Bottom-up Communication | Tool or Trouble?

20 Aug 2019

WRITTEN BY Kourounakou Zoe
Director of International Office, Best Workplaces evaluator


TEL.: (+30) 210-896 453-8

Fax.: (+30) 210-896 4737


More information about Best Workplaces here


Two-way communication was always a subject for debate in the companies. Nobody really wants to hear about problems and usually the “door mat" is a convenient solution. At some point, however, the message must reach the recipient and top management is usually not ready to hear or they prefer to "shoot" the messenger who is usually the HR Manager. Internal feedback, although it should be considered as an important tool for the company success, it is treated as a disorder, as an unnecessary evil that opens Pandora’s Box and disrupts the bubble of top management.

Is that the case? Is bottom-up communication so bad or does the company throw away an important opportunity for feedback, development and innovation?



The key word is TRUST between management and employees. True and constructive communication only exists when trust is around. Even the response rate of an employee satisfaction survey indicates whether the workplace is trustful or suspicious. Companies participating at Best Workplaces anonymous survey usually have an average response rate higher than 70%. Lower response rates ring a bell that something is wrong and either the company does not properly communicate its true desire to hear employees’ opinion, or employees believe that it is a waste of time to speak out since they will not be heard and their opinion will hit a wall.

There are companies that conduct an employee satisfaction survey just to justify the existence of their HR department, and there is no solid action plan following the results. In such cases, trust between employees and top management is completely destroyed. When top management decides not to present the employee satisfaction survey results to all employees at the Town Hall meeting, in order to avoid gossiping and corridor discussions, they do manage exactly that; small talk in silos and rumors that severely damage the workplace.

Two-way communication can be a trouble, if it is not done in the right way, if there is no transparency in the way the company handles information and if it is not connected with an honest intention to improve operations and develop a healthy workplace. If this is the case, then the company is doomed. Silos and toxic people will make all talents leave the company soon.

Two-way communication needs two to tango. You can’t have it unless there is an open communication culture. And when we say open communication culture we don’t mean open door policy. A lunch with the GM, if the GM is not a listener, is not enough. It takes more for the employee to feel secure to speak out and say his honest opinion. Trust is the magic word again.

When a company listens carefully, what the employees have to say, bottom-up communication is an excellent tool for development. Employees are very resourceful and they can provide solutions to many costly issues that the company may have. Innovation and creativity can be highly boosted if the employees feel that their ideas are appreciated and implemented. Open communication creates an environment of collaboration and co-creation. Employees feel the responsibility and they become the ambassadors of the corporate vision, especially when the vision itself was a result of their ideas and they were part of it when it was created. When top management asks for feedback, it creates an environment of personal development, where performance appraisal and recognition are not boring HR tools but on the contrary they become great motives for the development of competitive executives. Talents flourish in open communication and they motivate others to follow their example. Moreover, training and development programs are connected to real needs. When a company listens to its people, it becomes “smarter”, more efficient, more generous to its shareholders. It flourishes too.

Most of all, bottom-up communication needs people who listen clearly. People with wide open ears. Managers who are not afraid to listen, who respect other people’s opinion, no matter who the other person is. Bottom-up communication needs managers who deeply understand that the only way to build a culture of trust and to flourish is through listening. Listening is difficult, but being deaf is dangerous.