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Mastering Diagonal Communication for Workplace Collaboration

Do you believe that surpassing departmental barriers can lead to a spark in innovation? If so, you’re not alone.

Many of us feel that employees should be able to communicate freely with each other without having to navigate through multiple layers of approvals. This is crucial because these layers lengthen the process and cause delays in business communication, subsequently affecting growth in several ways. 

The good news is that there’s a simple solution to tackle this issue—diagonal communication. With proper strategies, you can implement this communication plan seamlessly, no matter the size and complexity of your organization.

As always, we’re here to break this down for you. Let’s understand what diagonal communication is and explore its benefits, challenges, and strategies for workplace communication improvement.

What Is Diagonal Communication?

Diagonal or crosswise communication connects individuals who don’t share a direct hierarchical relationship but belong to different hierarchical levels, departments, or teams.

Unlike other types of communication, diagonal communication eliminates barriers between different departments and levels, enabling easier cross-functional communication. This brings you the benefits of team collaboration, an agile work environment, and enhanced productivity. 

Here are some examples of diagonal communication:

  • The customer support team consults with a development team leader to determine the availability of an upcoming feature requested by a customer
  • A copywriter interviews an engineer to gain technical insights for creating a comprehensive product guide
  • A product development lead collaborates with a customer support representative to gain a better understanding of customer needs and pain points
  • An HR professional and the VP of sales collaborate to define the requirements and qualifications for a new sales team position
  • A marketing specialist seeks guidance from a finance manager on budget allocation for an upcoming campaign

Benefits of Implementing Diagonal Communication in Your Team

Based on the above information, you might have already guessed some of the benefits of diagonal communication. Let’s list them all down for you. 

Easy collaboration 

What if employees could simply collaborate and assign tasks to each other directly? Diagonal communication channels can help with that. It eliminates the need for longer, indirect, and convoluted channels of communication, speeding up collaboration and decision-making across departments. 

Quicker access to crucial data 

Diagonal communication allows information and data to move freely without any obstacles or distractions. 

Suppose a software engineer is working on improving a product. To understand the pain points and areas of improvement in the product, they need to know how customers interact with the product. This is where someone from the marketing department with relevant data can help. 

Without support for diagonal communication, the process would involve multiple stakeholders, leading to unnecessary bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and delays. 

Better employee engagement and job satisfaction

When you encourage open communication, everyone gains confidence in performing their jobs efficiently.

They can access all relevant information without hesitation, which helps them engage more effectively with their day-to-day work and improves satisfaction. As the communication barrier diminishes, both leaders and employees feel empowered. 

Diagonal communication is also closely linked with horizontal leadership. In horizontal leadership, all employees have an active voice and can be involved in any task in the organization. 

Fewer chances of misinterpretation of information

The more layers a message needs to pass through, the higher the chances of misinterpretation. Diagonal communication is direct and doesn’t involve unnecessary filters. 

Thanks to this, it’s highly probable that the receiver will get the message in its original form. 

The only caveat? Everyone should use the same communication tools so that the information doesn’t get lost in the process. For example, if someone uses email to communicate, and another prefers video calls, the message may be lost in the translation. 

Every organization should have at least one common direct communication tool that all employees use regularly and reliably. 

Improved teamwork

Teams that communicate properly, work properly, and collaborate easily with other teams work the best. 

Good communication is the key to good results—it leads to better coordination among employees and teams, leading to better outcomes.

But that’s not all—better communication between teams also strengthens employee relationships. This, in turn, can help you foster a healthy and collaborative work environment and culture.

Challenges Faced in Diagonal Communication

While diagonal communication offers great benefits in agility and collaboration, it’s important to be aware of its potential pitfalls too: 

Miscommunication and information overload

Different terminology and jargon used across departments may lead to miscommunication. Employees involved in multiple diagonal conversations may be left confused too. Ensure concise communication and develop a shared glossary of terms to tackle this.

Time and effort

Implementing, maintaining, and effectively using diagonal communication will cost you time and effort in conducting proper training sessions for employees. But this initial investment will go a long way in ensuring productivity and efficiency.

Potential conflicts between departments

Interaction between different departments may lead to disputes due to differing perspectives. To avoid such conflicts, consider involving neutral facilitators and ensure alignment of goals and priorities.  

Reduced accountability

It’s challenging to track information flow when it’s not linear and straightforward. This may lead to a tendency of blame-shifting and unclear ownership of tasks. By encouraging employees to document diagonal communication, you can ensure greater accountability.  

