Disadvantages of informal communication include rumor spreading, unreliable information and misunderstandings. Informal communication is free from organizational formalities and often occurs between co-workers outside of work at social events.
Informal communication is also known as grapevine communication because there is not a specific source or process for communicating and gathering information. Because of the social nature of informal communication, it can be difficult to control or maintain formal standards of organizational communication. Without these standards, information obtained could be unreliable as it can change while being verbally passed from person to person.
This person-to-person communication style also allows employees to air grievances and complaints in a manner that is not formally recognized by the company. This might mean that employees are less cooperative at work based on the information they obtained outside of work. Informal person-to-person communication also moves quickly and spreads rapidly. It can be difficult for employees and supervisors to control.
Without the normal boundaries of supervisor-to-subordinate relationships, people easily step outside of what is formally accepted, often causing problems in the workplace. Information gained about individuals through informal communication cannot be trusted to inform decisions or make assumptions about the person or subject being discussed.
While informal communication can satisfy the social needs of workers and allow for a feeling of freedom of speech, the associated risk of inappropriate communication can be detrimental to careers and working relationships.