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Review of the Grapevine

Communication

By Alelign Aschale
Addis Ababa University
PhD Candidate in Applied Linguistics and Communication
June 2013

Table of Contents
Contents

Pages

Introduction ..................................................................................................................................... 1
1.

History ..................................................................................................................................... 1

2.

Grapevine in Internal Business Communications ................................................................... 2

3.

Structure (Types) of a Grapevine ............................................................................................ 3

5.

Types of Grapevine Rumors (The Transmission Forms of Rumors) ...................................... 4

6.

Types of Participants in Grapevine Communication ............................................................... 6

7.

Roles of the Participants .......................................................................................................... 6

8.

What causes Grapevine to be Active? ..................................................................................... 7

9.

How Does Grapevine Communication Spread Rumors Very Fast? ....................................... 7

10.

The Pros and Cones of Grapevine Communication ............................................................. 8

10.1.

Advantages of Grapevine Communication................................................................... 8

10.2.

Disadvantages of Grapevine Communication ............................................................ 10

11.

Monitoring Grapevine Communication for its Effective use ............................................ 11

References ..................................................................................................................................... 13

ii

Introduction

It is very essential to understand that human beings are communication social animals who favor
alternative ways of interaction: formally, informally, vertically, horizontally, and diagonally, in
chains, in wheels, in grapevines, etc. to their preferences. In the following section, a
comprehensive review of one of the alternatives that human beings like to communicate, the
grapevine communication, is made. The review included the history, the structure, the
participants, the merits and demerits and the ways of monitoring grapevine (informal)
communication (in an organization).
1. History
The 'grapevine' is the informal communication network found in every organization. The term grapevine
originated during the United States Civil War in 1860s (Davis, 1953). The telegraph wires used to pass
military intelligence were strung loosely from tree to tree, resembling a grapevine. This stringing
procedure tended to cause the messages to be garbled. That is, since battlefronts moved frequently, army
telegraph wires were strung loosely from tree to tree across battlefields, somewhat like wires used to
support grapevines. The wires were used to carry telegraph messages created in Morse code (the
electronic alphabet, invented in 1844) because the telephone wasnt invented until 1876. Since the lines
often were strung hastily during battle, and messages were composed in a hurry, the resulting
communication tended to be garbled and confusing. Soon, any rumor was said to have been heard 'on the
grapevine'. Grapevine is now applied to messages that travel through an organization with no apparent
structure or clear direction (Davis, 1953; Gibson, Ivancevich, & Donnelly, 1991).Grapevine is an
excellent metaphor for describing this networking process. Rather than moving in predictable directions,
it travels where the ground is most senile; bears fruit in bunches (clusters); and heads in a variety of
directions depending on the climate. The grapevine travels in all directions and operates overtly and
covertly. We now examine the grapevine's functions and the process.
In addition, there are many sources of grapevine communication that trace back intellectuals in history.
Some of the useful starting points include (Harris & Nelson, 2008):
Aristotle's On Rhetoric which is still fresh today is the earliest surviving text showing sharp awareness
of the need to develop communications specifically to persuade and adapted to suit particular audiences.
Shakespeare's Othello alongside the jealousy theme, is a masterpiece that brings out the dangerous
power of rumor and hearsay, if unchecked and untested. Truly an exploration of how informal
communications channels can be exploited.
The Hawthorne Effect written by various authors is a famous series of studies of industrial activity and
productivity from the early 20th century produced many rich insights, the realization that formal "time and
motion" methods and top-down control were not lastingly effective in improving performance. The
importance of the "experimental effects" seems fundamental .Was it the increased attention and fuller
respect given to the experimental subjects which produced the productivity gains. Certainly this research
seems to demonstrate that the informal and social aspects of the work environment were of far greater
impact than the choice of time-and-motion method in improving group performance.

