Grapvine Communication

Last Updated: 28 Feb 2023
Pages: 14 Views: 1946
Table of contents


Grapevine communication is the informal communication network within an organization. A grapevine is used to spread information by bypassing the formal communication structure. Just like the grapevine plant: it spreads in random ways and it goes where it can. It is formed by individuals and groups in an organization. The people in the groups have something in common that links them together. A person can belong to one or more groups. Grapevine communication is a form of informal communication by which people communicate with each other without any formal line of communication.

It’s called Grapevine because like that of a grapevine it’s impossible to find the origin of information which results in the spread of rumors. Grapevine communication is a form of informal business communication, which develops within an organization. It means gossip, usually gossip that spreads and covers a lot of ground (a lot of people), much like vines do.

Order custom essay Grapvine Communication with free plagiarism report

feat icon 450+ experts on 30 subjects feat icon Starting from 3 hours delivery
Get Essay Help

The objective of the study

We have prepared this assignment to know about the grapevine, it’s a positive and negative impact. Actually what the grapevine is and what is the impact of the grapevine in any organization? We mainly tried to find out whether grapevine is helpful or it is harmful to the organization’s progress.

Methodology of the study

In this assignment, we have collected different information from both primary and secondary sources of information. We collected different data from different books but mainly by browsing the internet (secondary source). We paid more attention to secondary sources to collect updated information.

Limitations of the study

In this assignment, we tried to find the effect of grapevine in the organization but didn’t get enough information on this topic. Because of the scarcity of information from primary sources, we have to depend on secondary sources.

Description of the topic

In the word of Keith Davis, "Grapevine is basically a channel of horizontal communication, for its only people working at the same level of the hierarchy who can informally communicate with one another with perfect ease. Formal vs. Informal Channels of Communication Every organization has a formal communication system. This formal system provides information regarding the organization to the employees through different media. The formal network, made up of memos, reports, staff meetings, department meetings, conferences, company newsletters, and official notices, is highly documented and as such has very little chance for change.

However, nearly all of the information within the grapevine is undocumented and is thereby open to change and interpretation as it moves through the network. "The informal organization is less permanent and less stable because its leaders and patterns of action change readily. This occurs because of the dependency of the network on personalities, whereas the formal network is set up through structured policies non-dependent on individuals. The grapevine is flexible and personal and can spread information faster than formal communication channels.

The grapevine is also capable of penetrating even the tightest security because it cuts across organizational lines and deals directly with people in the know. Bosses who chose not to pay attention to the grapevine have 50% less credible information than those who do. It exists because of the excessive structuring of formal workflows and the excessive channeling of information flows. It is fed by personal apprehension, wish fulfillment, retaliation, and gossip. Surprisingly, most researchers have found that most grapevine information is either true or has within it a kernel of truth.

How Accurate is the Grapevine Allport and Postman's research indicated that "most rumors start as a report of an actual episode - that is to say, with someone's perceptual experience of an event which he deems of sufficient interest and importance to communicate to others. Once this central theme, the actual episode, has been accepted there is a tendency to distort subsequent news or events in order to make them consistent with the central theme. However, Keith Davis reports from his research "that in normal business situations between 75 percent and 95 percent of grapevine information is correct. In general people tend to think the grapevine is less accurate than it is because its errors tend to be more dramatic and consequently are more impressed on one's memory than its day-to-day routine accuracy. In a normal work situation, upwards of 80% of the information that comes over the grapevine is accurate. While the day-to-day accuracy may be good, people believe the grapevine is less accurate because the times it is wrong are more dramatic. Communication may be 90% correct in details but that last 10% is often the most important part of the message.

Messages from the grapevine are often lacking in all the details so that the message is subject to misinterpretation; while the grapevine generally carries the truth it seldom carries the whole truth. An interesting note about the informal communications network is that an estimated 80% of grapevine information is oriented toward the individual while 20% concerns the company. Allport and Postman discuss, in their book, the changes that occur as a rumor passes along the grapevine. The central theme may be resistant to change, however, crucial details necessary for understanding the true situation keep being deleted.

At the same time, the most dramatic details keep being exaggerated each time the rumor is repeated. So as the rumor moves along it begins to appear as some sort of shrinking missile as it keeps getting shorter and more pointed in flight. This may sound very simple, however, we should remember that "the grapevine is fast-paced and generally moves, free of organizational restraints, by word of mouth. "

Factors Affecting Grapevine's Operation Several additional factors affect the operation of the grapevine.

