Battling the grapevine

GrapevineCommunication is the foundation of all human interaction. We speak to so many people every day. With our relatives, employees, employers, neighbours, peers, grocer and so many more. It’s of great significance to us to carry out minimal adjustments within the method in which we converse with each one, depending on what the transaction is. While interacting with others don’t we all try to make our communication more efficient and effective?  It’s worth learning how one specific phrase of assistance, one specific declaration of apology, just one mild touch or maybe just one laugh can effortlessly enhance our relations with others.

Frequently, we communicate our unconscious feelings, our profound requirements as well as our inner desires verbally or non-verbally. We certainly would not like our feelings and words misjudged or misinterpreted. It’s therefore very important to take control of what we are sharing with other people. We should make sure that we do not hand out the incorrect information. Though this is gospel truth, rumour-mongers are there everywhere and they are busy running their rumour mills.

There are two types of communication – formal and informal. Informal communication is also known as grapevine communication because there is no definite direction of communication for sharing information. In this form of communication, information congregates a long way by passing from one person to another person leaving no indication from which point it started. The term grapevine can be traced to civil war days when vine like telegraph wires were strung from tree to tree across battlefields and used by Army Intelligence. The messages that came over these lines were often so confusing or inaccurate that soon any rumour was said to come from the grapevine. Precisely that’s what happens in grapevine – we don’t understand from where the rumour comes and where it would end. Grapevine stretches throughout the organization in all directions irrespective of the authority levels. Man as we know is a social animal. Despite existence of formal channels in an organization, the informal channels tend to develop when people aimlessly interact with other people. It exists more at lower levels of organization.

Grapevine1Grapevine commonly develops in organization due to a variety of reasons. One of them is that when an organization is facing slump, the employees sense uncertainty. Also, at times employees do not have self-confidence due to which they form unions. Sometimes the managers show privileged treatment and favor some employees giving a segregated feeling to other employees. Thus, when employees sense a need to exchange their views, they go for grapevine network as they cannot use the formal channel of communication in that case. Generally during lunch breaks and tea breaks in cafeteria, the subordinates talk about their superior’s attitude and behavior and exchange views with their peers. They discuss rumours about promotion and transfer of other employees. Thus, grapevine spreads like fire and it is not easy to trace the cause of such communication at times. People badmouth others on account of jealousy, insecurity, anxiety, or nervousness and sometimes even due to stupidest reasons.

Social media and social software have become an integral part of the post digital business landscape and they are the breeding grounds of the grapevine. Do you know it is an important medium for communicating with customers, increasing brand awareness, and promoting innovation and collaboration among employees? Social business is typically viewed as a tool for external-facing activities, and is considered particularly useful for managing customer relationships. Increasingly, its relevance to innovation and competitive differentiation is also being recognized. At the same time many companies consider social media as a barrier because they consider it risky.

Grapevine2According to a 2012 survey of 192 executives conducted by Deloitte & Touché and Forbes Insights, social media was identified as the fourth largest risk, placing it on par with financial risk as numerous corporate social media debacles over the last few years have brought attention to the phenomenon of brand sabotage due to compliance and legal risks arising from potential violations of or non-conformance with laws, rules, regulations, prescribed practices, internal policies and procedures. There are no ethical standards; information leakage happens because of friendliness of social media which allows employees to speak to broad audiences and insufficient controls could lead to the disclosure of sensitive information, such as personal accounts, health information, intellectual property, customer data, personally identifiable information, etc. Information leakage may result in loss of competitive advantage and brand damage. Outsourcing social media activities can expose companies to substantial risks, particularly copyright and trademark infringement and lack of governance.

The marketing manager and two supervisors of operation department play tennis every day, and they spend time together in tennis court, there are high chances of exchange of official information through this informal set-up. Another example is the finance manager discloses business development plans during a trek to one of his old school friend who in turn passes on the information innocently to his friend in the rival organization.