Likewise, Irving Goffman's Asylums is another study of the closed world of a mental health institution
which is significant for the way it draws out and examines the realities of the informal worlds of inmates
and staff, and how these do or do not align with the official, formal processes.
Professor Richard Titmuss' The Gift Relationship is a study thorough examination of the social and
economic values and meanings surrounding the ways that British and US health authorities sought
supplies of blood for their medical centers has, like Asylums, had far wider impact and significance than
its subject might have suggested. It is a clear evocation of social worlds where money is not an effective
or efficient motivator, and an insight into ways of communicating need and touching on human altruism.
Eric Berne's Games People Play is from the father of transactional analysis, if that's not too child-like a
title! This accessible little book was a cornerstone in the development of a new way of looking at human
relationships and a new style of therapy, and brings unusual insights into how we behave. Intriguing; does
your organization treat its audiences adult to adult, or is it locked into a parent-to-adult conflict cycle ?
Various authors including Festinger, Sherif and Asch produced the Theory of Cognitive
Dissonance that have a tendency to conform to perceived group norms (often apparently without
realizing it) is predicted by cognitive dissonance theory, and has been reported in a large and varied body
of studies. They agreed, of course, that which groups the subject identifies with can be a crucial factor,
and informal communications approaches might seek to align "the grapevine" with the organization.
Robert Cialdini's Influence: Science and Practice is an easy to read study combines academic
research with observations from everyday life to produce a fascinating essay on some current dominant
models for influencing people; it is strictly "off topic" but full of relevant insight for grapevine
communications to understand.
Last but not least, Professor Simons Satisficing and the less than perfectly rational manager or worker
is a very influential extension of economic theory beyond its starting constraints of "perfect rationality".
Built on reports of extended observations of people at work, which showed that managers (and workers)
often do not behave as classical microeconomic theory would suggest, Simon posits limits to the
rationality of humans even in a work setting, and explores likely consequences for the behavior of people
in organisations and for economic theory.

2. Grapevine in Internal Business Communications


According to Prakashv (2009), the grapevine is a type of internal informal communication network which
is not actually sanctioned by the organization. It links employees from in direction ranging from higher
authorities to least workers. It always exist in an organization and it becomes most when all the formal
channels are closed. The discussions can be anything about the organization or personal. Mostly
grapevine communication develops rumors about the firm and to less extend about personal. It is
estimated that more than half percentage of communication in an organization is carried through this.
Most of the messages passed through the grapevine are accurate. In a survey of 22,000 shift workers in
varied industries of the United States of America, 55% said that they got most of their information via the
grapevine. Smart managers understand the companys grapevine. They recognize whos connected to
whom and which employees are key players in the informal spread of communication. Information
transmitted through the grapevine tends to undocumented and thereby susceptible to variation and
interpretation. Organizational grapevine probably should not be taken too seriously. It involves not only

the current employees, but also the former employees and total strangers. An overabundance of grapevine
rumors undoubtedly can be as a sign of organizational dysfunction, reflecting the loss of confidence in
companys hierarchy, excessive secrecy and fear, and political problems in the company. In all cases, but
particularly in time of crisis, executives need to manage communication effectively so that the grapevine
is not the only source of communication.
3. Structure (Types) of a Grapevine
Pravin (2013) identified four major structural flows of a grapevine communication. These are:

1.1. The Single Strand Chain- in this structure, it flows like a chain, i.e., A tells something to B
who tells it to C and so on.

1.2. The Gossip Chain- in this chain one person tells everybody else. This chain passes a message
regarding a not-on-job nature. For Tehaeureka (2012), grapevine communication is the informal
communication network within an organization which is used to spread information bypassing the
formal communication structure. Just like the grapevine plant, it spreads in random ways and it
goes where it can. The grapevine is formed by individuals and groups in an organization. The
people in the groups have something in common that links them together. A person can belong to
one or more groups.

1.3. The Probability Chain- in probability chain information may move from anybody to anybody.
This chain is found when the information is somewhat interesting but not really significant.

1.4. The Cluster Chain- in cluster chain information move through selected groups. A tells
something to a few selected individuals and then some of these individuals inform a few other
selected individuals. Cluster chain is the dominant grapevine pattern in an organization. Most
informal communication flows through this chain.

