In every organization is an informal channel of communication called the grapevine in operation. It is quite natural for a group of people working together to be interested in one another and talk about appointments, promotions, retrenchments or even domestic affairs. Some people derive extraordinary pleasure from gathering such ‘secret’ information and transmitting it to others. They are the leaders who control the grapevine. Soon this top secret reaches everybody.
Grapevine is more a product of a situation than of a person. Certain situations like insecurity of service, uncertainty over promotions, special increments to a colleague, certain innovations in the organization that are likely to affect the job prospects of the employees, are sure to activate the leaders of the grapevine so that very soon all kinds of rumors spread in the organization.
The channel’s network is in a horizontal fashion as the communication is only between the workers of the same level of hierarchy. Apprehensions experienced by workers on matters like promotions and retrenchments become an obsession with them. Talking about them may not alleviate their fears, but it certainly provides them emotional relief. The existence of the grapevine proves that the workers are interested in their associates. The very fact they talk among themselves helps to promote organizational solidarity and cohesion.
The management should work up this kind of situation to their advantage. How? Well, all information cannot be transmitted to the employees through the official channels. If there is some useful information unsuitable for being transmitted through official channels, it can be done through grapevine. The speed with which information is transmitted through the grapevine is just remarkable.
The management should try to spot out the important leaders that are involved in this process and keep them well informed so that harmful rumors do not reach the employees. Also the grapevine can be used as an “acid test”to check the pulse of the employees. If there is any false rumor the management should immediately use the official channels to contradict and to dispel the fears from the minds of the employees.
One of the major drawbacks of the grapevine is that it may spread baseless or distorted news which may sometimes prove harmful even to the employees. The information is sometimes incomplete leading to ambiguities. The swiftness with which the grapevine transmits information may even be damaging, before the management becomes aware of it and can take any rectifying steps.
If the workers are associated with decision-making, the rumor-mongers will be automatically frustrated. If the workers are already aware, say, that the plant is to be modernized but the modernization process is not going to involve any retrenchments, the arrival of new machinery and engineers will not cause any undue apprehensions among them. Thus the harmful effects of the grapevine can be successfully counteracted. Organisations should indulge themselves in sending positive signals to the employees to win their trust and confidence.