial and casual forms of communication taking place in an organization without following formal communication channels. Different types of informal communication come into play while informally exchanging information without using any prescribed official rules, structures, formalities, methods, and chain of command.

In informal communication. information flows unofficially. It refers to the unscheduled exchange of information between leaders, employees, coworkers, and other organization members.It is generally unstructured and is based on mutual understanding and informal relationships. Because it is conversational, intimate, direct, and adaptable, it is also known as grapevine communication.

Because informal communication in the workplace is so casual, it sometimes overlaps employee positions. It’s common in situations where personnel from different levels work together, gossip, and communicate despite their formal affiliations. This form of efficient communication boosts staff morale and improves relationships.

Types of Informal Communication

Informal workplace communication is generally classified in three following ways-

  1. Peer-to-Peer in which two colleagues get involved in quick and casual chats
  2. Peer-to-Group in which group of colleagues unofficially chat over during office breaks
  3. Peer-to-Organization in which colleagues chat and share information with others

Because of these three classifications, informal communications take place in the following four ways-

1. Single Strand

Information is passed from one person to another in a single sequence in Single Strand Chain communication. The first employee will communicate with the second, who will then communicate with the third, and so forth.

Here, individual A communicates with B, who then communicates with C, D, and so on, forming a chain. The likelihood of facts being skewed in such grapevine communication channels is very high, given the length of the chain.

2. Gossip Chain

People converse informally with one another in groups through Gossip Chain conversations. People gathered around him may hear rumors or facts from one individual.

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This type of communication can be utilized for non-work-related purposes.

3. Probability Chain

A probability Chain is an essential type of communication in which each employee relays the same message to another employee at random. He does not follow any set standards and may discuss this knowledge with anyone in the firm, whether he is a friend or just a casual acquaintance.

In this communication style, the Law of Probability is critical since some people may learn about the information while others may not.

4. Cluster Chain

A cluster chain is a method of communication in which one person may share information with a select group of people, who will either keep the information to themselves or share it with their chosen group.

Formal vs Informal Communications

Informal Communication - Definition, Types and Example - (1)

Formal communication is the exchange of formal workplace information. The company’s established hierarchical structure determines it.

While on the other hand, informal communication is the polar opposite of formal communication in that it does not adhere to any set policy.

Without getting into specifics, the distinction between formal and informal business communication is mainly determined by whether the communication is defined by the business structure and its established communication norms and whether it is casual or professional.

Some of the examples of formal communication are Memos, Bulletin Boards, Intranet, Handouts, Speeches, Meetings, Conferences, Formal One-on-Ones, Letters, Presentations, Organizational blogs, Notice Boards, Emails from managers and leaders, etc.

While common examples of informal communications are gossip, grapevine, probability chain, water cooler conversations, etc.

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Examples of Informal Communication

1. Peer interactions

People in a company conversing casually is a good example of efficient informal communication. This mode of communication focuses on giving advice and providing tools to make it easier for others to ask questions and clarify their issues. It facilitates peer contact because formal communication is not required.

2. Over-communication

In certain circumstances, management strives to be overly pleasant and keep everyone informed, and as a result, valuable information is shared with multiple employees and colleagues. This practice of over-communicating is a prime example of informal communication.

3. Rumor or grapevine

Assume that a manager welcomes an employee into his cabin and converses with him for a long period. The boss wanted to clarify some things, and the conversation was about work. Still, other employees may circulate rumors that the individual will be promoted to a higher position or that he is about to be fired, especially if he comes from the cabin with an angry expression.

4. Policy of Open Doors

Assume Ram is experiencing major problems with a coworker and cannot fix them. He then goes to his boss and tells him about his problems. The manager summons the other employee to his office, where the three of them attempt to resolve any misunderstandings or disputes. Because of the open-door policy, Ram was able to contact his boss, and this was made feasible by the fact that the two were on excellent terms due to the prevalence of informal communication in the workplace.

Advantages of Informal Communication

Informal Communication - Definition, Types and Example - (2)

Our working lives would be stiff and hostile if we had informal communication. Informal catch-ups and exchanges are what hold your company together. They make it easier to onboard new employees, communicate information, and propagate the norms and behaviors integral to your way of working.