4. Features of Grapevine Communication


As we know that the most informal communication system of an organization is grapevine
communication system. Grapevine network is commonly criticized for its widely features. The features of
grapevine communication can be discussed both in positive and negative manners. We will go for that
after a few moments. Grapevine has three main characteristics: it is not controlled by management; it is
perceived by the most employees as being more believable and reliable; it is largely used to serve the selfinterest of those people within it. Now features of grapevine can be discussed in the following manner:
4.1. Flexibility: there is no formal control on grapevine; or this reason, it is more
flexible communication system than any other ways of communication.
4.2. Lack of control: Actually, there is no managerial control over the grapevine communication
system. It is grown by itself.
4.3. Rapid communication: grapevine communication system is faster than other formal or informal
channels of communication.
4.4. No record: we can't keep any documentary record or evidence of grapevine communication
system that can be shown or produced as future reference
4.5. Used for self-interest: as grapevine communication system is produced by gossip and rumor, It
is basically used for self-interest of the employees of an organization.
4.6. Popular among employees: this communication system is much popular among the employees
than other formal or informal channels.
4.7. Distortion: distorting of real massage is one of the major features of grapevine communication
system. In this communication process, information passes rapidly man to man. That's why the
information losses its originality.
4.8. Spontaneous: grapevine is basically spontaneous. It passes rapidly and spontaneously from top
to bottom of the organization. Here is no need to make any effort to make it successful.

5. Types of Grapevine Rumors (The Transmission Forms of Rumors)


Harrison (2013) underscores that rumors can be transmitted in four forms: first, the Pipe Dreams or Wish
Fulfillment, which targets on identifying the wishes and hopes of employees and strive for it; second, the
Bogie Rumor- it is exaggerating employees' fears and concerns in an organization; third, Wedge Driversthis is an aggressive, unfriendly and damaging rumor which targets on split groups and dissolve
allegiances; finally, the Home-Stretchers, which works on anticipating the final decisions of the managers
and/or announcements with the aim of filling the gap during times of ambiguity.
Besides, the types of rumors that are spread through grapevine communication can be classified into two
groups, spontaneous and premeditated (Kumar, 2013). Spontaneous rumors are spread when people are
stressed or in an untrustworthy environment. Premeditated rumors spread within highly competitive

environments. These two groups can be broken down into four classifications: wish fulfillment, anxiety,
wedge drivers, and home stretchers. These types of rumors can also be spread through other types of
informal network structures such as the single strand chain, the cluster chain, the probability chain, and
the gossip chain
Rumors are the primary negative feature of the grapevine. These are based on unverified information
communicated through the grapevine that lacks substantial supportive evidence (Rosnow, 1974). The
greater the stress or importance or ambiguity in a given situation, the greater the likelihood of rumors to
exist. "Rumors often start when management disastrously tries to hide things from employees" (Lussier,
1999, p. 145). Rumors can take on a life of their own and threaten the organization (Light & Landler,
1990).The activities of an organization's countercultureranging from dissenters to actual subversives
can be spread through the grapevine de-tailing reasons for these anti-management positions. Lacking a
proactive organizational communication process, rumors regarding these activities can spread through the
grapevine. Two infamous examples of the power of rumors involve McDonald's and Proctor & Gamble
(Leo, 1987) in North America. McDonald's fought a persistent rumor in the 1970s in Chicago that they
were mixing earthworms into their hamburger meat (Baron, 1983). How else, the reasoning went, could
they sell hamburgers for so little? The rumor eventually extinguished itself. From 1981 to 1991 Proctor &
Gamble (P & G) fought the rumor that its corporate logowhich had a man in the moon against a field
of13 stars, intended to stand for the original 13 colonieswas related to Satanism or some other antiChrist symbol. At one point, P & G had to add employees to handle the 15,000 logo-related calls per
month they were receiving on a nationwide toll-free consumers' line ("Company Still," 1988). P & G
finally redesigned its symbol and eliminated the curly hairs in the man's beard that seemed to look like the
number 6 ("P & G Logo," 1991). The number 666 is linked with the anti-Christ in the Book of
Revelations in the Bible. P & G essentially gave up trying to confront the rumor and changed the logo.
Three additional examples of rumors will show their power. First, the aluminum recycling industry has
attempted to squash the rumor that aluminum can pull tabs have a great value or that for every pull tab
turned in for recycling, a kidney patient will earn a minute of dialysis (Kipp, 1990). In reality, instead of
receiving $40 to $80 for a gallon of aluminum pull-tabs, collectors will receive about 60 cents (Robinson,
1991).There is no truth to the dialysis time as a trade for tab tops, but the aluminum industry cannot seem
to stop the rumor (Kipp, 1990).The last two rumors, or perhaps wishful thinking, seem to permeate
colleges and universities. One is called the suicide rule: If your roommate commits suicide, you will
receive straight A's because your trauma will make it impossible to concentrate on your studies. Despite
the prevalence of this rumor, researchers could not find a single campus without the rumor or with the
rule (Brunvard, 1990). Likewise, most students will wait 10, 15, or 20 minutes for an instructor. After the
expired time, the class will leave citing the "20-minute rule." Once again, researchers can-not find this
rule in writing, but its acceptance makes it de facto policy on most campuses. This is not true for the
suicide rule.
Rumors are powerful forms of grapevine communication because they offer explanations for events or
offer hope for certain outcomes. Rumors also can reflect genuine fears held by organizational members.
To minimize rumors, managers are counseled to keep employees informed, pay heed to the rumors, act
promptly, and enlighten employees (Vickery,1984).Essentially, feeding the grapevine with a great deal of
valid information is the secret to making this important channel of communication productive. An entire
field of study called Urban Legends relates to the wide-spread acceptance of stories that have no actual
validity (Gillins, 1982).Starting with a phrase like, "It must be true, it happened to ..." these examples of
modern folklore carry some type of poetic justice or moral about how to deal with certain situations.

