Subscribe to My Feed   Follow Me On Twitter   Join Me On LinkedIn   Friend Me On Facebook

Are You Managing the Grapevine?

Let’s face it; every business has a grapevine – regardless of the size of the business.

A grapevine is defined as an informal means of circulating information (Langenscheidt’s Pocket Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, 1997, p.329). You know they exist; heck, you’ve probably been part of one.

This grapevine is an important source of information for any manager, executive or business owner. It provides you information that you may not otherwise hear, such as how employee morale is doing and issues that are important to employees. The grapevine is of value to employees because they tend to trust what comes from the grapevine. This is due to the fact that usually management is not involved in grapevine communications. And grapevines are not all about rumors – there is fact in there. As a manager or business owner, don’t discount the grapevine conversation, or assume it isn’t happening.

Often the grapevine picks up when information is not readily available to employees. So a few employees get wind of bits and pieces of information about something big happening – a merger with another company, a layoff, an executive team that is not getting along, budget problems, key employees who are job hunting – and pass that information on to other employees to see what they know. They aren’t necessarily trying to “stir the pot” (though yes, some may be working with this intent in mind), but rather are concerned and want to find out if someone else knows more details or has additional information. However, the grapevine can get out of control, especially when information is not forthcoming. Over time, morale decreases as employees worry about the direction the company is going, the fact that they are not privy to certain information, etc.

You can manage the grapevine, but you can’t get rid of it. Some ways to manage the grapevine include:

Share information. Providing your employees information on something happening with the company helps to reduce what flows along the grapevine. Yes, they will still talk within the grapevine, but at least you have provided them accurate information that helps to alleviate their concerns.

Explain why something is going on. If a decision has been made that seems to be inconsistent with past decisions or unfair, explain the reasoning behind the decision.

Keep your office door open. Ensure employees feel that they can come to management with questions, suggestions, ideas or concerns.

Don’t react. Don’t get upset, angry or lash out if you hear about something going around the grapevine that isn’t quite accurate or that should have been confidential. Address the issue by providing information to the employees to correct any misperceptions or give details decrease worry. Then – learn from what happened so next time you don’t have to make a correction.

Use the grapevine. When there is news to report, get the word out. Don’t keep it to yourself or assume that someone else will spread the news.

Your thoughts? How have you seen the grapevine used in your organization? Have you been a part of the grapevine? Share your thoughts in the Comments field below.