What is Grapevine Communication?

Meaning of Grapevine Communication

Grapevine communication refers to informal means of communication, where there is no defined path or route for sharing information from one person to another. This type of communication take place without any established structure within the organization, and is neither under the control of management. The flow of information is not restricted and moves in all direction such as upwards, downward and diagonally. Under it, communication is established with or without chain of commands, among workers and manager, and even with or without the company. Grapevine communication is also termed as unofficial or casual form of communication due to its nature of not following any set pattern. It spreads information very quickly in distinct directions almost linking everyone within the organization. 

Grapevine communication is governed by personal and social relationships instead of official rules and regulation. It is more frequently used for passing opinions, rumours and suspicions that generally does not pass-on via formal channels. The informal channel gets developed within organization despite the existence of formal channel, because man being a social animal tends to interact with other peoples around them. Such type of communication is more generally found at lower levels of business enterprise. In addition to information communication, grapevine also serve as a great means of enhancing team building and interpersonal relationships among workers. 

Characteristics of Grapevine Communication

Various characteristics of grapevine communication are well-discussed in points given below: – 

  1. Huge impact- Grapevine communication carries huge impact on large number of peoples working within the business enterprise. Many peoples are dependent upon it as a primary source of communication among them. They consider it more reliable means for sharing fact and events within the enterprise. 
  2. Flexibility- It is more flexible method of communication in comparison to formal channel requiring a lot of formalities. Grapevine is free from any type of official formalities where gossiping, moments and conversation can be easily shared. 
  3. Speed- Grapevine is very rapid means of communication where information spreads quickly within the organization. It runs fasters than wind such that information reaches each and every person in short span of time.   
  4. Extensive- The whole organization get linked in extensive manner through grapevine. All persons ranging from top to bottom level of business organization, get linked and nobody is left out. This is the only reason due to which grapevine is regarded as most effective type of communication.
  5. Large receivers- There are huge number of receivers associated with this type of communication for getting required piece of information. The message and essence of grapevine is catchy due to which large peoples are always actively involved in it. 
  6. Distortion- Grapevine is more likely to get affected by distorted messages due to absence of any established structure within the organization. The message flows casually without any specific route in all directions. It is because of this, manytime original message gets altered as it goes on spreading on larger scale. 
  7. Oral way- It employs use of oral techniques more than the non-verbal or written techniques of communication. Oral communication is quicker and consume less time, thereby making it more efficient mode for establishing grapevine. 
  8. Contradictory information- Grapevine communication can lead to contradictions as there are high chance of information getting distorted. The original message may get completely altered by the time it reaches the last person, thereby giving distinct meaning and ultimately raising contradictions.    
  9. Unsaid information- It is more commonly used to share piece of information that can’t be conveyed via formal channels. Fabricated or rumour-based information is supposed to be transmitted more effectively by grapevine as it is not governed by any official rules. Also, it is difficult to trace the point of origin in grapevine that makes it more convenient means for carrying out casual conversations among workers.  

Types of Grapevine Communication

The types of grapevine communication are as follows: – 

  1. Single strand chain- Single strand is type of communication where person transmits information to a trustworthy person, who in turn passes information to some another trustworthy person and in this way, chain starts moving. The information is conveyed via line of persons to recipient. For example, A telling B, B telling C and so on passing of information continues till it reaches most of the people involved. Longer is the strand, more will be distortion and filtering effects. 
  2. Probability chain- Probability chain is one where individual passes information on random basis to other individuals around them. The person who transfers information is unsure about whom to pass information. He is confused among large number of peoples around him and therefore end up passing it randomly to someone, who further transmits randomly to others and so on. The receiver is not selected in deliberate manner by person under this type of communication. 

For example, A has four persons around him: D, E, B, G. He shares information with only B and D, and he did not choose them deliberately but happens as a matter of chance. Same thing applies to B and D, B passing information to R and D to G. The chain will keep on moving in similar manner. 

  1. Gossip chain- Under this type of communication, information is transmitted by person to number of peoples during a course of gossip. A person gets to know something interesting but is  unrelated to work. He then shares such stuff with all members of his group and other peoples also. Gossip chain is generally considered slow in passing the information. 

For example, a person from organization came to know that two employees are in relationship with one another and soon going for love marriage. Now that person will pass this information to large number of peoples around him.  

  1. Cluster chain- Cluster chain communication is a type where information is transmitted by person to selected individuals only. The persons receiving the information also passes same information to selected individuals and the chain continues in similar way. The person does not randomly transfer information here, but first selects receiver of his choice. In all organizations, employees have good liaison with some peoples in their group. The information is passed on to these peoples of their choice in order to get some sort of favour form them. 

For example, A shares information with E, F and G. E and G do not pass it to anyone else but F pass it to B and C. B does not pass it anyone but C tells it to X and Y. In this manner, the chain keeps on moving. 