Organizations have similar leg-ends regarding larger-than-life heroes who overcame difficult situations.
These heroes provide operating information for other members of the organization on what to do. If
morale is low, these antiestablishment heroes personify ways to beat the system. In either case, the rumors
involve the organization's legends, folk stories, folk heroes, and villains. The messages that pass through
the grapevine are vital to the corporate culture. These stories about particular events become the legends
of the organization. "Procedure manuals might have rules, but stories have morals." In fact, "A CEO can
give all the rah-rah speeches and hand out all the T-shirts she or he wants. But if the legends or the current
desk-to-desk whispers are about actions she or he took that discredit her or his symbolic behavior, they
may as well save their breath" (Waterman, 1987,p. 269).Some managers find the grapevine useful when it
passes information they like and they call it gossip and rumor when the information is unfavorable. This
is a myopic view of communication. Whatever passes through the grapevine provides important
information regarding the organization. In conclusion, the grapevine is important, because it reflects the
quality of the activities within the organization, fills an information void, and provides meaning to
organizational activities. Contrary to popular assumptions, it is fast, accurate, and oriented toward
information rather than gossip. In the absence of information, rumors occur to help explain events.
Combating rumors requires a proactive approach to sharing information (Harris & Nelson, 2008; Kumar,
2012; 2013).

6. Types of Participants in Grapevine Communication


The way grapevine communication works is one person, Person 1, sends a message to Person 2
and Person 3. Then, Person 2 tells Person 4 and Person 5; and Person 3 tells Person 6. Not all participants
within the grapevine send messages. Some participants are just receivers. Liaisons within an organization
usually help facilitate grapevine communication. The use of this type of communication is common
among managers as well as subdivision employees. The participants in this flow are group in to:

7. Roles of the Participants


In addition to identifying certain structured patterns, research has also given us some other facts and
descriptions, It has been discovered that only 10% of all the individuals in an organization are highly
active participants in the grapevine. The types of individuals relative to rumors, have been identified. The
three are bridgers, baggers, and bearers. Most employees fall into one of the three (3) basic categories as
they relate to the grapevine (Kumar, 2012; 2013):
7.1. Bridgers or Key Communicators - Bridgers or key communicators receive and pass
information to others. These people are the ones primarily responsible for the success of the
grapevine. Bridgers[25]--are the passers-along; the liaisons of rumors, also called KC's, as
explained by Sutton. "Key Communicator" is the term that is given to this type of individual
who is responsible for initially sending information into various networks.
7.2. Baggers or Dead Enders - Baggers hear rumors but do not pass them along or fail to tell
others. They are called "dead-enders." They receive information but do not pass it on or only
pass it on to one or maybe two other dead-enders.
7.3. Beaners or Isolates - Beaners, or isolates, are not privy to any information, do not hear the
information and thus cannot pass along, a rumor. They tend to be outside the grapevine. They
neither hear nor pass along the information.
Each type of individual can easily be identified in the communication mains previously illustrated. It
should also be noted that people are more active on the grapevine when their friends and colleagues are
actively involved. After all that has been said about the grapevine the next questions that arise are: What

should the company managers do about the grapevine? Is it good or bad? Should the managers participate?
How do we manage the grapevine?