  1. In wartime, the conditions for rumor are optimal. Military events are of the greatest importance.
  2. The greater the homogeneity of the organization, the better the grapevine will operate.
  3. Rumors prosper best where formal communication is poor. They thrive in an environment where employees are not kept informed about anything that may be important to them.
  4. They perform best in informal social contacts but can operate as effectively as a sideline to official meetings. In a poorly managed organization, they can chip away at morale and fuel anxiety, conflict, and misunderstanding.
  5. People start and spread rumors to enhance their status, fill gaps in social conversations, and avoid suspense over suspected events. This activity increases during times of stress, uncertainty, and in the absence of news. Frederick Koenig, a sociologist who studies rumors, believes that people listen to and pass a rumor because it satisfies some need. This is why the nature of the people involved is important.

Different people have different needs and rumors.

  • may circulate because they are interesting or a source of diversion. The valve can be the content of the message or the state of the group.
  • can pull together events and fill in the gaps to make sense and provide explanations for what is going on.
  • can validate and support a point of view
  • and reconcile one's psychological state with what one sees as actually going on
  • are a means of getting attention.
  • are a way of manipulating situations. The idea of some person or group deliberately starting a rumor to serve selfish ends is frequently suggested.

Types of Grapevine Rumors can be divided into four categories.

The categories are -

  1. Wish fulfillment rumors
  2. Bogey rumor
  3. Wedge drivers rumors
  4. Home stretchers rumors

Wish fulfillment rumor

These express the wishes and hopes of those who circulate rumors and these are the most positive and they help to stimulate the creativity of others. often solutions to work problems are a result of employees verbally expressing desire for changes. These improvements sometimes result in increased efficiency for certain departments within the organization. Even though the tone is positive they still represent employee concerns.

Bogey rumor

Bogey's rumor comes from employees' fears and anxieties causing general uneasiness among employees such as during budget crunch. In this case, employees will verbally express their fears to others. These rumors are sometimes damaging, such as a rumor about possible lay-offs, and need a formal rebuttal from management. Wedge Drivers rumor Wedge Drivers divide groups and destroy loyalties. They are motivated by aggression or even hatred. They are divisive and very negative rumors. They tend to be demeaning to a company or individual and can cause damage to the reputation of others.

Wedge drivers rumor

A wedge driver rumor maybe someone at x Company saying that v Company serves worms in their hamburgers; or in another context, a school-age child telling friends that another child has AIDS, or some other tale, like "Louise, the office manager, was seen the other day alone with that young new accountant. They were in a car together leaving Motel Six. " or one may spread the word that "Mary got the promotion because she is sleeping with the boss. " Women are more likely to be attacked with sexual gossip.

Home stretchers rumor

These are anticipatory rumors. These rumors occur after employees have been waiting a long time for an announcement. There may be just one final thing necessary to complete the puzzle and this in effect enhances the ambiguity of the situation. Now we will look at how the message is spread and those who participate. How is the message spread Within the organization communication chains exist. The chain used by formal communication may be very rigid, following the chain of command or authority. However, the chain used by the grapevine tends to be very flexible.

Four different chains/structures appear to dominate the grapevine network according to Keith Davis are:

  1. Single Strand Chain
  2. Gossip Chain
  3. Probability Chain
  4. Cluster Chain Single Strand Chain

Single Strand Chain

This is a simple concept to follow, A tells B, who tells C, who tells D, and so on. Each person passes the information on to the next person. The longer the strand the more distortion and filtering affect the information being passed until the last person in the chain may find the information unrecognizable from the original message. Most inaccuracies occur in this chain.

Gossip Chain

This pattern is considered to be somewhat slow in moving the information.

Probability Chain

In this case, A makes random contact with say F and C and passes on the information. They in turn randomly contact others in accordance with the laws of probability. Some hear the information and some don't. In this structure, there is no definite pattern of communication. Information is randomly passed along to anyone willing to listen. The type of person who communicates in this manner might be a very outgoing and talkative type of individual.

