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Three Communication Models Commonly Used in the Workplace

When the pandemic lockdowns temporarily shut down office spaces across the globe, every organization scrambled to find ways to still conduct work collaborations amidst the two-year health crisis. This event disrupted how workplace communication is being carried out between employees, management, and stakeholders.

Who can forget the first-day frustrations when the management suggested that everyone hook up their headsets and get in front of their computer monitors for a Zoom conference? As you join the call, you notice that everyone seems to be talking at once, making it difficult to understand the main points of the conversation.

Frustrated and confused, you realize that the communication in this virtual meeting is not as effective as it could be. Or so you thought.

Three years into the pandemic, everything is working out fine, with many companies offering a hybrid setup wherein employees could work remotely and on-site alternatingly. The reason behind it all boils down to one thing—you guessed it right, effective communication. And to succeed in this area, there should be ideal ways to initiate, conduct, and maintain proper interactions suitable for the workplace.

We will discuss different types of communication models, their unique requirements, and scenarios in the workplace where they can be applied. By the end of this “conversation,” 😉 I hope to instill sound advice on interacting with your colleagues and employees to achieve better collaborations and increased productivity levels.

What is a Communication Model

In an earlier blog, we discussed the communication skills and elements for effective and efficient collaboration with people in the workplace. But these components would be nothing without a communication model upon which interactions between parties are patterned and maintained.

A communication model is a framework that helps explain how communication works, which is useful for understanding the different elements involved in the process.

At least three types of communication models are commonly observable in the workplace: the linear, transactional, and interactive models.

Take note that these models are not forms of communication and should be considered theoretical frameworks that can help you identify loopholes or barriers in your interactions.

For your reference, the two forms of communication are verbal and non-verbal.

This might feel obvious, though, for clarity, verbal communication involves spoken or written interactions. These can be delivered in person, over the phone, through video conferencing, or in written form.

Meanwhile, non-verbal communication includes using body language, gestures, facial expressions, and other nonverbal cues to convey meaning and information between people. It is a form of communication that doesn’t rely on words but rather on visual and physical cues.

Types of Communication Models

For most people, “communication models” may sound vague and very scholarly, which is understandable. It could feel nit-picky to hone in on such a detail, but as the saying goes, “The devil’s in the details” and knowing what to look for and where to look when things begin to go awry is a unique skillset that I happen to provide.

To improve workplace communication and collaboration, you should look into how interactions are carried out among your colleagues and employees. Who knows, maybe you’ll spot the communication barriers and be right on time to fix those to ensure healthy working dynamics.

Here are the common communication models observable in the workplace.

Linear Model

Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver (thus the alternate reference as “Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication”) developed this model. It’s a linear model that depicts communication as a one-way process that involves a sender, a message, and a receiver. In the workplace, this model can be applied to various forms of communication, such as emails, memos, and presentations.

To illustrate how this works, let me give you a scenario:

A manager emails an employee, informing them of a company policy change. The email contains a clear and concise message, and the employee understands the message.

Interactive Model

This model views communication as a circular process that involves constant feedback and interaction between sender and receiver. It recognizes that both parties’ attitudes and values influence communication and perceptions and that communication is often incomplete or ambiguous.

In the workplace, the interactive model is useful for understanding the role of nonverbal communication and social cues in face-to-face interactions, such as meetings and interviews.

I’ll give you an example:

During a job interview, a candidate answers the interviewer’s questions and uses nonverbal cues, such as eye contact and body language. They do this in an effort to demonstrate their confidence and interest in the position.

Transactional Model

This model views communication as a dynamic process involving a two-way information exchange between sender and receiver. It recognizes that both the sender and receiver are active participants in the communication process. It also acknowledges that context can affect the process.

In the workplace, the transactional model is useful for understanding the complex dynamics of interpersonal communication between employees, teams, and departments.

Here’s an example in the workplace where this model can be observed:

During a team meeting, team members discuss a project, ask questions, and provide feedback to one another. The communication process is dynamic, with both the sender and receiver actively participating and providing feedback to each other.

An employee working on his laptop while checking his email from his manager on his phone.

Email might be the preferred communication channel between employers and employees, yet its linearity could use some facelift.

Weaknesses of the Communication Models

Just because it is commonplace doesn’t mean that it is effective. This applies to communication models, and in this context, in the workplace. Hence, to help you be on the lookout for communication barriers, allow me to list the cons of each model.

Linear communication model

  1. Oversimplifies communication by presenting it as a one-way process from sender to receiver, ignoring feedback and the potential for misinterpretation

  2. Fails to account for the complex, dynamic nature of communication and the role of context and environment

  3. Doesn’t account for the potential for communication to be influenced by external factors, such as noise, distractions, or power dynamics

Sample scenario: A manager sent out memos or directives without soliciting employee feedback or questions. This approach may make employees feel disconnected or disengaged from their work. It may result in misunderstandings or mistakes if the message isn’t clear or well-communicated.

Interactive communication model

  1. Can still be too simplistic in its view of communication, focusing only on the exchange of messages rather than the complex interplay of multiple factors that can influence the meaning

  2. May not adequately account for power imbalances or other factors that can impact communication effectiveness

  3. Can be limited in its ability to explain communication breakdowns or failures

Sample scenario: A team holds regular meetings to discuss project updates. However, the meetings are too structured or focused solely on exchanging information. In the process, they fail to foster real engagement or collaboration among team members.

Transactional communication model

  1. Overly complex and difficult to apply in practice

  2. Can be challenging to identify and analyze all of the communication-related factors and variables

  3. Some may find it too focused on individual interaction rather than accounting for larger social and cultural factors that can impact communication

Sample scenario: A manager might assume that communication breakdowns result solely from individual interactions. They may forget to account for larger systemic factors such as company culture, hierarchy, or power dynamics. This could lead to a failure to address the root causes of communication problems in the workplace.


Communication in the workplace allows us a peek into the working dynamics of the people involved in the process. This is the case no matter how seemingly ordinary or common it may seem. Hence, it is important to consider how you can influence a positive approach. Base your approach on models of communication that apply to each unique situation.

Understanding which communication framework is ideal for a situation can inspire a healthier working atmosphere where everyone feels heard, valued, and celebrated.

If you’re interested in learning more about optimizing communications in your workplace, you can reach out here to book a discovery call.

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