Superior-subordinate Communication definition

Superior-subordinate communication is communication between a manager and those who directly report to the manager. Studies of superior-subordinate communication are concerned with ensuring communication channels are open, making sure that information is communicated in a respectful way and strengthening the superior-subordinate relationship while achieving organisational goals.

Superior-subordinate communication includes two types of communication: downward communication, of which shareholders instructing management is another example, and upward communication, which is the flow of information from employees to senior management and shareholders.

Superior-subordinate communication has the potential to both strengthen and severely undermine organisational structure, employee engagement and internal innovation. Relationship building is an important part of ensuring effective and transparent superior-subordinate communications.

From the subordinate’s point of view, perceptions of organisational justice are key – the channels of communication and the way comments and ideas are handled will inform these perceptions. If the employee thinks they are being treated unfairly or that the superior is untrustworthy or authoritarian, this can lead to disengagement and in some cases workplace deviance.


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