A detailed guide on what grapevine communication is, the effects it can have on businesses of all sizes, and the tips and tools managers can use to make it positively impact their business.

Table of contents
  1. What Is Grapevine Communication?
  2. Different Types of Grapevine Communication
  3. The Impact of Grapevine Communication
  4. How to Make Grapevine Communication Work for Your Company
  5. The Bottom Line on Grapevine Communication

Grapevine communication is inevitable – it is part of every single organization, regardless of size or industry.

Many business owners and managers underestimate just how impactful this type of communication can be on their employee’s engagement, productivity, and performance – for better or for worse.

While grapevine communication does have its fair share of pitfalls, there are ways that you can use it effectively to benefit your company.

Let’s break down exactly what grapevine communication is and provide some tips and tools you can use to simplify communication in your business.

What Is Grapevine Communication?

Unlike online forms of communication such as e-mails, texting, and WhatsApp, grapevine communication (specifically in business) is how co-workers communicate informally with each other to reach a work-centric goal.

As much as businesses might prefer not to have it, grapevine communication is always going to be part and parcel of business. In fact, a whopping 70% of all business communication stems from the grapevine (no pun intended). 

“The informal communication system, sometimes known as the grapevine, is the communication aspect of the informal system of the organization. It is as fickle, dynamic, and varied as people are. It is the expression of the natural motivation of people to communicate.”

Keith Davis, Making Constructive Use of the Office Grapevine, in Readings in Human Relations

Although it can be one, grapevine communication doesn’t need to be a problem in the workplace. It can be tamed and steered in a productive direction.

Different Types of Grapevine Communication

It’s difficult to come up with one grapevine meaning in business communication. This is because it’s a complex workplace phenomenon that can take many forms. 

With that said, there are four main types that Professor Keith Davis, who we quoted above,  has identified.

  1. Single Strand Chain

This type of communication requires passing information through a direct line of contacts to reach a final recipient. It’s a straightforward way to communicate with coworkers, though the message becomes more filtered with each person added to the chain.

infographic about different types of grapevine communication
  1. Gossip Chain

In this chain, an individual is tasked with sharing the information with everyone else. Like the shape of a wheel, the messenger stays at the center of it and each point of contact is a spoke.

  1. Probability Chain

The most unpredictable kind of grapevine communication is undoubtedly the probability chain. This is when an individual shares information at random, and then recipients pass it on in the same manner. 

  1. Cluster Chain

In a cluster chain, one individual shares a message with a select group of recipients, who proceed to share the same information with another select group of recipients. This is the kind of situation where information exponentially spreads throughout the company, eventually reaching everyone.

The Impact of Grapevine Communication

In many businesses, the grapevine has a huge impact on how information is spread throughout the workforce, for a variety of reasons. 

Professor Davis went as far as to say that “if employees are so uninterested in their work that they do not engage in shop talk about it, then this apathy is an indication of some maladjustment in the organization.”

Other reasons include:

  • Reliability: It is often considered one of the most reliable ways to communicate about workplace matters, updates, company policy changes, and upcoming company events.
  • Reachability: Grapevine communication is a quick way to connect an entire company, from the CEO all the way down to new hires
  • Flexibility: This kind of communication is extremely flexible, meaning that it can be conducted in various ways, whether through conversation, gossiping, or even a digital 1:1 or team chat.

Download your FREE guide on “10 Tips for Engaging Your Frontline Teams” 

Woman looking at her phone and smiling with a screenshot of an update from Connecteam app

How to Make Grapevine Communication Work for Your Company

Professor Davis also wrote that “a healthy organization has both a grapevine and official channels of communications.”

While grapevine communication might be a term that many frown upon in the workplace, it is actually a practice that can be used to your and your employees’ benefit. We’ve broken it down into five useful tips.

Use a Digital Solution as an Alternative to Grapevine Communication

Using a digital solution with a wide variety of communication features can help minimize grapevine communication within your business, or at least make it more effective.

Take Connecteam, for example. This award-winning all-in-one employee management app is designed primarily for the mobile workforce – including remote teams and deskless workers.

