Grapevine – The best medium for organizational communication!
28 Sep , 2016
You disagree? If your experience is anything like mine you might actually agree, I have got some of the most important information through rumours/grapevine/gossip, whichever name you might want to give it, whether it was a new structure coming into play, a senior executive joining, a major strategy announcement or if it was regarding some of my employers or my peer companies, the grapevine was always ahead of time.
I had just resigned from my employer, my boss had hastily asked for a mandatory “call” to announce it to my managers. As we were waiting in the room for the call to begin, I asked the people who had gathered if they knew what the call was about, 50% of them raised their hand grinningly to say they heard something from the grapevine, once the call was over, the informed 50% were proud that their sources were right, the remaining felt left out and looked stupid. I am sure they started trusting grapevine more from that day, especially coming from the sources who told them about my possible exit.
Now we all know how grapevine spreads, From the CEO to the manager everybody has got a best friend, each one of us can’t resist but tell our best friend about the so called confidential news we got to know, after all the power of the most senior roles rests in the sensitive information we get first hand, if we keep ‘the news’ to ourselves how can we show to the people who report to us or our ‘friends’ the power/access we have in the organisation
We rather display our awareness in advance than appearing foolish to the people who might later ask us, oh! You did not know? In the “I knew” world we rather appear knowledgeable even if it means getting ahead of the organisation’s communication strategy or protecting the integrity of the individual/information. We only believe our personal information should get the “confidential” treatment, rest should be out as soon as possible with the disclaimer that “You did not hear this from me”!
But cant organisations be ahead of this grapevine? They can, but in most occasions their need to have all the boxes ticked makes it impossible to get ahead of the informal sources. Take the case of my resignation with one of my previous employers. They (mostly the bosses) first had to convince me to stay on, let’s say that it took a week, when that option was no longer viable, they had to think of my replacement, so obviously they asked HR for options, then they had to reach out to my possible replacements in the organisation either to check their interest or assess their readiness, or reach out to external options if there weren’t anyone within. Each of these interfaces takes time and increases the risk of an information leak, remember my theory everybody in this interface has an organisation friend who further has friends, so even by asking everybody to sign an NDA you might still not be able to prevent the grapevine to spread.
Sometimes the rumour could be seriously damaging, let’s say you saw two senior colleagues going out for dinner more than once, if you are that type with an imaginative mind and romantic soul, or somebody with a deprived relationship status, you might tell your best friend about a possible romantic link up between the two, becoz in ‘your book’ romantic talk is the only thing that can happen during dinner, office talk stops after business hours! Right? It makes for some nice recipe for link up especially if one of them is in a seemingly key role in the organisation. After one or two accidental sightings by others “through the perceptible eyes” and maybe a promotion or a gift by one of them to the other is all that it takes to confirm the ‘tie up’! With increased “love life” that we find at work, we have special affinity to believe grapevine of this kind more often than not. I term this damaging as it not only affects people’s progress at work but also destroys their carefully built family life. So next time you get to hear about a grapevine about X having an affair with Y, picture yourself as one of them, maybe that thought might hold your tongue before spreading the “good word” further!
It’s not that everyone in the organisation likes to spread the grapevine, some people specialise in that, if you have reasonable familiarity to people in the organisation you possibly can guess on the sources (read individuals). Not sure how this can help you as you can’t act on this most often.
Some of us respect the organisation’s information integrity, for many showing that ‘I know’ gives some kind of cheap thrills. I have heard some of the best grapevine at the smoking corners or the bars. But then with due respect to people who smoke and drink let’s not forget that some of the real and manufactured grapevine can come from anybody who has an intent issue.
I was once asked by one of my colleagues, “I hear that I am the next one to be fired”, I could only say tongue n cheek that even I heard so Sometimes denying just gives more credibility to the grapevine!
Which is the best grapevine you heard which went on to become true?
I wish all of us could shut ourselves away from grapevine