Updating categories for the second annual E2E Communication Awards (enter now, deadline May 22), I was corresponding with the founder of Communitelligence.com, old communication hand John Gerstner.
He suggested we strike "upward communication" off the category list, because no one would know what it means anymore. With great reluctance, I agreed with him. This term's currency up until about a decade ago demanded an answer from organizations to the question: So what apparatus do you have in place to deliver employees' ideas and opinions to management?
But just because communicators stopped using the term—and stopped ensuring that employees had an official vehicle by which to communicate "upward," to management—doesn't mean employees stopped having pungent opinions.
This devastatingly well-written e-mail to AIG's CEO appeared in today's New York Times.
Might these ideas have been vented earlier and more quietly if AIG had a communicator who knew what "upward communication" meant? We'll never know.
Postscript: Upward communication is the subject of my personal all-time favorite Onion headline:
"Best Buy's Employee Suggestion Box Brimming With Urine."