With grapevine communication occurring in companies all around the world, it is no surprise that more than 36,000 businesses from 90 different industries benefit from Connecteam’s employee communication app to help employees and managers alike stay in touch more efficiently

If an employee needs to contact a co-worker or someone in upper management to discuss something work-related (or not), they can refer to the mobile app instead of relying on dated, time-consuming communication methods like phone calls, e-mails, and text messaging

Below, we will break down in more detail how you can use Connecteam’s essential communication features to minimize grapevine communication. These include:

  • 1:1 and group chat

  • Updates on the social feed

  • Events

  • Employee directory

  • Surveys

  • Suggestion Box

Connecteam is completely free to use for up to 10 users and, along with its operational and HR capabilities, provides business owners with the ultimate tool to scale their business.

The #1 App to Minimize Grapevine Communication

Update Your Entire Workforce Instantly

Engage with as many of your employees as you need by sending updates. With Connecteam, you can do this via the app’s social feed. 

  • Everyone in the business can instantly stay in the loop regarding the latest company announcements, new hires, changes to company policy, and more. 
  • It’s also possible to see which users didn’t see specific updates and to notify them accordingly to keep the entire company aligned on any matter. 
  • Make the updates as colorful and engaging as you want, attaching videos, images, GIFs, live polls, etc.), facilitating healthy, public employee interaction through comments and reactions. 
  • Easily schedule an announcement to be shared at a specific date and time, and select exactly who you want to read it.
  • If managers notice any false rumors being spread, they can immediately debunk them with formal announcements – promoting a culture of accurate information and reducing the chances of future rumors.
  • Create events for any work-related occasion – from team meetings to company trips. All select invitees are alerted instantly and at the same time.
Connecteam reduces grapevine communication (user interface)

Directly Reach Out to Grapevine Initiators

Managers should identify the workers who actively initiate grapevine chains. Then, they should privately provide information that is true and useful.

As a result, these workers will transmit this information to other participants that actually benefits them – as opposed to spreading rumors and distorted information.

With an app like Connecteam, managers can:

  • Directly communicate with individuals via the employee team chat feature and perform focused, personalized dialogue to share this kind of information.
  • Discuss all work-related matters on the app without relying on other modes of communication to confuse matters further. 
  • Interact with one employee, a group, or the entire company through 1:1 or group online chat.
  • Get instant access to the contact details of every employee in the company using the employee directory, meaning that you can pinpoint specific people to communicate with.

Give Employees a Platform to Provide Feedback

While grapevine chains are an easy way to spread false information, they can also be a valuable source of feedback for managers.

The more managers integrate employees into the business’s daily decision-making, the more informed they will be, reducing the need to speculate in grapevine chains and spread false rumors.

Here is how you and your employees can use Connecteam to promote feedback:

  • Give employees a voice and set up customized surveys to collect employee feedback and thoughts with specific questions. 
  • Employees can also send anonymous feedback using an online suggestion box, instead of spending ages searching for that cardboard box in the office that never gets checked.

Add Communication to All Operations

If business operations are well-organized, then the subject matter being discussed in grapevine chains will be more accurate, positive, and beneficial to the goals a business wants to reach.

With a digital solution like Connecteam, all operations can be handled and discussed at the click of a button

Whether it be clocking in and out or employee scheduling, users can easily communicate with upper management directly from these features to prevent needless back and forth and having to navigate elsewhere on the app.

The Bottom Line on Grapevine Communication

Seeing that communicating is something that humans naturally do, whether we work in an office or are part of a deskless team, business owners must accept this reality and embrace it in the workplace.

We hope that the tips provided will help you handle grapevine communication in your business and create a healthy information flow amongst employees, while still maintaining productivity and employee engagement along the way.

As previously mentioned, we believe that an all-in-one employee communication tool like Connecteam is the ideal way to keep all employees on the same page, whether it be through updates, 1:1 chat, or even engagement surveys.

This digital team communication app will ultimately do three things: provide employees with one trusted source of information, eliminate unnecessary strands of grapevine communication, and ensure that the remaining ones have a positive impact on your daily business.

Minimize Grapevine Communication with Connecteam

From company updates to 1:1 chats, give your employees the tools they need to stay in touch efficiently.

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