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Trimming the Grapevine in Communication

  Sep 2, 2011

‘Grapevine exists, always has and always will.’ William A. Delaney

Employees are communicators who have a need to express their opinions and seek information. Despite many forms of communication within an organisation with downward, upward, and lateral communication structures, grapevine communication is one of the most common. It is an informal channel of business communication within an organisation that develops when employees perhaps sensing uncertainty interact amongst themselves.

Grape vine effect exists in all organisations in varying degrees. Rather than employees channeling their thoughts, views and expressions through the formal channels, they prefer to form a grapevine network which often spreads hastily. As opposed to the traditional, word of mouth channel in which the grapevine was spreading, the technological era of in which the grapevine thrives includes emails, mobile phones and social media sites.

There are inherent dangers of grapevine communication especially when it is given credence. It can act as a barrier when it carries partial and incorrect information based on rumors. If the communication does not follow an official path, the productivity of the employees may be hindered as they spend less time working, and more time talking. The grapevine could also lead to the detriment of an organisation’s reputation as it may carry false and negative information and may lead to the hostility against superiors. Despite its disadvantages, the grapevine can be used positively. It supplements formal communication where it fails. Management can use it to gauge the reactions and thoughts of employees on policies as feedback is prompt.

It forms a social bond and creates a sense of unity amongst employees which may in turn lead to productivity. Positive grapevine communication can fill a gap left by missing formal information.

Manage grapevine communication by ensuring that the information is being balanced and properly monitored. Strive to keep employees informed about what is going on and act promptly by preparing an information disseminating plan that counter attacks the negative grapevine.

Avoid ignoring useful pertinent information on the organisation. Use the information to improve communication within the organisation as it reveals to management the issues that generate from the grass roots.

Find out what is being said and correct miscommunication in a direct and intentional way via other communication channels such as newsletters, bulletin boards, forums, blogs etc.

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