Managing the Grapevine

The formal system is not the only communications network found in organizations. There is also an informal one which is called the Grapevine. Although the grapevine informal, this doesn’t mean that it’s not an important source of information.

According to Stephen Robbins, the Grapevine has three main characteristics: First, it’s not controlled by top management. Second, it is perceived by most employees as being more believable and reliable than formal means of communications issued by top management. And third, it is largely used to serve the self interest of the people within it.

What conditions foster an active grapevine? What gets the rumor mill going? It is frequently assumed that rumors start because they make titillating gossip. This is rarely the case according to various studies. Rumors emerge as a response to situations that are important to us, when there’s ambiguity and under conditions that arouse anxiety. The fact that work environments frequently contain these elements explains why rumors flourish in organizations.

Certainly, the grapevine is an important part of an organization’s communications network. It gives managers a feel for the morale of their organization, identifies issues that employees consider important and helps tap into employee anxieties. It acts, therefore as both a filter and feedback mechanism. Rumors cannot be eliminated entirely but management can minimize the negative consequences of rumors by limiting their range and impact.

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One thought on “Managing the Grapevine

  1. Some level of management transparency also helps to reduce the grapevine. When management does not share information the grapevine flourishes. I see this in my current environment.

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