8. What causes Grapevine to be Active?


Grapevine is very much dependent to a situation or environment. Some of the situations that make people
to become active in the grapevine communication are highlighted below (Kumar, 2012):
8.1. Excitement and Insecurity: When people are anxious regarding their future feel insecure and
may become excited. Uncertainty pulls them to take part in grapevine.
8.2. Involvement of Friends and Associates: The grapevines are active when friends and
associates are involved in the system. For example: personal life attachments are very much
catchy among the friends. And facts of promotion, retrenchment or firing of any colleagues are
interesting matters for discussion.
8.3. Recent Information: The recent information is like to be transmitted largely rather than past
information. For example: Any economic crisis or political problems are discussed heavily
during tea time or lunch in an organization.
8.4. Job: Sometimes, the job itself becomes a strong basis to take part in the grapevine network. For
example: A personal secretary of a manager is more interested in grapevine with other
employees.
8.5. Conversation Opportunity: If employees find more opportunity to gossip or passing time
without any work then there is a scope to allow grapevine.
8.6. Personality: A person who is naturally talkative plays more role in grapevine, similarly person
who is more curious and doubtful is habituated to deal with grapevine.
At all, grapevine network is so vast. Sometimes, it bears positive information about an organization, on
the contrary, sometimes negative, but its effect can't be ignored.

9. How Does Grapevine Communication Spread Rumors Very Fast?


Informal communication is a process through which unofficial information is spread by people talking to
each other in the work canteen, on the way to work and at tea-breaks etc. The informal network is the
fastest communication method but it spreads rumor, untrue and distorted information and for which the
objective of the organization goes in vain. How this happens can be explained by the following reasons:
9.1. Lack of Understanding: when the employees fail to understand any message, they try to
explain in their own way. Thus they can create and spread distorted information.
9.2. Absence of Set Rules: informal communication network does not follow any definite rules or
lines, So they can convey any kind of message to anybody without any fear and respect. As the
message is totally baseless, the main theme of communication is harmed because of informal
communication.
9.3. Exaggeration or Fabrication: some people prefer to fabricate facts or evidence and enjoy
giving a false account of events. This is possible because of absence of formality in this type of
communication.
9.4. Lack of Attention: if the sender sends any untrue message being inattentive, the receiver is
likely to treat the message to be true and accordingly he informs others; hence false information
spreads unconsciously.
9.5. Cheap Praise: there are some people who spread rumors intentionally to get cheap praise from
the people. Such intention distorts the real message.

9.6. Lack of Control: as there is no standard mechanism to control informal networks, rumors
spread faster than the air. Therefore Organization has nothing to do.
9.7. Personal Opinion: information is distorted if there is some addition or deduction of personal
opinion, counseling, imagination or thoughts. So distortion is available in informal
communication.
9.8. Weak Media: strong media cause authentication of information or message. But use of weak
media in respect of informal communication is subject to fabrication or distortion.
Because of the above reasons, informal (grapevine) communication has been found to spread rumor,
untrue and distorted information very fast.

