What is Grapevine Communication and How to Handle it at Work?
By Swathi V

What is Grapevine Communication and How to Handle it at Work?

Grapevine communication occurs when someone tells you something they heard from a third party rather than from the source. You can use grapevine communication to help keep your ear to the ground, find out what people are saying about you, and gather information more quickly than you would by directly talking to everyone involved in an issue or event. 

However, using this type of communication can confuse who said what and when, so it's important to verify the information you receive before taking any action based on it. Here are 10 types of grapevine communication and how to handle them effectively.

The Types of Grapevine Communication You Need to Know

1) Formal Communication

Formal communication is a way of communicating in which information is transmitted from sender to receiver in an appropriate manner. Formal communication can be a way for people who are not friends or close acquaintances to stay in touch with one another. This type of communication includes things like emails, letters, and phone calls. 

A formal email should have a specific greeting at the beginning, an introduction about what the email will be discussing, and a conclusion that thanks the person for their time. A letter should have a greeting at the top left corner with your name and address on it. It should also include who it is being sent to, where it is being sent from (city), and how long ago you wrote it.

2) Informal Communication

Informal communication is the most common type of grapevine communication. Informal communication is informal, often one-on-one, and relies on word-of-mouth. Conversations between friends are usually considered informal grapevine communications. Other grapevine communication examples include shoulder surfing which means taking a quick look at someone's screen or reading their emails while they're away from their desk. 

Consider this example: Tom tells his friend that Jane has been fired from her job, and Jane overhears the conversation from down the hall. This is an example of informal grapevine communication because it was not intended for Jane to hear, but she overheard it anyway through no fault of her own.

3) Single Strand

When you're in a situation where grapevine communication is your only hope, you must know the different types. For example, there are rumors which are just what they sound like- something you hear from one person and then hear from another person. Then there's word of mouth, which is when you tell someone else about something. 

And finally, there's hearsay which involves hearing about something through more than one person but not necessarily knowing for sure if it's true or not. All of these ways have their advantages and disadvantages, so make sure you pick out the best ones for each situation!

4) Multiple Strands

  1. Word-of-Mouth: This type of grapevine communication is an informal way for people to pass information from person to person.
  2. Gossip: The purpose of gossip is often to make or break someone's reputation, and it's a common way that people talk about other people without naming them. Gossip can be hurtful and even dangerous, since the things said may not always be true. It can also be a way for people who are feeling powerless or underprivileged to try and feel better about themselves by hurting those they see as being more powerful or privileged.
  3. Rumors: These have no truth behind them but are still passed on through word-of-mouth to entertain or scare others.

5) Upward

When you're starting your own business, it can be difficult to know who to trust. Sometimes, you don't even know if you should trust yourself. This is where grapevine communication comes in handy! There are two types of grapevine communication: upward and downward. 

Upward is when someone tells a manager about something they didn't like from an employee, and downward is when an employee talks about a manager with their co-workers. 

Understanding the grapevine communication that's happening around you will help give you clarity on how your employees feel about themselves and your company as a whole so that you can better address any issues that arise.

6) Downward

Grapevine communication is a term that refers to the indirect way in which information is passed from one person to another. This type of communication often relies on gossip and rumors as a means of spreading information. In other words, grapevine messages are more likely than not untrue and unreliable. 

There are three types of grapevine communication: downward, horizontal, and upward. Downward grapevine communication is said to be the most prevalent form because it's based on people who are in positions lower than you or your position on the totem pole. 

Horizontal grapevines can be either upward or downward depending on if they're spreading messages upwards or downwards respectively, while upward grapevines are used by people with higher positions than you to control the flow of information.

7) Horizontal

For those that aren't familiar with the term, grapevine communication is a common form of communication where people talk in person or over the phone about things they hear from others. There are many different types of grapevine communications, so business owners need to be aware of which type they're dealing with. The four types of grapevine communication are rumors, lies, truths, and urban legends. 

Rumors - These are typically unverified facts or stories that seem too crazy not to be true. For example, I heard that John quit his job because his boss yelled at him. 

Lies - These can also be unverified facts or stories like rumors but these are completely made up by someone with malicious intent.

