Grapevine in the office is an age-old reality. Don’t sulk, nurture it instead – find out tips and tricks to make the best out of nurturing healthy grapevine communication at the office. Read on!
What is Grapevine? Grapevine is an informal channel of business communication. It happens outside the formal communication mediums such as email, intranets, etc. Grapevine communication is the result of social interactions between employees inside or outside of the workplace and follows no prescribed structure or rules.
Grapevine meaning defined
As per the grapevine definition, Grapevine communications can be defined as informal workplace dialogues between the employees. It is a type of informal communication happening during lunchtime, tea/coffee breaks, etc. It is named so because it stretches in different directions and likely reaches every person throughout the organization.
What is grapevine historically?
What is a grapevine? Grapevine communication is an informal form of communication that has existed in the workplace for a long time. Man is a social animal and we have a tendency to talk to each other. There is no way to eradicate the grapevine completely from the offices.
Even before we had emails and intranets, people in offices were having informal chats over tea or coffee. There is no way to keep a check on every piece of information being passed around in the office. Grapevine communication definition has remained the same for ages.
A more detailed and scientific take on how grapevine and its effects are intertwined with the survival of human beings is available in Sapiens: A brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari – the best seller book released in 2011.
Grapevine definition in the current times
What is the grapevine? According to grapevine business definition, it is an informal channel of business communication. Despite several formal channels available in an office space for communication, employees end up discussing matters in an informal aspect. This type of communication results in a grapevine effect.
In current times, managers and leaders are coming to understand that grapevine is here to stay. It can not be eradicated completely but carefully monitoring the channel, they can make it advantageous. They are promoting controlled grapevine to increase efficiency and strengthen bonds between employees.
A business grapevine is best defined as
What is grape vine? A business grapevine is best defined as the communication held in an office without following a recommended structure or rules through informal channels. Grapevine’s meaning is so-called because it stretched through the entire organization in all directions without any authorization.
The grapevine is more active when official communication is lacking cluster chain. A downside of the office grapevine is its ability to spread rumors, misinformation, etc. Grapevine communication when left uncontrolled, might become a problem. It can affect the organization’s productivity and success in the long term.
4 types of grapevine
As we understood above from the grapevine communication definition, it is an unstructured and informal form of communication. The information flows through informal channels of communication. Due to its unstructured format, it moves in every direction throughout the organization. It moves upwards, downwards, horizontally, vertically, within or without the chains of command.
Grapevine in business does not have a definite pattern or direction as it is not under complete control of the management. This leads to different grapevine patterns in an organization. Let’s talk about the four different types of grapevine communication and see how they work,
Single strand chain
The single-strand chain is a type of grapevine in which the information is passed along a single line of persons until it reaches the ultimate recipient. The grapevine information chain is generally long in this case. The longer the chain the higher is the probability of distortion of information.
For example, if there are 100 employees in the organization, then the information keeps traveling in a sequence from one person to another until it reaches most of the person involved or concerned. It often happens that the final recipient receives a distorted and filtered version of the original information.
A gossip chain is another type of office grapevine in which a group of people assembles to discuss common topics of interest. These chains are usually considered to be slow in passing informal communication in the workplace. This grapevine gossip chain resembles a wheel where one person stays at the center of the wheel and is responsible for passing information to everyone else around.
This type of network is often used when the subject matter is unrelated to the nature of the job. Here every person in the network informally communicates with each other.
In the probability chain, the grapevine pattern is not defined and the information passes from one person to another randomly. Here an individual who has interesting information will communicate the message to a randomly selected person in his network. The second person would repeat the same pattern by choosing someone randomly and passing on the information.
The repeated continuation of the above steps leads to the flow of communication to different randomly chosen people. In the Probability chain, the source of communication of the information keeps on changing constantly unlike in gossip chain or single-strand chain grapevine communication.
In a cluster chain, the information is transmitted by a single source to a pre-selected group of individuals. Out of this group, few individuals again communicate the same message to a selected group of individuals. Likewise, when the chain continues similarly, the message reaches out to everyone in the network.