Leakage of confidential information

Diagonal communication about sensitive topics can lead to unintended information leaks. So, it’s a good idea to put in place clear guidelines and protocols to handle confidential information.

Strategies for Enhancing Diagonal Communication at Your Workplace

As we’ve seen already, diagonal communication brings challenges and may result in conflicts between departments. But, rest assured! You can implement specific strategies to address these challenges and improve diagonal communication. 

You can also rely on cross-functional collaboration tools, such as ClickUp, to help you in the process.  

Here are the strategies for enhancing diagonal communication in your workplace:

1. Create a set of guidelines

It’s important to be clear and direct when communicating. 

To ensure this, you must establish guidelines for diagonal communication to promote clarity and directness in inter-departmental exchanges. Focus on sharing relevant information while maintaining clear and inclusive language for better understanding. 

Encourage active listening and a two-way exchange to enhance the overall communication process within the organization. You can also create custom processes and checklists to standardize cross-departmental communication workflows. 

Create guidelines and processes for improving diagonal communication using ClickUp Whiteboards

ClickUp Whiteboards enable you to map out these custom communication workflows showing the handoffs between different departments or teams. You can visualize the steps, stakeholders involved, and optimal channels at each point. This provides a blueprint for standardizing diagonal communication processes.

You can also use Whiteboards to draw organizational charts and identify communication paths and reporting lines between managers and direct reports. This helps teams spot potential bottlenecks.

Finally, the guidelines and processes created on whiteboards can be saved, exported, and stored in ClickUp as an easily accessible central reference for anyone in the organization.

2. Keep key people in the loop

People don’t want to be left out, especially when it comes to information that directly affects their work. You can improve process and project outcomes with something as simple as creating a transparent chain of messages among all the stakeholders involved in the process. This simple structured approach promotes smooth information flow among all the key players, reducing the chances of miscommunication or delays. 

For instance, if a product marketer wants to understand customer pain points from the customer service team, they should CC the customer service team and product team leaders to keep everyone informed. 

ClickUp Docs
Collaborate and create documents and integrate them into your team’s workflows using ClickUp Docs to keep everyone in the loop

Another powerful way is to use the ClickUp Docs feature so that everyone can stay in the loop and collaborate in real time. It lets multiple people work on the same document simultaneously for enhanced dynamic collaboration. 

You can also link Docs to related tasks and projects so information flows between them. 

@mentions in Docs notify stakeholders of updates related to their work. Tag anyone for their input and assign tasks to relevant teams. Docs also integrate with email so updates can be sent directly to key people’s inboxes. 

You can use the ClickUp Assign Comments feature whenever you need clarity on something or need to relook something on your own. Resolve the comments once the task is done.

This lets you keep everything in one place and everyone on the same page, literally!

3. Limit the number of communication channels

Ever given up on watching a movie on Netflix or trying out a new dish from a menu because the number of choices overwhelmed you? You’re not alone. 

Plenty of choices aren’t always a good idea. And it applies to the workplace too. Too many communication apps can lead to unnecessary confusion and difficulty keeping track of conversations and activities.

This is especially true for diagonal communication where there’s anyway more room for confusion and complexity. Stick to just one or two diagonal communication channels to ensure fewer misunderstandings.

ClickUp Chat View
Bring your conversations to ClickUp Chat View and collaborate with others in real-time 

You don’t need to worry about scattered communication if you use ClickUp Chat View. Rather than jumping between different apps and inboxes, team members can access the full context of conversations directly in ClickUp.

Within each project, the Chat view stores all messages, comments, and notifications related to tasks and goals. The whole history is organized chronologically, making it easy to get up to speed.

Vital information isn’t siloed in private chats either. All teammates can participate in the same thread, keeping discussions transparent.

With Chat View, you no longer have to piece together scattered conversations to get the full picture. Everyone works from a shared understanding, which speeds up collaboration and decision-making.

4. Build an open and collaborative work culture

Boundaries between departments make diagonal communication more challenging as they discourage team members from contacting leaders of other departments and limit information sharing.

Building an open and collaborative work culture is crucial to encourage diagonal communication. Transparency and collaboration aren’t just conducive to it—they are integral. 

Conduct a culture audit to identify the areas for improvement in your organization’s culture and key communication protocols. Then, create a comprehensive plan to address them

Use custom ClickUp Views to manage your culture audit and plan for improvements.  

The multiple views in ClickUp let you bring all your resources in one place for a bird’s eye view of your entire project. Choose from among the List view, Board view, Gantt charts, and more to organize and track tasks. Also, stop jumping between apps and save time by adding spreadsheets, docs, videos, and more alongside tasks, projects, and workflows in your custom view. 

