Vertical communication chains: Toward an integrated approach

Robert D. McPhee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


A three-part argument is made that vertical communication chains in organizations need more study. First, four fundamental questions about chained vertical communication are posited. Second, relevant literature in five sets is reviewed; the sets include superior-subordinate communication studies, role conflict studies, ethnographic case studies, studies of vertical serial transmission, and network analyses. In each set there are at least a few studies that indicate the importance of vertical chain effects on other interactional units of analysis, but the studies collectively give only fragmentary answers to the fundamental questions. Third, three alternative theoretical models of chained vertical communication—a homogeneous model, a multiple strata model, and a multiple clusters model—are explicated that make rival claims about the nature and importance of the vertical chain, claims that cannot be distinguished on the basis of the current empirical literature. The article ends with suggestions for an integrated approach to the study of vertical chains—integrated across methods and across study foci.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-493
Number of pages39
JournalManagement Communication Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Communication


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