The phrase grapevine communication is generally associated with gossip, rumours and ill-will among other assorted negative connotations. However, in its true sense it is only another form of communication without anything positive or negative associated with it. In an office environment the phrase gathers new meaning when used as a double-edged sword with intent to harm others and also for the benefit of peers. In the following paragraphs we shall see why this form of communication is a double edged sword.
Employees routinely misuse this form of communication to download their grievances. While personal issues on occasions might be fine, calling names or labelling the manager as an evil force because your leave was not approved…well, that piece of information will travel faster to your manager than any breaking news. Secondly, news like “you know I am through the first round of interview in Xyz Company” is strictly off the communication list during tea breaks or hallway meetings. Another favourite topic of discussion is talking negatively of your company. While this is also against ethics, it is one of the primary reasons for employees being fired, next only to performance.
Spreading rumours, is generally through this form of communication. The rumour cannot be verified as it bypasses formal channels of communication and also the source of the rumour cannot be tracked.
An employee can terminate the spread of rumours by not discussing the information further and discouraging peers from such discussions.
On the other hand, grapevine communication can be an effective tool to foster individual learning and growth in the organisation. Discussions on new technology or processes, introduction of new employees, upcoming firm activities are all on the positive list of communication. Some firms are known to encourage grapevine communication to form committees that take up social or cultural activities. Small groups are formed that share a similar area of interest or passion for a certain social cause. Also, the lack of formal rules of communication helps easier transfer of ideas and thoughts and speedy discussion making.
This form of communication could be an important tool for the management too. On several occasions, the management might want to introduce new processes or workflow methods.
To test the waters first, they might initiate a debate among the employees and gather informal reviews.
This helps in clearing out the potential glitches in implementing a new system or workflow.
Another important use of this form of communication is employee performance. Managements are known to use this form of communication to ascertain an individual’s performance, attitude towards work and his or her communication and behaviour with peers.
Therefore, grapevine communication should be used in a positive sense with intent to benefit the individual employee as well as his peers.
It helps like-minded groups to achieve a common goal for a social or cultural cause. While it benefits the employee, it also helps the management to showcase the talent in the firm.
Negative usage such as spread of rumours and speaking ill of fellow employees is a strict no-no. It has the ability to cause harm to the individual spreading rumours and also to the firm as a whole. Some employees who are close to the managers and decision-makers tend to go overboard with the ‘new’ information they have. Such employees might find grapevine communication an easy tool to spread the ‘word’, but forget that some information is best left to come from formal channels.
To conclude grapevine communication is just another form for communication and it is up to the employee to make positive use of such a form of communication.