A Manager's Guide to Grapevine Communication: How to Use It for Business Success

Spike Team
By Spike Team, Updated on January 16, 2024, 7 min read
Grapevine Communication

Whether you know it or not or have even given it a special name, the grapevine is alive and well in your company! In fact, grapevine communication is often the easiest and fastest way to feed information to groups and individuals. It’s simple, the boss tells you your customer service reps are getting a raise, you, the manager, tell their supervisor the same, and their supervisor passes on the good news to those hard-working reps!



What is Grapevine Communication?

Grapevine communication is an informal method of workplace communication. It refers to the indirect and casual way that people within an organisation communicate with one another in a social setting, without any defined form, structure, or agenda.


Grapevine communication is a powerful tool for businesses to share information and ideas quickly and easily without necessarily following a formal hierarchy or structure. It can serve as a valuable addition to formal communication channels, boost collaboration and innovation, build a sense of community, and increase employee engagement while allowing managers to quickly and efficiently identify issues as they arise.


But, and this is a big but, grapevine communication also has a dark side, and without proper management, it can lead to damaging rumors and false information, which can harm your company’s reputation and the morale of employees. After all, no one wants to hear they’re getting fired from the grapevine!


So, to ensure that you understand how grapevine communication works and how to use it effectively to achieve business success, we explore the benefits and drawbacks, examine the different types of grapevine networks, and provide strategies for managing grapevine communication to ensure that it serves everyone’s interests.



Advantages of Grapevine Communication

As a communication workflow, Grapevine communication has many advantages that managers can leverage to improve communication between staff and supervisors at any level. In fact, it is a highly valued communication channel used by companies of all sizes, and the following benefits are highly prized:

  • Quick dissemination of information

    Grapevine communication is often faster than formal communication channels, like memos or emails, because it spreads informally through personal networks. This can be especially useful in situations where time is of the essence, such as during a crisis or when important news needs to be shared quickly.

  • Building social bonds and trust

    Social bonds among employees are essential when building cohesive and productive teams, and grapevine communication can create a sense of community within the workplace. When employees feel connected to one another, they are more likely to trust each other and work together effectively.

  • Employee engagement and motivation

    When employees feel like they are part of the grapevine network and have access to critical information, they are more engaged and motivated. Staff feel like they are part of something larger than themselves and that their contributions are valued by the managers and the company as a whole.

  • Identifying and addressing issues

    Grapevine communication can also be a useful way for managers to identify issues or concerns that may not be brought up through formal channels. By listening to what is being said on the grapevine, managers can gain valuable insights into the workplace culture and take steps to address any issues or concerns that are raised.


Disadvantages of Grapevine Communication

Disadvantages of grapevine communications


It could be argued that the advantages of grapevine communication are pretty intuitive; however, the same can be said for the disadvantages, and managers need to be aware of the drawbacks of this type of communication channel to effectively mitigate any damage they might cause. Some of the disadvantages of grapevine comms include:

  • Misinterpretation and distortion of information

    Grapevine communication is often informal and may rely on word of mouth rather than direct sources. This can lead to misinterpretation and distortion of information as it is passed from person to person. The original message may be lost or changed, leading to confusion or even an entirely different message arriving at the end of the line.

  • Spread of rumors and gossip

    Grapevine communication can also be a breeding ground for rumors and gossip. Because it is informal, there are no checks and balances to ensure that the information being shared is accurate. This can spread false or misleading information that can harm a company’s reputation or create unnecessary tension and conflict.

  • Information overload

    Because grapevine communication is so informal and often relies on personal connections, it can be challenging to filter out irrelevant or unnecessary information. This can lead to information overload, which can overwhelm employees and make it difficult for them to focus on important tasks.

  • Lack of accountability

    Grapevine communication makes it difficult to hold anyone accountable for the information being shared. This can lead to a lack of accountability and responsibility, which can be problematic if the shared information is sensitive or confidential.


Tips for Effective Grapevine Communication Among a Team

Creating an environment that promotes positive grapevine communication can be a challenge for managers, as control of the message is often lost the further it travels. However, there are methods and guidelines you can introduce to help maintain constructive communication that helps benefit the entire company.


With this in mind, here are a few tips to help you enhance and improve your grapevine communication channels so that they don’t grow wild and out of control:

  • Establish clear communication channels

    While grapevine communication is informal, it’s still important to establish clear communication channels. This ensures that information is shared in a timely and efficient manner and that everyone knows where to go if they have questions or concerns.

  • Foster a culture of trust and respect

    Trust and respect are essential for effective grapevine communication. When employees feel they can trust their colleagues and that their opinions and ideas are respected, they are more likely to participate in the grapevine network and share information freely.

  • Encourage feedback and input

    Encourage employees to share feedback and input on a regular basis. This can help encourage a sense of ownership and engagement among team members, while also leading to new ideas and insights that can benefit the company.

  • Empower employees to share information

    Ensure that employees feel empowered to share information and understand the importance of grapevine communication. This can be done through regular training and communication, as well as through recognition and rewards for those who contribute to the grapevine network.

  • Use technology to support grapevine communication

    Technology can be a valuable tool for supporting grapevine communication. Tools like team chat apps and social media platforms can help employees stay connected and share information quickly and efficiently while also providing a record of the communication for future reference.

Provide your team a complete communication software to enable them to share information easily


Case Studies of Successful Grapevine Communication

Successful grapevine communication can form an integral part of your company’s overall communication strategy, and the good news is that there are plenty of success stories of how it has enhanced rather than damaged company goals.


Perhaps the most famous example of grapevine communication being used successfully is within one of the world’s most valuable companies, Apple. In fact, Apple regularly uses grapevine methodology to “test the waters” on new products or services, essentially leaking information to employees higher up the chain, eventually filtering down and making its way into public consciousness. For Apple, this is a fast and cost-effective way to find out what works and what doesn’t or what the public wants from its products.


However, more than a simple marketing ploy, grapevine communication can be used in-house to create group cohesion among teams that can help boost productivity. In 2013, Zappos, a clothing retailer known for its unique company culture, announced that it was transitioning to a “holacracy” model of management, which eliminated traditional management hierarchies and gave employees more autonomy and decision-making power.


Famously, CEO Tony Hsieh used grapevine communication to share information and answer questions, ensuring all employees and stakeholders understood the changes and were onboard. In turn, this led to open and transparent communication through meetings and social media exchanges, which helped build a new and unique culture of collaboration and employee empowerment.



Grapevine Communication – The Final Word

Grapevine communication can be a valuable tool for businesses, and it has the potential to streamline communication throughout your entire organization. However, it must be used responsibly and effectively to best harness benefits such as quick dissemination of information, building social bonds and trust, improved employee engagement and motivation, and the ability to identify and address issues.


This responsibility must also extend to the negative aspects of grapevine communications, such as misinterpretation and distortion of information, spreading rumors and gossip, the potential for information overload, and the inherent lack of accountability. It can also hinder customer communication as well.


Finally, when combined with the right technology and forward-thinking company structures, grapevine communications can be an excellent stepping stone to building more democratic companies that give all stakeholders a voice and foster true collaboration across the entire organization.


For more information on improving communication in the workplace, explore the Spike blog today and download the app to discover why Conversational Email is the perfect tool for grapevine communication.

Spike Team
Spike Team The Spike team posts about productivity, time management, and the future of email, messaging and collaboration.

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