The communication that takes place within groups – informal channels is called the grapevine. Grapevine is an informal communication network, which ignores formal channels of communication and spreads rumors and gossips at all levels of the business organization.
Every business-organization has its formal channels of communication, the informal channel of communication called grapevine also operates in it. It is called so because it stretches throughout the organization in all directions irrespective of the authority levels. It can be easily found that a large portion of the communication in almost every business house is not formal or pre-planned.
The employees communicate through informal channels as they do their jobs. It is neither pre-planned nor deliberately motivated by the management. It is neither written nor documented or recorded. Therefore, it refers to any communication that takes place outside the prescribed and pre-planned channels of formal business communication. It is not set with the lines of organizational hierarchy. As it has no set rules and regulations, it is not confined to a particular direction. It just spreads like a grapevine.
Grapevine generally develops due to various reasons. One of them is that when an organization is facing recession, the employees sense uncertainty. Also, at times employees do not have self-confidence due to which they form unions. Sometimes the managers show preferential treatment and favor some employees giving a segregated feeling to other employees. Thus, when employees sense a need to exchange their views, they go for grapevine network as they cannot use the formal channel of communication in that case. Generally during breaks in cafeteria, the subordinates talk about their superior’s attitude and behavior and exchange views with their peers. They discuss rumors about promotion and transfer of other employees. Thus, grapevine spreads like fire and it is not easy to trace the cause of such communication at times.
Characteristics of grapevine
As compared to formal communication, the speed of grapevine is fast. In a study it was found that in the case of manager who had an addition in his family at a local hospital at eleven O’ clock at night, by 2 P.M. next day 46% of the whole management group knew of the event. The news had traveled via the grapevine, coffee break in the morning contributing the most.
2. Degree of Selectively
Contrary to general belief grapevine shows a highly selective and discriminating path way. It chooses what interests it.
3. Locale of operation
The company grapevine mostly operates at the place of work, Since management has control over work environment, this phenomenon can be made use of tremendously in influencing worker opinion.
4. Relation to Formal Communications
Formal and informal communication systems trend to be jointly active or inactive. If formal communication is slow, grapevine is slow too. The two supplement each other; formal communications step into stamp seal of authority to it.
Limitations of Grapevine
- The grapevine may carry some degree of error in it.
- The baseless, imaginary and non-factual messages may prove harmful to the organization.
- Often the employees feed the grapevine with self-serving information. They add to the facts rather than simply report.
- The grapevine often carries incomplete information, which leads to misunderstanding of the receiver.
- The communicator does not take the responsibility of the message.
- Sometimes the grapevine spreads the message so swiftly that it causes damage to the organization.
Grapevine has certain advantages like
- The grapevine chain is highly flexible
- It travels very fast.
Managers should not try to abolish grapevine as it is the nervous system of the communication process in an organization.
It is a carrier of news and gossips and affects the affairs of the organization in a big way. Some managers considered grapevine as an evil because they think that it spreads rumors and can destroy the morale of the employees. But since grapevine cannot be eliminated we must learn to live with it. We cannot control it completely but we can certainly influence grapevine.