10. The Pros and Cones of Grapevine Communication


10.1.
Advantages of Grapevine Communication
Kumar (2012), in an organization, the grapevine reflects the quality of the activities within the
corporation, fills an information void, and provides meaning to organizational activities. First, the
grapevine serves as a barometer providing vital feedback to management regarding the organization and
its employees (Gibsonet al, 1991). Although some managers try to stomp out the grapevine, most
theorists feel the grapevine indicates the deep psychological need people have to talk about their company
and their jobs (Davis, 1973).An active grapevine is indicative of the company's health and spirit and
executives can learn a great deal by listening to it. Stories, whether passed through the grapevine or told
in other settings, "say a lot about how employees believe the organization 'really' works" (Deetz, Tracy,
&Simpson, 2000, p. 79).Second, the grapevine functions as an important message source. Davis (1953)
indicated that the grapevine is most active when (a) there is great upheaval or change within the
organization, (b) the information is new, (c) face-to-face communication is relatively easy, and (d)
workers cluster along the vine. Finally, the grapevine provides sense-making information to members of
the organization. As messages travel through the grapevine, management's messages get translated into
terminology that makes sense to workers. The grapevine helps interpret management for the employee,
which makes it a vital aspect of organizational communication. Lussier(1999) makes an important
observation: "When the grapevine allows employees to know about a management decision almost before
it is made, management is doing something right" (p. 145).So, the grapevine is an important source of
messages and information for employees and for management. But, the big question is that does the
grapevine perform these functions well in an organization?
The messages flowing through grapevine have greater speed than that of the messages flowing through
the formal channels (Harris, 2002). The author said that the grapevine may carry equally vital message
through it for the achievement and success of the organization. It is not correct to underestimate the
grapevine by saying that the vital messages pass only through the authorized, formal channels. On the
other hand, though the formal channels are systematic, pre-planned and documented, it is authority-laden.
It can never be as speedy and spontaneous as the grapevine. The employees communicate through
grapevine, not because they are compelled to communicate but because they earnestly want to
communicate with their associates. The grapevine is non-expensive method and most-rapid oral method
of transmitting the information to the maximum number of the communication receivers. The grapevine
can flow wherever the participants wish it to flow; therefore, the manager can use the properly cultivated
grapevine in dealing with the problems that require crossing the boundaries between the departments.

Grapevine originates from the psychological need of the employees to talk about their jobs and their
associates as the subject of their main interest. The absence of grapevine surely creates the dull, sick and
unfriendly atmosphere in the business organization. Grapevine is also described as the barometer of
public opinion in the organization. If the manager is sensitive to it, he can gather information about the
ideas, opinions, attitudes and interests of the employees. The grapevine gives an opportunity to the
employees to let off the suppressed air of anxiety, worries and frustration. When they talk about their
associates, they get emotional relief. The fact that the employees talk about their associates or that they
have the interest in their associates is a proof of the high morale. Thus, the grapevine not only promotes
unity, integrity and solidarity of the organization but it also helps to raise the morale of the employees.
What is more, there are many advantages and disadvantages in grapevine communication. According to
Tehaeureka (2012), the advantage in grapevine communication creates a social bond where none existed.
People like to talk to one another; whether they talk about work or family, or anything. Teams become
more cohesive when members talk to one another outside of the project or assignment they may be
working on. Informal communication lends itself to bonding. The grapevine fills in a gap that is left when
official information is missing, especially in chaotic or changing times. Even in organizations where
management is very proactive about communicating change and keeping employees informed, the
grapevine helps to fill in the blanks. The grapevine in many ways helps keep people honest; it can
dissuade people from engaging on behavior that they dont want others to know about. This is a two edge
sword. On one hand, people will think twice about taking what they know is a wrong course of action. On
the other hand, they may also think twice about taking a necessary risk and doing the right thing, fearful
those appearances that may give rise to rumors.
Generally, there are three specific attributes of the grapevine that make it important and useful: it is fast,
accurate, and carries a great deal of information (Goldhaber, 1993). First, the grapevine is fast. In
situations involving job security or lay-offs, for example, numerous organizations have learned just how
quickly the news spreads through the grapevine (Johns, 1988). Messages spread quickly as organizational
members seek meaning. Second, the grapevine is surprisingly accurate; rather than being a source of
unfounded gossip, the grapevine has an accuracy of 75% to 90%for noncontroversial information (Lussier,
1999). When errors do occur, they are generally in the area of incorrect emphasis based on incomplete
information. The grapevine is not always right, of course, because being 75% to90% accurate also means
that the grapevine is inaccurate 10% to 25% of the time. Finally, the grapevine contains a significant
amount of information. In addition to the messages regarding the organization's health or the employees'
sentiments, the grapevine allows organizational members to vent messages that simply do not fit into the
formal channels of communication. In the same vein, grapevines can carry socially oriented messages,
which develop relationships and enhance a sense of belonging. In addition, the formal channels of
communication often require reinterpretation so that the majority of employees can understand fully the
meaning of the messages, which is accomplished through the grapevine (Timm & DeTienne, 1995).
Grapevine (Informal) communication is free from maintaining rules and regulations, procedures and
others. Such communication bears low cost than formal communication. Although informal
communication does not follow any set rules or principle but it offers some advantages which are as
follows (Kumar, 2012); Miller, 2012):
1. Alternative System: there are some messages which cannot be sent through formal way and
therefore requires some alternative. Such alternative can be informal communication.
2. Interpretation: message sent to subordinates requires explanation or interpretation and informal
communication is the valuable means here.