ClickUp Gantt Charts
Collaborate with your team to track project workflow and manage priorities with ClickUp Gantt Charts

5. Regularly review processes

Smooth diagonal communication is vital for aligning cross-functional teams. Conduct regular process reviews to optimize information flows and collaboration across departments. Share updated project status reports to track milestones and evaluate alignment with the original plan. 

Track progress on milestones and goals that intersect multiple teams. Identify friction points or delays in diagonal work handoffs.

Actively incorporate feedback from stakeholders at all levels. Empower your people to suggest improvements to processes that aren’t working smoothly. Foster open, transparent discussions between managers and direct reports.

ClickUp’s Process Audit and Improvement Template will come in handy for this exercise. This template helps you evaluate your existing processes and change ones that need improvement. 

It has multiple custom views, statuses, and fields to help you assimilate and absorb the information that you need to achieve the strategic alignment for diagonal communication.

Evaluate processes and identify areas of improvement with the ClickUp Process Audit and Improvement Template

The Role of Diagonal Communication in Task Management

Diagonal communication plays a crucial role in achieving your organizational communication goals. But other types of communication are helpful in collaborative task management too. Let’s understand the three main modes of workplace communication:

1. Horizontal communication

Horizontal communication is the exchange of information among leaders or employees at the same hierarchical level within an organization. This promotes coordination, planning, and teamwork. 

For example, when developing a new product, you can meet with leaders from different teams (design, marketing, sales, engineering) to discuss the next steps and address their requirements for achieving shared goals.

2. Vertical communication

Vertical communication involves the flow of information between different hierarchical levels in an organization. This includes communication from higher-level managers to their subordinates (downward) and from subordinates to higher-level managers (upward). Vertical communication ensures that goals and expectations are effectively communicated throughout the organization.

Example of downward communication: The marketing and project manager sends an email to the marketing team outlining the new advertising strategy and its expected outcomes.

Example of upward communication: Team members submit regular reports to their team leaders/managers, updating them on their status meetings and project progress and suggesting areas for improvement.

3. Diagonal communication

Diagonal communication is the blend of horizontal and vertical communication. It doesn’t restrict the managers and team members from communicating with each other, regardless of their position or department. This fosters better collaboration and problem-solving, which leads to improved results.  

All three ways of communication are crucial in different stages or processes within an organization. 

Remove Communication Barriers with ClickUp

You must’ve realized how beneficial effective diagonal communication is in helping organizations achieve their communication goals and improve collaboration.

If the relationship between the leaders and team members is positive, data and information can move freely, which can help improve process efficiency and productivity. Further, improving diagonal communication also helps employees at all levels build stronger interpersonal relationships.

And it’s helpful to have a tool that will foster successful diagonal communication so you can focus on other challenges. With ClickUp, you can rapidly improve cross-departmental collaboration. 

Let two-way conversations flow freely between leadership and staff. Align your entire workforce around shared goals using features like real-time Chat, Docs, and Custom Views. No more waiting days for answers to queries or decisions. No more duplicating work across teams. Watch as silos dissolve and productivity skyrockets.

ClickUp centralizes communication, so your people have the information they need at their fingertips. Sign up to ClickUp for free today!

Common FAQs

1. What distinguishes diagonal communication from horizontal and vertical communication?

Diagonal communication involves collaboration between individuals who are not in direct hierarchical relationships but belong to different departments or teams. 

Horizontal communication occurs between peers, and vertical communication involves communicating to and fro across different hierarchical levels. Diagonal communication bridges both hierarchy and departmental boundaries, fostering cross-functional collaboration. 

2. How can diagonal communication increase efficiency and problem-solving in my team?

Diagonal communication enables direct information flow between individuals across departments and hierarchical levels, eliminating unnecessary layers. This leads to quicker access to crucial data and promotes collaboration. 

Diagonal communication enhances teamwork and contributes to a healthy workplace culture by reducing misinterpretation and fostering a more cooperative work environment.

3. How does ClickUp facilitate and enhance diagonal communication in a team?

ClickUp is a cloud-based project management and collaborative tool that can replace several tools. It gets everyone working in a single platform that is designed to manage any type of work. 

ClickUp features like Chat View and Assign Comments let you collaborate with anyone and on any task in your organization. This means no more hopping from one platform to another just to work with different teams. All you need is to get everyone on ClickUp and start collaborating in real time.

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