Importance of Grapevine Communication

The importance of grapevine communication is described in points below: 

  1. Create healthy environment- Grapevine communication leads to creation of healthy work environment within the business organization. This communication is entirely based on feelings and emotion of peoples that is of utmost importance in any organization. Human are social animals who are always willing to interact with peoples around them. They cannot always interact with each other in formal way as it may turn monotonous. Therefore, informal communication is much needed for allowing venting of employee’s emotions and preventing them from bottling up.    
  2. Supplement to formal channels- It acts as a great supplement to formal channels of communication. The message that can’t be transmitted through formal channels gets transmitted conveniently via grapevine channel. Whenever management team want to spread message quickly then they might process the information on grapevine, that spread it like a jungle fire.  
  3. Relieving employee dissatisfaction- Grapevine communication helps employees in relieving their dissatisfaction level. Manytimes employees get demotivated and dissatisfied with the organizational decisions such as promotion, retirement, retrenchments, salary etc. When employees communicate with other aggrieved employees through grapevine channel, they get mental satisfaction and are able to soften their overall dissatisfaction. Grapevine communication assist in translating the formal orders of managers into employee’s language thereby avoiding any failure in management communication. 
  4. Builds organizational cohesion and solidarity- Presence of grapevine channels in organization make employees happy and interested with their team. Employees are able to communicate without any restrictions that enables them to develop a sense of belongingness, status and self-respect. It ultimately leads to building up of solidarity and cohesion within business organization. Due to this reason, many companies themselves give encouragement to grapevine communication for boosting the employee’s morale. 
  5. Getting feedbacks- Grapevine communication help executives and management team in getting valuable feedbacks from employees working within the organization. They get to know, what employees think about their company and what all things do they consider good or bad. All these information when used intelligently by management can helps them in planning better actions so as to take decisions supportive by workforce.   
  6. Useful for Trade unions- It is of vital use for trade unions who majorly use it for doing communication with their group members. Grapevine is a casual form of communication not regulated by any rules and also difficult to trace its point of origin. This makes it convenient for union leaders for diffusing the exciting news or irritating the members for aggressive actions. 

Advantages of Grapevine Communication

The advantages of grapevine communication are: – 

  1. Spreads quickly- Grapevine is a fastest means of communication under which information spreads in quick manner. The informal channels are free from any regulation, documentation and hierarchal barriers. The communication occurs in totally casual manner without any restrictions. All this makes it a fastest medium for exchanging thoughts and information within or outside the business enterprise.  
  2. Group cohesiveness- It serve as effective means for enhancing the group cohesiveness within organization. Gossips, a form of grapevine majorly become the reason behind bringing people closer and developing friendly relations. The presence of gossips enhance interaction among employees, thereby resulting in raising workability of any business enterprise.    
  3. Increase efficiency- The informal channels of communication enable employees to openly share their concern and issues. It assists management team in getting the right feedback and accordingly solving problem in efficient manner. Consequently, with proper monitoring of employee’s issues, the overall working efficiency also get enhanced.  
  4. Grievance redressal- Grapevine enable companies in proper grievance redressal of their employees. The employees are able to communicate about their needs and express their feelings openly without any hesitation through informal channels of communication. They are unable to raise their queries and issues in a restricted environment. All this also leads to reducing the turnaround time for conflict resolution.  
  5. Improve relationships- An informal means of communication plays an effective role in improving relationship among peoples working in organization. It enables in solving most of the problems in seamless manner, thereby avoiding any chance of clashes between employees and management team. This results in positive environment and builds good relationship within the company. 

Disadvantages of Grapevine Communication

Various disadvantages of grapevine communication are as follows: –

  1. Risk of misunderstandings- Grapevine system can lead to lots of misunderstanding as no formal chain of command is followed by staff under it. Most of the times, information shared is partial and is not supported by any facts due to which chances of misunderstanding are quite high. If information passed is found to be emotional unhealthy then it can hurt other peoples emotionally, thereby negatively hampering the work culture of business.  
  2. Difficult to control- It is difficult to control due to absence of any rules and regulation for carrying out communication among peoples. Grapevine is not governed by any official rules that makes controlling the flow of unwanted information very difficult. In case, if any confidential information relating to client or financials get spread then it can be very problematic for professional environment.  
  3. Ignites non-cooperation- Presence of grapevine sometimes also leads to non-cooperative culture and unhealthy competition among staff members. It gives rise to baseless rumours and gossips that goes on spreading in organization. The employees may get involved in open discussions with one another and end up hurting each other. After this, they may even do not want to work with one another thereby adding inefficiency to firm.
  4. Almost no secrecy- Another major limitation of grapevine system is that there is no secrecy of information as mostly communication takes place in open discussions. In addition to this, as not backed by any rules, the information flow is almost uncontrollable. Under such circumstances, if any false information gets spread, then it can have large negative impacts on business organization.