3. To Present Grievances: employees can't make any complaints to superiors through formal
communication. But informal communication gives the employees a better opportunity to raise their
complaints, grievances or claim. Sometimes, in this way, as an informal communication
system, grapevine affects much.
4. Increase Efficiency: employees can freely exchange their opinions in terms of informal
communication. They can ask any question without any hesitation. Thus a cordial environment is
created to increase the efficiency of employees.
5. Improving Relations: any created between management and the labor can be settled through
informal communication. Co-operation and co-ordination can be established through harmonious
relationship between management and labor. Such relationship is only possible through informal
communication. And as an informal system, grapevine may give this opportunity too.
6. Providing Recommendations: subordinates feel free to provide management with their suggestions
and recommendations on different job related issues like work methods, procedures and conditions
etc.
7. Measuring Reaction: before releasing any new information, management wants to know the
reaction of employees. In such a case, informal communication can be valuable in measuring the
reaction of employees before any information is conveyed through formal channels.
8. Transmission: information flows quickly through informal channels, Management may take
advantage to send or receive the message of urgent nature through such network.
9. Provide Emotional Relief: for different reasons, some employees may become emotional which
can't be removed through formal communication. But informal communication acts as a safety
measure to provide emotional relief and therefore helps in concentration to job.
10. Solution to Problems: with the help of informal communication, the management is able to know
problems, conflicts and complaints and the like. Therefore management can take necessary action
timely and effectively.

10.2. Disadvantages of Grapevine Communication


In grapevine communication there are some intrinsic dangers in bypassing the organizational channels to
get to the facts of the matter (Tehaeureka, 2012). The author added, the main danger is that much of the
information that gets spread through the grapevine is not verified. Some of the information is likely false
and difficult, if not impossible, to verify. It is obvious that we discount information when the source is a
known gossiper. Kumar (2012) added that the grapevine may carry some degree of error in it; the baseless,
imaginary and non-factual messages may prove harmful to the organization; often the employees feed the
grapevine with self-serving information; they add to the facts rather than simply report. The grapevine
often carries incomplete information, which leads to misunderstanding of the receiver; the communicator
does not take the responsibility of the message; sometimes the grapevine spreads the message so swiftly
that it causes damage to the organization.
Some significantly identified demerits/ disadvantages of informal (grapevine) communication system are
as follows (Kumar, 2012):
1. Distortion: informal communication networks do not follow any set of rules, definite liners or ways.
So it can transmit any kind of information to any person without any respect or fear. It may spread
wrong or distorted news which may sometimes prove harmful even to the employees. So, it is the
one of most considerable disadvantages of informal communication.

10

2. Lack of Secrecy: in informal communication, everybody can freely interact as there are no
restrictions or rules. Any secret matter is likely to be flashed without any problem or hesitation.
This may cause a huge damage to any organization.
3. Incomplete Information: information released from such communication network is usually
incomplete. So, there is each and every chance of it to be misunderstood or misinterpreted.
4. Non-Co-Operation: sometimes, confusion develops among the persons involved in informal
communication. As a result, they may remain separate without any co-operation.
5. Lack of Resistance: as informal communication does not follow any established system, it is
beyond any control. Organization has no mechanism to resist its movement.
6. Huge Rumor: most of the time, informal communication fabricates the real facts and makes some
rosy picture. This really damages the working environment of any organization.
7. Misunderstanding: lack of conduct, decency, decorum and rules cause misunderstanding
in informal communication. As a result there may be conflict between employees.
8. Committing Mistakes: these sort of communication are subject to errors and mistakes because no
officials rules or regulation operate in this case of informal communication.
9. Difficult to Control: such communication can produce division or groups and subgroups in
the organization. People involved here do not follow any rules and regulation as they depend on
their own philosophy. All these may destroy the control of the respective authority.