The cluster chain is the most common form of informal communication in organizations. Think of it as someone sending out an email to a bunch of people and then a few of those recipients forward it off to another bunch of people.
Relation between organizational grapevine and employee bonding
Organizational grapevine is a result of communication between employees through informal channels. It is bound to exist in an organization as we humans are social animals. Organizational grapevines can get out of control if left unmonitored. But with proper measures, it can prove to be very advantageous to the business.
Informal communication helps employees bond with each other as they can share their issues and problems without any discomfort. It strengthens camaraderie between employees and gives them a platform to connect informally. It also helps managers and leaders to bond with their employees.
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Grapevine gossip – disadvantages, if left unnoticed
Grapevine gossip has some major disadvantages for the employers as the information getting communicated is unverified. It may pose a threat to people’s careers, lives, and reputations. Let us see in more detail which of the following is a disadvantage of informal communication channels in an organization?
- Leads to Misunderstanding – Grapevine leads to the flow of unverified information through informal communication channels that often leads to the spread of misinformation.
- Distorted Information – The disadvantages of the grapevine include the spread of distorted and filtered versions of the original information.
- Difficulty in Maintaining Secrecy – Grapevine Gossip is generally through an open discussion hence keeping a secret is rarely possible.
- Lack of Control – Grapevine in communication lacks pre-defined rules or policies which makes it difficult to control the information flow.
- Lack of Trust – Inconsistent communication via formal or informal channels may lead employees to lose trust in their employers.
- Non-cooperation among employees – Grapevine communication often leads to the adversary culture among employees leading to a lack of cooperation.
- Mis-alignment with the company’s goals – With the lack of a clear communication strategy, it becomes difficult to align employees with business goals affecting the business productivity and success.
Grapevine management – 5 healthy ways to manage it
Grapevine communication is always about people, and the information travels faster in grapevine than any other medium of communication. Some people who are part of the communication may also take the drastic step of quitting the organization or losing trust in the employer. Organizational grapevines can be managed by people in leadership and management roles. Here are 5 healthy ways of grapevine management that you should try in your workplace,
Manage grapevine effect by keeping them busy
Grapevine usually gets activated in an employee’s free time while they go for a coffee break or during morning car rides to the office. The best way to utilize an employee’s time is however to delegate responsibility and power.
This can be the most effective way to keep employees from getting involved in informal gossip. Keeping your employees engaged would help in avoiding grapevine communications from taking place.
Build trust relationship with employees to break the grapevine pattern
Build trust among your employees and always keep them informed. This would break the grapevine pattern as people will not pass on the wrong information anymore. Build a bond of trust with your employees, so that they feel free to come and check the authenticity of the rumor before spreading it further. A trust relationship will ensure that the grapevine is being used positively.
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Use grapevine information constructively
Managers have to understand first that grapevine can not be eliminated. The best that can be done is to use it constructively by monitoring it and controlling it regularly. Find out the people in the informal groups who are more active members of a grapevine.
Make sure that they are adequately and accurately informed about the office happenings. It would avoid spreading false rumors and misinformation amongst employees.
Eliminate uncertainty to manage office grapevine
Nervousness and uncertainty give rise to the grapevine. Even in rough times, keep the employees informed about the internal happenings. Companies should not hesitate to ask employees about cost-cutting methods.
They might suggest something which was not obvious to the company. Keeping your employees involved during all times would ensure the rumors causing insecurities are not spreading. Misinformation might cause people to quit or lose trust in the company.
Monitor the informal channels of communication
Managers should try to integrate their interests with that of informal groups. Monitor different channels of grapevine communication and try to feed the correct and authorized information. Choose the right communication channels to build trust with your employees.
Engage employees in two-way communication to address their concerns and doubts. Address them and try to resolve them at the earliest to avoid grapevine formation at work.