8) Crosswise

Grapevine communication is a form of indirect communication whereby information or ideas are passed from one person to another through a chain of people. It is done in person, by telephone, or via email. 

It can be difficult for some people to understand grapevine communication because it may seem like gossiping and it might spread rumors. 

Grapevine communication can happen in the workplace when someone tells their co-worker about a conversation they had with their boss while they were out on lunch together. As a result, the co-worker then talks about this conversation with their boss when they're out on lunch together, and so forth until the message reaches all employees.

9) Lateral

  1. Face-to-face communication happens when you speak with someone directly. 
  2. Phone calls are a type of direct communication, but the person you're speaking with might not be in the same room as you, so this is also considered a type of grapevine communication. 
  3. Texting, emailing, and other forms of digital messages are also considered types of grapevine communication because they are indirect and often one-way - meaning that only one person will respond to your message. 
  4. Grapevines can be useful for fast and accurate information dissemination, which is why people need to know how they work and how they can be used effectively.

10) Network

These are the four types of grapevine communication that you need to know about: gossip, messages, rumors, and news. Gossip is when someone starts talking about a person or event and this information is relayed through many people before it is passed on. 

Messages are direct communications from one person to another. Rumors are when a person hears something but doesn't know if it's true or not so they pass it on anyway. News is hard facts that can be backed up with evidence and sources.

When we talk about grapevine communication examples, it’s important to keep in mind that there are multiple ways to transmit the same message, some positive and some negative. 

On the one hand, you can use it to share valuable feedback with your coworkers, whether that's praise or criticism of their performance or suggestions on how they can improve themselves professionally. On the other hand, negative gossip and rumor spreading can be harmful to your company culture if left unchecked. 

Ways to Handle Grapevine Communication at Work

Grapevine communication refers to the spreading of rumors and hearsay in an organization. It can create a negative, toxic work environment as people tend to believe everything that they hear without realizing its truth or lack thereof. 

1) Acknowledge the grapevine

It's common knowledge that most people talk about their coworkers behind their backs. Most of the time, these conversations are harmless, but sometimes they can be problematic. This is especially true if the grapevine is being used as a way to air grievances or complain about management and co-workers in general. To avoid this type of situation, employees need to learn how to handle grapevine communication at work. 

Here are three ways you can do so: 

  1. If you're going to use grapevine communication as an outlet, try not to start with gossip or anything negative. Instead, focus on something positive and interesting before talking negatively about anyone else. 
  2. If you hear something bad about someone else through the grapevine, never share it with them without asking them first if they want to know what you heard. 
  3. Finally, always remember that what we say will come back around sooner or later - so keep your comments honest and constructive!

2) Use it to your advantage

News spreads fast in the workplace. And it's not always a good thing. When the grapevine starts saying things about you, it can lead to rumors and gossip that can harm your reputation and career. So how do you handle it when your co-workers start talking behind your back? Here are ways that might help:

Listen with an open mind. Sometimes, other people's perspectives can help us see things from a different angle. Take what they say with a grain of salt, but keep an open mind about what you hear. If you're being falsely accused of something, there's no harm in listening and seeing if there is any truth to it before taking action.

3) Don't try to control it

There are a lot of ways that you can deal with grapevine communication in the workplace, and it's always a good idea to keep an eye on what people say about your company outside the office. However, there's not much you can do if they say something negative or untrue. 

It's important not to try and control this type of communication because it will only make you seem more controlling and paranoid. Instead, focus on making sure that your employees feel valued in their work environment so they don't have reason to talk badly about your company when they're not at work.

4) Encourage open communication

The best way to handle grapevine communication at work is by being open and honest with your employees. This will help them feel like they're a part of the company. Make it clear that you're available for any questions or concerns, and encourage them to come to talk to you if they have something on their mind. 

Your employees will be more productive when they feel like their opinion matters and you're willing to listen. You should also take this opportunity to let your employees know what you expect from them in terms of positive employee behavior. If an employee has violated these rules, make sure to give him or her specific feedback about what they did wrong and how they can fix the problem.

5) Be careful what you say

It's important to be mindful of the grapevine, especially if you're not the one that started it. If you think something might go around, try having a private discussion with the person in question rather than talking about them in a public space or spreading rumors. You can say I've heard some rumblings about what you did and I wanted to chat with you about it or I don't want this rumor going around.