Cluster Chain

Here A tells contacts, B and F, who may work with A. They may tell two or three other persons with whom they usually have close contact. The most predominant pattern is the cluster pattern. Selectivity is the basis for this pattern. In any organization, individuals will generally feel more comfortable with some fellow employees than with others and therefore only relay information to those in their informal social groups. This flow pattern results in information missing some individuals completely.

Roles of the Participants

In addition to identifying certain structured patterns, research has also given us some other facts and descriptions, It has been discovered that only 10% of all the individuals in an organization are highly active participants in the grapevine. The types of individuals relative to rumors have been identified. The three are -

  1. Bridger
  2. Bagger
  3. Bearer

Most employees fall into one of the three basic categories as they relate to the grapevine.


Bridgers receive and pass information to others. These people are the ones primarily responsible for the success of the grapevine.

Bridgers are the passers-along; the liaisons of rumors, also called KC's, as explained by Sutton. "Key Communicator" is the term that is given to this type of individual who is responsible for initially sending information into various networks.


Baggers hear rumors but do not pass them along or fail to tell others. They are called "dead-enders. " They receive information but do not pass it on or only pass it on to one or maybe two other dead-enders.


Bearers are not privy to any information, do not hear the information, and thus cannot pass along a rumor.

They tend to be outside the grapevine. They neither hear nor pass along the information. Each type of individual can easily be identified in the communication mains previously illustrated. It should also be noted that people are more active on the grapevine when their friends and colleagues are actively involved. After all that has been said about the grapevine the next questions that arise are: What should the company managers do about the grapevine? Is it good or bad? Should the managers participate? How do we manage the grapevine?

Management's Response to the Grapevine

The key thing to remember is that the grapevine exists, William A. Delaney reminds us of this when he says the "grapevine exists, always has and always will, and you can't stop it. " So managers should accept the fact and decide how they can use it to their own benefit. Vanessa Arnold contends that "Managers interested in creating effective organizational communication will use information from the grapevine to improve communication throughout the firm. " The real value of the grapevine should be in revealing to management those issues that generate from the grassroots.

As Donald Thompson said "its usefulness is seldom acknowledged, its voice often muffled, its insights ignored. " Should Managers Participate In many cases lower and middle managers are already active participants? They hold strategic positions in the communication channel because they filter and block two-way communication between higher management and operating employees. Managers basically have three options when it comes to their participation in the grapevine:

  1. Ignore the grapevine, be no part of it. This is difficult in most organizations, but can be accomplished. They do their job and let it operate unnoticed around them. In effect, they become an "isolate. "
  2. Participate only when it serves their purpose. In this case, they may seek out the grapevine and tap it to learn what is being said concerning a specific situation or issue.
  3. Become an active and full-time participant. Managing the Grapevine Since the grapevine cannot be held responsible for errors and is somewhat of an unknown, managers sometimes succumb to the wish that it will go away; but we have learned from experience and research that "homicide" will not work with the grapevine.

It cannot be abolished, rubbed out, hidden under a basket, chopped down, tied up, or stopped. If we suppress it in one place it will pop up in another. If we cut off one of its sources, it merely moves to another one. It is as hard to kill as the mythical glass snake, that, when struck, broke itself into fragments and grew a new snake out of each piece. In a sense, the grapevine is a human birthright, because whenever people congregate into groups, the grapevine is sure to develop. It may use smoke signals, jungle tom-tome, taps on a prison wall, ordinary conversation, or some other method, but it will always be there.

Organizations cannot "fire" the grapevine because they did not hire it. It is simply there. Management Options Internal rumors are generally managed differently than external rumors if for no other reason than the management of a company has more control over internal formal communication than over information sent out to the external environment. Since grapevine activity increases during times of uncertainty, management must provide information through the formal system of communication about key issues and events that affect employees.

Management should supply employees with a steady flow of accurate, timely information; in this way, the potential damage caused by the grapevine can be minimized. Any attempt to soften or distort a rumor to make things look good is not a good way to deal with the rumor. The longer a rumor circulates the more difficult it is to control. Facts should be released quickly. The grapevine can be controlled with prompt, clear, and accurate information on the issues important to the employees. Full facts must be presented. Formal communication lines must be kept open and the process as short as possible.

