Every organization, whether large or small, has an informal communication network typically known as “the grapevine.”
Whether you like it or not, many employees get their information (both accurate and inaccurate) from the grapevine. In fact, a survey found that up to 75% of employees first hear about things going on at their organization through the grapevine.
Another recent study found that the grapevine (i.e., word of mouth) information from peers even has important effects on whether job applicants decide to join an organization.
The grapevine has two main characteristics: 1. It is not controlled by management.
2. Most employees perceive it as more believable and reliable than formal messages issued by management.
The fact that work situations frequently contain these two elements explains why rumors flourish in organizations.
Research shows that rumors are particularly rampant when it comes to situations such as downsizing, office relocations, and new managerial appointments. These situations, which are important to employees, are often ambiguous and occur under conditions that arouse anxiety.
HR POINTER: To minimize the impact of inaccurate information that is disseminated on the grapevine, focus on creating clear and open communications on issues: A. That are important to employees,
B. That may be ambiguous or complicated, and
C. That are causing the highest levels of anxiety within the workforce.
If you don’t communicate the correct information and don’t make an effort to communicate frequently, employees will fill the communication void with their own ideas, which will be inaccurate and will create more anxiety.