11. Monitoring Grapevine Communication for its Effective use


In a situation of grapevine communication, the manager should organize fruitful group activities so as to
enhance the self-worth of the employees and update their knowledge. The manager should keep an eye on
rumor-mongers. He should tactfully identify the leaders and won their confidence. As far as possible, the
employees, through their leaders, should be made partners in the decision making process. A tactful
manager will keep the employees well informed so that they may not spread rumors. Besides, the
manager should try to get feedback on his style of functioning and work for continuous improvement.
Finally, a manager must be a good empathic listener; this way the employees or the leaders will feel free
to talk to him rather than indulge in rumor mongering (Kumar, 2013).
Kumar (2012) said that grapevine is an informal channel of business communication; it is called so
because it stretches throughout the organization in all directions irrespective of the authority levels. The
management can use grapevine to supplement the formal channels of communication. Though it carries
some degree of error and distortion, efforts can be made to correct it. Ignoring the grapevine is nothing
but to ignore a valuable source of communication. The management can eliminate its negative
consequences and, at the same time, it can nourish its positive benefits. The managers have to learn to
manage and control it in the following ways (Kumar, 2012):
1. The management can open up all the channels of organizational communication to present the
facts positively before the employees and thereby can fight the negative messages with the
positive weapons of facts and figures.
2. Better job design and better quality of work life can easily bring the grapevine under the control
of the management. It also prevents the boredom, idleness and suspicions among the employees.
3. The negative consequences of the grapevine can be easily eliminated if the management is
successful in creating trust-relationship with the employees.
4. The rumors flourish beyond limits when the employees are not well informed by the management
regarding the policies, objectives and the work procedure of the organization. The inadequate
access to information and the feeling if insecurity is the reasons behind the negative outcomes of

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5.

6.
7.

8.
9.

10.

the grapevines. The managers must give their employees an adequate access to information and
the feeling of security.
The rumors spread when the situations are unpredictable, unstructured, unplanned and are beyond
the control of a person or the persons who are involved in them. Therefore, the best way to
manage and control it is to provide accurate and substantial information of the situations to the
employees. The managers should pick up the false rumors and dispel them by providing correct
information.
Before taking any decision or action, the managers must consider its possible effects on the
informal groups and systems in the organization.
The management can use the grapevine as a barometer of the public opinions in the organization
or to feel the pulse of the employees in a particular situation. This will surely help them to take
right policy decisions.
In the formal activities of the organization, the management should avoid threatening the informal
groups, which are responsible in spreading the grapevine effectively.
The management should find out the people in the informal groups who are more active on
grapevine. These people should be accurately and adequately informed so that the false rumors
causing excitement and insecurity do not spread among the employees.
The management should remember that the workplace community is maintained not only by the
work itself but also by the informal human relationships. Therefore, the manager should honestly
try to integrate their interests with those of the informal groups.

Spare (2011) added that the following are very crucial in the process of handing grapevine
communication:
11. Silence not always golden- companies should not ignore the grapevine, be indifferent to it or try
to kill it. Leaders should proactively communicate and inject as much authentic information into
the system as they can. Regular interactions with employees are the best way to understand gossip
and politics, and one must be prepared for this, he says.
12. Keep an open culture- the grapevine is always about people, and travels faster than any other
mode of communication. People at the receiving end of gossip may even take the drastic step of
quitting. An open culture with the freedom to approach the management is important to tackle the
grapevine.
13. Communicate ASAP- employees hate it if they get know developments about their company
from the market, instead of from within. Company heads should directly communicate these to
employees, as soon as possible. A beverage industry professional cited an example of how his
CEO lost his job because of the grapevine, as he did not communicate an update in time. His
company had sold a bottling plant to another company and workers went on strike thinking they
would lose their jobs, which was not the case.
14. Keep them busy- the grapevine generally gets active starts early in the morning, in car pools,
over meetings by the coffee machine or during lunch and smoking breaks, when people have a lot
of time on hand. The best way to use the employees' time is to delegate responsibility and power.
This can be the most effective way to keep employees getting involved in gossip.
15. Eliminate uncertainty- nervousness and uncertainty is potent fuel for the grapevine. Even if
times are rough for the company, it should be made known to the employees and they should be
involved at every step. Companies should not hesitate to ask employees ideas for cost-cutting or
going after new businesses. They often have great ideas, which are many a time not obvious to
the company management.

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