Direct memos, large group announcements, and intercom systems should be used. If employees perceive management is giving them the facts, they will be less anxious and less emotional when rumors are heard. Although the preferred management option is prevention, this never works 100% of the time. In other words, there will be negative rumors and if one wants to manage them, one ought to be prepared. So when prevention doesn't work, and it won't, what can one do? Two methods are suggested. First, a four-step method, and second, a disciplined three-phase management program, Generally, in the four-step method, four steps are suggested:

  1. Seek to keep employees informed about what is going on. A formal company newsletter always seems to help.
  2. Heed rumors. Listen to what is being said that is 80% true. What other information source is so highly credible?
  3. Act promptly. Rumors are more difficult to correct over time because they "harden"--the details become consistent and the information becomes publicly accepted,
  4. Conduct a training program for employees on the nature of rumors. Advantages of Grapevine Communication Grapevine communication creates a social bond where none existed.

People like to talk to one another; whether they talk about work or family, or anything. Teams become more cohesive when members talk to one another outside of the project or assignment they may be working on. Informal communication lends itself to bonding. The grapevine fills in a gap that is left when official information is missing, especially in chaotic or changing times. Even in organizations where management is very proactive about communicating change and keeping employees informed, the grapevine helps to fill in the blanks.

The grapevine in many ways helps keep people honest; it can dissuade people from engaging on behavior that they don’t want others to know about. This is a two edge sword. On one hand, people will think twice about taking what they know is a wrong course of action. On the other hand, they may also think twice about taking a necessary risk and doing the right thing, fearful those appearances that may give rise to rumors. Disadvantages of Grapevine Communication There are some intrinsic dangers in bypassing the organizational channels to get to the facts of the matter.

The main danger is that much of the information that gets spread through the grapevine is not verified. Some of the information is likely false and difficult, if not impossible, to verify. We discount information when the source is a known gossiper. But not completely... Even when the source is someone known to spread rumors, we believe that where there's smoke... Since we don’t know what part is fire and what smoke is, we accept the whole rumor. To justify our participation in spreading the rumor, we tell ourselves that part of it must be true.

The main reason why we give credence to a rumor is that it seems to match what we think about the situation or person that the rumor is about. We also tend to believe the person sharing the rumor with us. Another main disadvantage of grapevine communication is that it's often used to spread more than rumors; it's used to spread gossip. The terms rumors and gossip are used sometimes interchangeably, but rumors are not quite the same as gossip. Both are pieces of information that can't be verified, but rumors tend to affect organizations or groups of people, while gossip refers to more personal matters.

When gossip is being spread through the grapevine, people's reputations, careers, and lives can get destroyed very rapidly.


While preparing our assignment we have to study a lot on this topic. From all our experience we gathered, we can come to the end that, certain situations like insecurity of service, uncertainty over promotions, special increments to a particular employee, and certain innovations in the organization likely to affect the job prospects of the employees are sure to activate the leaders of the grapevine so that very soon all kinds of rumors have spread in the organization.

Whether the grapevine is sour or sweet is depends on its impact on the organization. If it works for the organization to increase its quality it will be sweet. For this, we will have to use grapevine efficiently. On the other hand, if it works against the organization's purpose it will be considered as sour.


From our study we can suggest that, to use grapevine efficiently we should follow the following ways: 1. The managers should try to spot the leaders. They should try to find out the people who are more active on the grapevine and keep them well informed so that harmful rumors do not reach the employees. . The grapevine should be used to feel the pulse of the employees. 3. If there is any false rumor, the management should immediately use the official channels to contradict and to dispel the fears of the employees. 4. Involve the workers in the decision-making process.


The grapevine is basically a channel of horizontal communication, for it is only people working at the same level of the hierarchy who can informally communicate with one another with perfect ease.

Thus the workers may have one grapevine and the first-line supervisors another. But the fact is that the grapevine does not follow any set pattern and it can be effective horizontally, vertically and even diagonally.


  1. Essentials of Business Communication, by: Rajendra Pal & J. S. Korlahalli
  2. Business communication (Theory and Application), by: M. Omar Ali
  3. www. definitions. net/definition/grapevine.
  4. http://dictionary. reference. com/browse/grapevine.

Cite this Page

Grapvine Communication. (2017, Feb 20). Retrieved from

Don't let plagiarism ruin your grade

Run a free check or have your essay done for you

plagiarism ruin image

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Save time and let our verified experts help you.

Hire writer