Here are a few ways in which informal communication can be advantageous to a business:

1. Get better quality feedbacks

Feedbacks given under stiff and formal conditions can lack the true character or thoughts of the employee. It is important to interact with your team or the staff informally to understand what your employees think. This will help you sense the bigger issues better and will help you understand what your employees think. Informal communication can bring up conversations that the employees would’ve kept to themselves otherwise.

2. Build relationships

Strong relationships are built based on trust. Trust can’t be built with employees until you start interacting informally. Better relationships with staff or employees can positively help the business. It is important to break the ice with your employees by starting informal communication.

3. Enhances your reward and recognition program

Teamwork can be turned into dreamwork only if they are motivated and encouraged. As much as a formal thank you at the end of the presentation is important, it is also important to praise your employees and recognize their work outside the cabin. Please stop by their desk to wish a quick thank you or praise the staff’s hard work using informal communication and see your team feeling happy and accomplished at the end of the day.

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4. Increases innovation

Informal communication helps a person to free up a bit. This can help develop an environment that is collaborative, creative, and innovative. It will encourage the staff to interchange ideas and opinions without holding them back freely. The inclusion of staff in informal conversation can also lift the team spirit.

5. Fostering a positive work environment

Employees will establish a positive work culture if they can freely communicate with one another regardless of their job titles. People in leadership positions, management, and employees are treated equally and readily shared.

Disadvantages of Informal Communication

As everything existing in this world has two sides, with so many advantages of practicing informal communication, there are some disadvantages.

Here are a few ways in which informal communication can be disadvantageous to a business:

1. These conversations are off the record

Informal conversations are usually kept off the record and go undocumented. This is a very unreliable way to communicate in comparison to formal communication. For example, you casually stop by an employee’s desk to assign them a project.

When asked for submission at the deadline, they don’t hand it to you; in this case, you won’t be able to produce proof of this interaction. If this same task would’ve been assigned via a formal email, you’d have that on record.

2. Can cause misunderstandings

The nature of informal communication is very spontaneous. Due to this, conversations can be taken in the wrong way. Message can be passed down better in a formal environment.

This is especially the case with instant messaging and updates on project boards.

3. Limits productivity

Management of informal communication is necessary. If not managed, these conversations can potentially distract the team, which will result in less productivity.

If not monitored, you’ll never know how stopping someone for a quick chat can turn into a long unproductive conversation.

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4. Lacks accuracy

Like the Chinese whisper game, where a message is distorted by being passed around in a group, similarly, one lacuna of informal communication is that it can start with a simple message but can end up as exaggerated gossip.

Your team might start believing the gossips rather than official communication. If rumors are fueled over an unhealthy line, it can create misunderstandings. These misunderstandings can create a destructive and negative work environment in the official space.


On the concluding note, it is important to understand that organizations should try to balance their informal and formal communication practices, and for this, they should be more intentional about how they want to share information.

Proper inclusion of both of these communication practices can help in the effective channelization of formal organizational practices as well as in the constructive use of informal feedback, redirect, and recognition that ultimately ensures a productive work environment in the organization.

What are your thoughts about the effectiveness of informal communications in an organization? Share your opinion with us in the comment section below.

Also Read

  1. Workplace Communication – Definition, Importance and Tools
  2. Principles of Communication – Definition, Types and Process
  3. Communication Plan – Benefits, Template and Tips
  4. Oral Communication – Definition, Importance and Types
  5. Written Communication – Definition, Advantages and Disadvantages
  6. Communication Process – Definition, Elements and Importance
  7. Purpose of Communication
  8. Horizontal Communication – Definition, Importance and Advantages
  9. Linear Model of Communication
  10. Berlos Model of Communication Explained – Components, Structure and Criticism

Table of Contents

  • What is Informal Communication?
  • Types of Informal Communication
    • 1. Single Strand
    • 2. Gossip Chain
    • 3. Probability Chain
    • 4. Cluster Chain
  • Formal vs Informal Communications
  • Examples of Informal Communication
    • 1. Peer interactions
    • 2. Over-communication
    • 3. Rumor or grapevine
    • 4. Policy of Open Doors
  • Advantages of Informal Communication
    • 1. Get better quality feedbacks
    • 2. Build relationships
    • 3. Enhances your reward and recognition program
    • 4. Increases innovation
    • 5. Fostering a positive work environment
  • Disadvantages of Informal Communication
    • 1. These conversations are off the record
    • 2. Can cause misunderstandings
    • 3. Limits productivity
    • 4. Lacks accuracy
    • Conclusion!
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