Both informal communication and formal communication take place in any organization whether it be business or our personal family lives. But we need to recognize the difference.
Informal communication is casual and spontaneous, whereas formal communication is more thought-out and prepared from learned experiences or organized training that present rules and conventions authoritated by business and formal etiquette.
Informal communication comes from communication activities outside of those formally learned at home through discipline, or at school through education, or in business through our own personal experiences and formal training.
It falls under the social communication of grapevines and rumors, casual conversations and inter-relational activities outside of the formal or public arenas.
We do not behave the same way at work as we do at home or at play. I always say that people are at their best at work. We really don’t know someone until we’ve stayed with them outside of work for a few days-or a few hours even, with some people.
Informal communication may not be as reliant as formal communication where more accountability is expected. In an organizational setting, such as business, or association and the like, communication is connected with official status-quo or protocols of the formal channels of structure and culture which the line of manager/subordinate reporting system is expectedly accepted.
In order to understand informal communication, we need to understand formal communication and then realize that informal communication is what takes place without the formal addition of convention and ceremonies.
In business the different forms of formal communication include departmental functionality, activities taking place within meeting and conference settings, verbal and written communication through telephone, memos and bulletins, etc.
It is safe to also recognize that informal communication may be vulnerable to being deceptive and imprecise in its casualness – conscious or unconscious. In a formal setting, people take the time to recognize the consequences of transmitting any wrong or incomplete information. But in an informal setting, the quality of communication may be affected by the more relaxed or careless attitude or behaviour.
However, both formal and informal communication is found in an organization, depending on the level of business experience and training one possesses in his or her personal life. An organization can make efficient use of informal communication by confirming and affirming that which is being communicated by the untrained or less trained individual.
Informal communication, like formal communication can be expressed verbally or non-verbally by words, tone of voice, signs such as glances and gestures and even silence. For the purpose of effective communication, one needs to identify and affirm anything that may be communicated, if unsure of the true meaning behind the communicator.