What Are Formal and Informal Communication Networks?

Formal communication networks facilitate official communication within any organization. Informal communication networks are characterized by unofficial and unpredictable communication. Both networks may include small or large groups of people.

Formal communication channels are set up by the organization and accepted as norms by its members. This can be divided into two areas: centralized and decentralized networks. Centralized networks require a central authority. While experts agree that this is suitable for simple matters, they also admit that the possibility of information overload is an issue.

Alternatively, decentralized networks communicate information to all members, which experts claim increases worker satisfaction. According to the University of Texas Arlington, both networks deal with openness, reachability and member-equality issues


Conversely, as referenced by Revision Guru, informal networks tend to exclusively operate within the member communities and help replace communication channels when formal avenues have broken down. For example, experts cite the grapevine activity as one where members spread rumors and use informal networks to distort the actual formal communication. The University asserts that these rumors can include feelings of anxiety when anticipating bad news, wish-fulfillment when anticipating good news and wedge-driving to create polarization. Organizations can quell these rumors by increasing openness to make formal communication more efficient.