ADVANTAGES & DISADVANTAGES OF GRAPEVINE COMMUNICATION
WHAT IS GRAPEVINE COMMUNICATION?
Grapevine communication is part of an organization’s informal dynamics. It is unofficial, unconfirmed communication that races through an organization through gossip and informal chats among employees. Grapevine communication is not very different from rumour since both are based on hearsay evidence. The term refers to more immediate and ‘impending’ news about the organization’s supposed official developments. Unconfirmed information about the transfer of a senior person, the disbanding of a team, or even a company’s takeover are typical examples of grapevine communication. It is often difficult to trace the sources of such news.
Though grapevine communication is impossible to avoid or control, there are ways to harness it for its advantages. At the same time, one must be fully aware of its disadvantages.
Let us look at some common advantages and disadvantages of grapevine communication.
ADVANTAGES OF GRAPEVINE COMMUNICATION
Grapevine communication is a reasonably acceptable way to seek feedback. It involves floating news of some change in personnel, policies or processes, and watching for employees’ reactions. When the communication cycle is complete, the organization may confirm the development if the response is positive. If the response is negative, then the purported change may be set aside or implemented with some amendments. The management does this to avoid getting caught on the wrong foot or seen giving in to pressure by withdrawing an announced change.
Compared to various other types of communication, grapevine communication travels fast and spreads far and wide. In multinational companies, the information can reach across countries in minutes. It is human nature to try and be the first one to carry the news to another. This enthusiasm tends to make a feedback process speedy and quick.
Grapevine communication often tends to unite employees of an organization. It is a commonly accepted fact that grapevine news enhances group cohesiveness. The simple act of sharing grapevine communication among each other tends to strengthen their sense of camaraderie.
Take the case of Mohan. When he joined the sales team of a consumer durables firm, he found it challenging to strike an informal relationship with his colleagues. Even with an amenable and easy-going nature, he was unsuccessful in his efforts to be accepted as part of his team’s post-work gatherings. Until, one day, he comes across a piece of news about significant policy changes discussed by the management. Over lunch that afternoon, he quietly shared the information with those around him at the table. Before he knew it, he got invited to a post-work drinking session that evening. Mohan is now an intrinsic part of all of his team’s offline action.
While this story may seem like an innocuous example of someone gaining entry into a friendship circle, it is also a good example of how valuable grapevine communication is in an organization.
As an informal mode of communication, grapevine communication plays an essential role in supplementing formal communication methods. Unlike proper communication, grapevine communication has no respect for hierarchy. This aspect makes it an effective way to ensure even employees in the lowest rungs get information about things going on around them.
The grapevine can also serve as a powerful warning mechanism for management about an impending development or a crisis. It could be news of a vital resource planning to resign, worker unrest at a manufacturing unit, or even mismanagement of funds at a branch office. Hearing about it on the grapevine helps people and teams take swift measures instead of waiting for official information.
DISADVANTAGES OF GRAPEVINE COMMUNICATION
The grapevine can carry partial information or, at times, completely miss the point and can potentially harm an individual’s or an entire organization’s reputation. People with ulterior motives can twist the communication to suit their narratives and pass on misinformation.
Since grapevine news has no definite source, it can make people highly suspicious about an organization’s real intentions. False grapevine news peddled as inside information can land companies into colossal trouble, causing public relations disasters.
Waste of Time
Spending time and energy chasing unofficial news can be detrimental to productivity. Wasting precious working hours, sitting, and analysing unconfirmed rumours instead of focusing on one’s duties can erode a person’s standing in an organization.
Divisive and Factious
Grapevine news can gradually breed hostility against senior executives. It can even affect teams’ morale when news detrimental to their well-being spreads across an organization. Grapevine communication is usually a fertile breeding ground for office politics.
The nature of grapevine communication can be a good barometer of an organization’s health and well-being. It can reveal the level of trust that employees place in their employers. When organizations begin to thrive on grapevine information, it is usually an excellent indication of politicking and the presence of unofficial power centres. While grapevine communication is natural, managers need to decide how beneficial it is, draw the line, and crackdown when it starts getting out of hand. Employers must appreciate the power of grapevine communication to be able to control and manage it effectively.