At the end of the day, employees are human — and humans like to talk about one another. However much we try to ‘keep it professional’, the rumor mill will continue to run at full speed. At some point, we just have to accept that gossiping and sharing information is simply a part of office life.
The typical response to office gossip and conversation is that it breeds negativity. While it is true that informal conversation has its fair share of negatives, the positives also have to be acknowledged and encouraged.
In this article, we will discuss a type of informal communication known as grapevine communication. We will go through what grapevine communication is, its positives and negatives, and put a spotlight on how it has the potential to improve your team’s confidence.
Let’s get going!
What is grapevine communication?
The term “grapevine” was first coined in the late 1800s. At that time, telegraph wires were often strung between buildings to relay messages. The physical appearance of these wires led people to compare them to grapevines.
Grapevine communication is a type of informal communication that takes place within an organization. It is the sharing of information and rumors by employees, without the involvement of management.
This type of communication can take many forms, such as face-to-face conversation, written notes, or even through social media channels.
It can happen in any organization and is most prevalent in organizations that are larger. The grapevine is often seen as a way for employees to communicate with each other about important topics, such as changes in company policy or rumors about upcoming layoffs.
5 positive effects of grapevine communication
Although this type of communication is given a bad reputation in the eyes of society, there are some definite positives associated with it. Let’s go through the five main positive effects of grapevine communication in the workplace.
Messages can be sent around the firm rapidly
As soon as employees get a sniff of a certain piece of confidential information, they are then likely to pass this information on through the grapevine — by telling a fellow employee who they are close with.
This employee then tells another employee who they are close with, and the message travels rapidly along the grapevine until all employees have an idea of what has been said.
This can make grapevine communication significantly faster and more efficient than official channels, such as memos or emails. This improved flow of information can lead to better decision-making and a more efficient workplace.
It can improve employees’ understanding of the company’s culture
The grapevine is often used as a way for employees to find out information about the company’s culture, such as what the dress code is, what the social activities are like and what the boss is really like.
This sort of information is difficult to convey formally as it can only be learned from those who are of a similar level to you. It is unlikely a company-wide email is being sent out over how nice your boss is!
This understanding can help employees feel more comfortable in their work environment and improve their job satisfaction.
It can build a sense of community among employees
The grapevine can help employees feel more connected to their colleagues and the company as a whole.
By sharing informal information with one another, a close bond is formed between the employees. This can improve cohesiveness and lead them to work much more efficiently as a team.
Therefore this sense of community can lead to improved job satisfaction and motivation.
It gives employees an outlet for their emotions
Employees who feel like they can’t express their emotions at work can turn to the grapevine as a way to vent their frustrations. This can be a positive thing, as it allows employees to release their pent-up emotions and avoid bottling them up. This can lead to a more positive work environment overall.
Talking to your co-workers about issues can also make employees feel less isolated, as they feel there are others who will understand their situation.
Feedback can be received quickly
When there is an issue with a project or task, employees can quickly spread the word through the grapevine and get feedback from their colleagues.
This feedback can help employees improve their performance and avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
Can grapevine communication improve your team’s confidence?
Grapevine communication can be used to your team’s advantage by sharing information that builds confidence within the group.
When people feel confident, they tend to work harder and smarter. They also become more engaged with their work and are less likely to experience anxiety or stress.
This is where grapevine communication comes in — by sharing positive information about your team’s work, you can help to build their confidence and make them more likely to succeed.
For example: If your team has just completed a difficult project and you share this news via the grapevine, it will help to boost their confidence.
On the other hand, if you share negative information about another team’s work, it could have the opposite effect and damage your team’s confidence.
Therefore, it is important to be mindful of the type of information you share via grapevine communication.
The negatives of grapevine communication
Grapevine communication has been linked with a lot of workplace problems. We have listed some of the most common ones below:
1. It can lead to rumors and gossip
The main issue with grapevine communication is that it can often lead to rumors and gossip. When people communicate through this method, they are not always accurate, and this can cause problems.
If the wrong information is spread around the firm, it can cause severe harm and reputational damage to the employee associated with the information, and potentially make them feel very uncomfortable and unsafe.
This can lead to HR getting involved if the employee feels they have been done wrong.
2. It can create an environment of fear
Another problem with grapevine communication is that it can often create an environment of fear. This is because people are constantly talking about what others are doing, and this can make people feel like they need to watch their back.
This is a negative for any company and can lead to employees leaving the company due to its toxic culture. New hires can also get a whiff of a company’s environment and may choose to work elsewhere to avoid it.
3. It can be used to spread negativity
Grapevine communication can also be used to spread negativity. This is because people are more likely to share negative information than positive information.
This can create a bad environment within the company as mostly bad information will be shared, so it is important to keep a lid on certain information to prevent it from leaking out.
4. It can lead to mistrust
When grapevine communication is constantly happening, it can lead to mistrust. This is because people are not always sure if what they are hearing is true, and this can make it difficult to trust others.
A lack of trust between co-workers can lead to them working together in a less cohesive manner, and therefore not fulfilling their potential.
5. It can be time-consuming
Finally, grapevine communication can be time-consuming. This is because people often spend a lot of time talking about things that may not be important.
This can distract from business activities and lead to employees not being as productive as they should be.
How can we handle grapevine communication effectively?
Now we know the positives and negatives of grapevine communication, and what actionable steps can we take to keep a handle on grapevine communication, so the negatives don’t overshadow the positives.
Here are some important tips we can use in the workplace to keep a grip on grapevine communication:
- Encourage employees to communicate with each other more often. This can be done by setting up regular team meetings or informal get-togethers.
- Make it a point to listen to gossip and rumors. By doing so, you will be able to nip them in the bud before they cause any damage.
- Be transparent with your team. If there is something that needs to be communicated, do so in an open and clear manner.
- Make it clear that negative rumors will not be tolerated. Detail to your employees that spreading negativity is not a part of your company’s culture and so these topics should not be spread around.
When stepping foot into any company, it’s evident that grapevine communication plays a big part in how news spreads around the firm.
While grapevine communication can have its negative points — like when rumors get out of hand — there are also some definite advantages to this type of informal communication.
We have discussed both the negatives and positives and given out some important tips on how to handle grapevine communication as effectively as can be.
To conclude, use grapevine communication to improve your team’s confidence by spreading the good news — and do your best to keep a lid on the negative information using the pointers highlighted in this article.