Grapevine communication happens in every organization, no matter the size or industry. This type of informal communication can have a tremendous impact on the employee experience you deliver in addition to your ability to build trust and sustain business performance. While you can’t control grapevine communication in the workplace, you can shape the narrative by creating a healthy workplace culture that prioritizes trust and transparency.
To shape the narrative in your favor, it’s important to understand both the pros and cons of grapevine communication in the workplace. Understanding the power of grapevine communication will help you control and manage it more effectively, resulting in a happier, healthier workplace. In this article, we’ll define grapevine communication and cover the types of grapevine communication while teaching you everything you need to know about the pros and cons.
What is grapevine communication?
Grapevine communication is an informal form of communication that often happens casually among a group of people. This method of communication occurs through unofficial channels and often takes place in social groups or organizations where regular communication is prominent. Often based on personal opinions, interpretations, and speculations, grapevine communication may lead to misunderstandings, confusion, or the spreading of misinformation. Despite the drawbacks associated with grapevine communication, there are also several benefits, including creating a sense of community within the organization, helping colleagues feel more connected to one another, and providing insights or additional perspectives that weren’t prominent in formal communication channels.
Types of grapevine communication
Gossip chains refer to the form of grapevine communication that involves spreading misinformation in the form of rumors or hearsay. If based on false information, gossip can be harmful and begin to deteriorate working relationships. While gossip often has a negative connotation, it can also be positive and may have a significant impact on colleagues’ perceptions and relationships.
Probability grapevine communication refers to the practice of spreading information based on the probability of an event occurring. Probability grapevine communication can be beneficial when preparing for the unknown, but it may also cause anxiety among employees.
Single-strand grapevine communication is the simplest form of grapevine communication and refers to the process of information being passed from one person to another. This type of grapevine communication is conducted sequentially and takes place when one person delivers information to another and so forth.
Cluster chains occur when information is passed through a chain of individuals. When communicating in a cluster chain, an individual will pass on the information to a group of individuals within their network or circle who in turn share the information with their network. This method of communication often occurs when information must be dispersed quickly and efficiently within a particular group or department.
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Pros and cons of grapevine communication
1. Fosters feelings of belonging
Grapevine communication is a great way to foster connectivity and togetherness by helping colleagues feel more connected. When peers mingle with one another, they are more inclined to create a sense of community that leads to enhanced trust and strengthened working relationships. It’s for this reason that it’s important to create an environment that fosters positive grapevine communication as opposed to eradicating it altogether.
2. Encourages quick feedback
Grapevine communication can provide insights and perspectives that formal communication channels cannot, meaning access to regular feedback is readily available. Not only can grapevine communication help colleagues gain a well-rounded understanding of what’s going on within the organization, but it can also help provide valuable feedback. This feedback can then be used to make iterations and spark positive change.
3. Builds relationships
While there are downfalls to grapevine communication, one of the major benefits is the relationships that come to light as a result. Grapevine communication allows colleagues to communicate informally, helping to build comradery and relationships. The more colleagues communicate and converse, the more likely they are to become bonded.
4. Gets the message out quickly
Grapevine communication can help get information out much quicker than traditional communication channels. Not only can information be publicized quicker, but it can also be dispersed quicker and more efficiently, allowing individuals to take action promptly.
1. Facilitates gossip and rumors
Because grapevine communication occurs outside of formal communication channels, there aren’t guidelines or filters in place to eliminate misinformation. Because colleagues are communicating freely and passing information from one person to the next, it’s much more likely that gossip, rumors, or misinformation is being spread.
2. Is time consuming
Grapevine communication means employees are taking time out of their day to converse outside of professional or formal channels. This means they may be expending their energy on these conversations as opposed to their workload. However, while this may lead to wasted time, it can also lead to strengthened working relationships and a greater sense of community.
3. Leads to mistrust
One of the greatest cons of grapevine communication is the spread of misinformation, which may lead to mistrust. If employees or colleagues can’t count on reliable information, they may begin to lack trust in their peers as well as the organization. It’s important that information being spread amongst the organization is factual and reliable.
4. Spreads negativity
Because grapevine communication is not being filtered or spread directly from the source, it may spiral and be misconstrued from person to person. Not only does this result in mistrust and miscommunication, but if it continues to spiral out of control, it may spread negativity. It’s important to note that grapevine communication doesn’t always spread negativity. Whether it festers into something negative largely depends on the individuals spreading the information.
How to manage grapevine communication at work
1Adopt an effective communication tool
Leveraging communication tools is essential for managing grapevine communication. These tools often feature purpose-based data-gathering features that enable users to leverage real-time data to inform and validate strategies and decisions, meaning you can use data to determine the best course of action when moving forward.
Thousands of leaders at companies like Shopify, SurveyMonkey, Webflow, and Gong have been using Fellow to optimize and improve internal communications. Fellow empowers users like yourself to optimize internal communication by making it possible for leaders, managers, direct reports, and peers to collaborate on meeting agendas, assign action items, get suggested conversation topics, and exchange feedback.
2Have open communication
Open communication in the workplace refers to an environment in which information flows freely. This means that peers, colleagues, and management alike can rely on one another to share factual, relevant information. If you want to manage grapevine communication in the workplace, you must first foster a culture that encourages and values open and honest communication.
3Seek employee feedback
Employee feedback is an exchange of information amongst employees and can be delivered by both managers and peers. When done correctly, this exchange can lead to a more productive, harmonious workplace. Anonymous feedback is an excellent way to gain in-depth insights that employees may not otherwise share, which may be crucial when determining how best to manage grapevine communication.
Employees are often incentivised to share anonymous feedback for the simple reason that it’s anonymous and can’t be traced back to them. When employees have the opportunity to provide feedback anonymously, respondents are more likely to discuss sensitive issues and provide more detailed, honest feedback. Tools like Fellow make it easier than ever to gain anonymous feedback. Simply navigate to your feedback inbox, click on the type of feedback you wish to receive, add respondents, and check off the box for anonymous feedback.
4Evaluate your team’s communication
Do you know how your team prefers to communicate? For example, some employees may prefer to gather pertinent information from a newsletter, whereas others may prefer emails. Understanding how your employees prefer to communicate will help create systems and processes that allow everyone to access the right information at the right time.
If you haven’t taken the time to evaluate your team’s communication, you may want to leverage a tool like Fellow. Fellow makes it possible to collect timely feedback so you can assess the effectiveness of your communication and make adjustments accordingly.
Are you prepared to tackle grapevine communication?
When determining how to move forward, it’s best to step back and ask yourself what type of culture you wish to create. Do you wish to create a happy, healthy environment where information flows freely? Or do you want to create a negative workplace where employees don’t trust each other as a result of poor grapevine communication? It’s important to note that grapevine communication can positively impact your workplace, especially when managed correctly. However, when left to fester, grapevine communication can create a lack of trust and cause anxiety among employees. Are you prepared to take a proactive stance by creating a healthy workplace culture that promotes positive grapevine communication?