But then there are some advantages of grapevine they are: grapevine channels carry information rapidly. As soon as an employee gets to know some confidential information, he becomes inquisitive and passes the details then to his closest friend who in turn passes it his best friend and that one passes to other. Thus, it spreads hurriedly. The managers get to know the reactions of their subordinates on their policies. Thus, the feedback obtained is quick compared to formal channel of communication. The grapevine creates a sense of unity among the employees who share and discuss their views with each other. Thus, grapevine helps in developing group cohesiveness. Also, the grapevine serves as an emotional supportive value. However, the grapevine is a supplement in those cases where formal communication does not work.

Grapevine3Thus, the grapevine is useful as a supplement to formal channels of communication. It often travels more quickly than other channels and is usually more direct. The grapevine is present within all levels of staff. It exists because of a natural desire to know things and brings a sense of belonging to employees and managerial staff alike. It can create corporate identity and build teamwork.

The disadvantages are: The grapevine carries only partial information at times as it is more based on rumours. Thus, it does not clearly depict the complete state of affairs. The grapevine is not dependable always as it does not follows official path of communication and is spread more by gossips and unsupervised report. It kills the productivity of employees as they spend more time talking rather than working. The grapevine leads to making hostility against the executives. It hampers the goodwill of the organization as it may carry false negative information about the high level people of the organization. Therefore organizations should take care of all the disadvantages of the grapevine and try to minimize them. It is also humanly impossible to curb grapevine completely, hence we need to live with them by ignoring it as much as possible.  The blatant fact is that gossiping is a universal pastime.

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Over the course of my life, I have done all possible jobs that one can think of – front desk assistant, telephone operator, clerical work, accounts assistant, inventory officer, sales woman, sales manager, tutor, lecturer, professor, director...etc. The range of job designations and experience of working in diverse roles has given me strength to think, help people, increase customer satisfaction, promote products, and off course build brands. When I look back at my career, in some jobs I excelled, in some I continued with odds. But the fact is that the diversity in my career has strengthened me as a person and definitely enhanced my skills. Every job taught me something or the other. I love meeting people, reading, travelling, listening to music, cooking, gardening, teaching, writing. Blogging has been a recent addition and am loving it. It has become my biggest hobby. Blogging has changed my life. My blog is wide-ranging manifestation of the way I think. I am a creative individual; I write because I have the urge to translate expressions of life. Over the years I studied and added some degrees as well. I have a PhD in Marketing Management from University of Pune, a post doctoral D.Litt (Doctor of letters) from Mumbai University in strategic management. I am a Professor of Management Studies with 16 years of teaching experience and have over 20 years industry experience. My core teaching areas are Marketing Strategy and General Management. As a teacher, I have always maintained the academic rigor in my classroom, I have always believed and practiced academic engagement while lecturing, I believe in experiential teaching-learning. I truly believe that education is interdisciplinary; therefore I have successfully guided 15 students for their PhD degree across various sectors in business management which includes a broad base of research coursework coupled with an area of specialization. I write on various management topics, research, news and higher education for students. And, the general section of articles on my blog relate to my interests in life. Happy reading to you all!

4 COMMENTS

  1. Grapevine mode of communication seems to be more disadvantageous than benefits of same.
    Unnecessary grapevine can cause some valuable employees job or reputation at stake….
    I believe todays organisation should implement goal related performance & incentive which is transparent & clear….This will happen more in horizontal flatter organisations….

  2. I feel grapevine is a result of demotivated employees who instead of focussing their energies towards productivity focus on igniting fire by creating false stories or by adding spice..Really good article ..wasn’t aware of the origin of grapevine communication. thank you

  3. I totally agree madam with your article “Battling the grapevines” happening in most of the organizations and in work place every now and then some grape vine is spread some time it is quite healthy and most of the time it is harmful and it affects the work flow or an obstacles in the way of organization or the top level management I don’t know how much it affects but I strongly believe some time grapevine exist even in families and in relations , one can change organization but not relations so we need to be careful enough and handle it very carefully. thank you madam for writting such a good article madam, I liked it.

  4. Grapevine is the most complex form of communication as one can never know from where it started and where it will end. This form of communication shares its origin with P.E.R.T …it originated during World War II…It is required to some extent in an organisation as healthy form of communication as it helps employees to connect with one another…thank u Madam for a wonderful article

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