5 reasons why grapevine in business is good
A grapevine is bound to exist and when managers recognize that a grapevine exists, they should turn it in their favor. The advantages of grapevine in business are,
- Increase Efficiency – The informal communication system in a grapevine helps employees discuss their problems openly and solve them. The work is done properly which increases the efficiency of the employee.
- Feedback – Grapevine helps managers to provide feedback from employees about their work experience. This helps them in taking decisions supportive to the employees. Most executives now believe that information important flows from the grapevine.
- Employee Support – The organizational grapevine is useful because it helps interpret management’s formal orders into employees’ language. This helps in getting more support from the employees. It also bridges the communication gap between management and the employees.
- Rapid Communication – Personal communication systems such as personal networks and grapevines are some of the fastest ways to transfer information in an organization. Information passes very fast through an informal communication channel.
- Interpret Information – The information is sent by the top management through a formal channel. It is easier for employees to understand the explanation through informal communication. Grapevine communication helps in simplifying the formally transmitted information.
Grapevine communication examples
Let us look at grapevine communication examples to understand how grapevine communication can affect a company positively and negatively,
- Most grapevine communications start around the yearly promotion cycle as a result of the uncertainty of the result. It might start with few people speculating the yearly promotions and then spreading it further without any authenticity. This leads to a lot of anxiety amongst people who are waiting for their promotions and salary increments.
- When the company is sailing through bad times or the entire market is down, the grapevine communication takes place. It feeds on people’s insecurity and spreads rumors and misinformation. The best way is to keep employees in the loop during hard times. Grapevine communication during such times may be harmful and affect people’s careers, lives, and health. Some people may even quit or start looking for other options.
- When the company is acquiring a new company, or your company is being acquired by someone. The sudden change brings up a lot of questions and when left unaddressed for the long term, they become a breeding ground for grapevine. It is important to call a meeting and talk to your employees regarding their concerns related to the location change, new management, etc.
Why is grapevine a type of personal channel used in many organizations?
Grapevine is a type of personal channel used in many organizations because it helps authorities understand the needs of their employees. They seek valuable feedback from their employees based on which important decisions supporting employees can be taken.
If an organization is healthy, what type of information will be carried by its grapevine?
Let us find out, if an organization is healthy, what type of information will be carried by its grapevine? The grapevine communication could help employees disclose their needs, sentiments, and emotions to the management without hesitation.
What is informal communication or grapevine?
Informal communication at work is any kind of communication that doesn’t use formal methods or structures. Another name for the informal communication channel is the “grapevine”. When managers pass through work areas and talk informally with workers, they are engaging in informal/grapevine communication.
Is grapevine communication good or bad?
Grapevine communication can be good or bad. It is human nature to talk to each other and leaders have to ensure that it is not harmful to the colleagues or the work environment. Grapevine communication if managed correctly can be a good thing.
Should grapevine be eliminated?
Grapevine should not be eliminated from the work system. The organizational grapevine needs to be monitored and kept in control to avoid any damage. Grapevine Management should focus on eliminating and controlling the negative sides of it by ensuring proper employee communication via formal channels.
Is the grapevine helpful or hurtful at work?
Grapevine can be either helpful or hurtful at work. The office gossip often has negative ramifications but with effective grapevine management, it can be used for constructive purposes. Grapevine communication helps in forming strong camaraderie amongst co-workers through informal discussions and communication.
What are the sources of Grapevine information?
Grapevine communication is a form of gossip that starts with an individual who has acquired an interesting piece of information. The source of Grapevine communication is often a single person who shares an unverified piece of information with another individual or a group of people in an informal fashion.
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Grapevine communication using unremot virtual watercooler
unremot virtual watercooler provides an informal channel for the employees to communicate with each other outside of work. As this communication is not bound by any rules or structure, there is a possibility of a grapevine communication getting started. The grapevine management in such a case is important as it would ensure that the negative impacts of a grapevine are avoided.
The unremot virtual watercooler can be used by employees to form strong bonds and increase belongingness. It also helps in breaking the ice between employees and encouraging teamwork to produce better and faster results.