Bottom Up Communication in Organizations4 min read
Bottom up communication can be defined as the types of communication that helps to achieve the desired outcomes for the employee and the organization in a variety of ways in terms of needs, values, perceptions, and opinions.
Bottom up communication helps to promote behaviors like energy saving that be used for significant resources. What is less clear is the comparative value of different approaches available to communicators. While it is generally agreed that ‘bottom-up’ approaches, where individuals are actively involved rather than passive, are preferable to ‘top-down’ authority-led projects, there is a dearth of evidence that verifies why this should be.
Additionally, while the literature has examined the mechanics of the different approaches, there has been less attention paid to the associated psychological implications. This article reports on an exploratory comparative study that examined the effects of six distinct communication activities. The activities used different communication approaches, some participative and others more top-down informational.
Two theories, from behavioral studies and communication, were used to identify key variables for consideration in this field-based evaluation. The evaluation aimed to assess not just which activity might be most successful, as this has limited generalizability, but to also gain insight into what psychological impacts might contribute to success. Analysis found support for the general hypothesis that bottom-up approaches have more impact on behavior change than top-down. The study also identified that, in this instance, the difference in reported behavior across the activities related partly to the extent to which intentions to change behavior were implemented.
One possible explanation for the difference in reported behavior change across the activities is that a bottom-up approach may offer a supportive environment where participants can discuss progress with like-minded individuals. A further possible explanation is that despite controlling for intention at an individual level, the preexistence of strong intentions may have an effect on group success. These suggestive findings point toward the critical need for additional and larger-scale studies.
5 BEST TIPS TO COMMUNICATE BOTTOM UP
Communication is only communication if the message gets where it needs to go and is received by those who need to hear it. Here are five tips to successfully communicate bottom up across your organization:
1. COMMUNICATE FACE TO FACE WHEREVER YOU CAN: Research shows that less than 10 percent of the meaning of a message is carried through the actual words. If we just have written communication without any face-to-face communication, people are going to miss the message. If your workforce is geographically dispersed, then make use of technology. Seeing each other’s’ faces makes a huge difference.
2. CLARITY AND SIMPLICITY IS KEY: The person who defines whether a message is clear is not the sender but the receiver. Unfortunately, I often hear people say, “I must have said it five times. I was perfectly clear.” This shows the disconnect between what the speaker thinks is clear and what is actually clear. Be aware of your messages: Make sure your communication is to the point and not vague. A lack of clarity will only be magnified as the message gets relayed through the layers of the organization. Simple is powerful.
3. BUILD IN ACCOUNTABILITY. Many organizations suffer from what I call a thermal layer where communications do not penetrate. This is quite often the case when leadership conveys a message that they expect to get relayed down through the organization, and then they find out it was not relayed. When you have a message that needs to be cascaded down throughout the organization, give folks a deadline for making that happen and hold them accountable. One more thing: check in with the bottom levels of your organization to make sure the message was received.
4. USE MULTIPLE MEANS OF COMMUNICATION. For example, hold town hall meetings when you have to convey strategic initiatives and other vital information so that people can hear it directly from the leader. Use your organization’s intranet to post important information. Of course, you can’t expect people to always check that website, but you can persuade them so they are more likely to use it. Email, website, meetings, and town halls all have their place. Important messages need to be shared in multiple ways.
5. REMEMBER THAT MESSAGES CAN GET DISTORTED. When people are stressed, their listening decreases and so what they do hear becomes distorted. If you are trying to convey tough messages (which will cause stress), try to keep your message short, and then actually invite dialogue. For tough messages, one-way communication is not sufficient. Invite questions. Talk with folks. This helps people to absorb the message.