If someone is being talked about behind their back, there are ways they can handle it: 

  1. Talk privately with the person who said something bad about you (if they will listen) and clarify any misinformation. Be sure to apologize for anything hurtful that you may have done (even if you didn’t mean it) and ask for forgiveness. Ask how you could have handled things differently so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings. That way, everyone can feel good again!
  2. Pay close attention when someone else talks badly about another person – try to point out the positives when possible instead of focusing on negative traits or qualities.

6) Keep confidence

Communication is a two-way street. You are responsible for what you tell someone else, and they have the responsibility of keeping what you told them confidence. You might not know that if something were to get out, you would be the one held responsible because it was your fault for telling them in the first place. It's important not to assume people will keep a secret - even if you think they should.

You also need to trust that people will do the right thing with information when it comes up in conversation. It's hard not knowing who knows what or who has been talking about what, but it's best just not to bring it up again with them and move on as if everything is okay.

7) Avoid gossip

  1. When you hear something that makes you uncomfortable, ask the person who said it what they mean. If they don't clarify, or if they say it again, find another way to make them stop.
  2. Remember that people usually gossip because they are unhappy with something themselves and need someone else's problems as a distraction from their own. Be supportive of others when possible and if the gossip is about you, find out what's going on from the other person instead of letting them tell you in a one-sided conversation. 
  3. If someone starts talking about someone else in front of you and seems rude, be polite but firm by saying I'm sorry I can't help you with this.

8) Show respect

This is a tough one, but it's important. Of course, you should be polite to the person who commented and tries not to be confrontational. But there are also ways to handle this situation without being disrespectful in return. 

You can say something like I don't know what you're talking about or Is there something I should know? And if they keep insisting that you know what they're talking about, then you could politely excuse yourself from the conversation.

9) Be a good role model

It is important to be a good role model for not only your employees but also your customers and clients. If you gossip or talk about others behind their backs in a negative light, then people will stop taking you seriously. 

When it comes to communicating with coworkers, try not to be too direct and instead use phrases like I've heard or I've been told. You can do this without being disingenuous and still get your point across. For example, if someone asks what's up with person X, you might say that I don't know much about person X because we don't work on the same team, rather than telling them what's wrong with the person outright. 

It's not necessarily intentional gossiping if the information is accurate and reflects poorly on the person. That said, if something seems fishy, there are steps to take: let HR know of any incidents that seem potentially problematic so they can follow up appropriately.

10) Promote a positive work environment

To maintain a positive work environment, it's important for employees to feel valued and heard. Here are some tips for managing grapevine communication:

  1. Address issues in private if possible. People shouldn't find out about the issue from someone else. 
  2. Be aware of how you speak about your coworkers as others may be listening too. 
  3. Think before you speak when asked how was your weekend. or what do you think of the new boss? It might be something that needs to be addressed privately with the person instead of talking about it with a group of people that have nothing else going on in their lives other than work gossip.

Conclusion

When you’re at work, it can be difficult to keep your feelings in check when you hear office gossip about yourself or others. But if you want to maintain your professionalism, it’s best to avoid handling grapevine communication the wrong way. By following these tips, you can still find out what’s being said while keeping your reputation intact. 

We offer a variety of courses designed for people working in all kinds of organizations—from small businesses to large enterprises across numerous industries including but not limited to Banking & Finance, Healthcare, Technology & Telecommunications, Insurance, etc.

At SoME we're more than just teachers—we're coaches who help participants find their voice and use it confidently in any situation; we are passionate about helping our students achieve their goals by creating engaging learning environments that offer individualized attention while fostering an atmosphere of collaboration and mutual respect among all participants regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation.

FAQS

What is grapevine and how do we handle it?

Grapevine is a term for spreading information about someone without them knowing. This usually happens in small groups, but it can also happen over the phone and through email. Most of the time grapevine communication is harmless and just people sharing what they've heard or what they think, but sometimes it can get more personal like when gossiping about someone's private life. 

If you are on the receiving end of grapevine communication, there are some ways you can handle it.

What is grapevine communication in simple words?

Grapevine communication is a term for information that spreads through a workplace by word-of-mouth. For example, if you overhear one coworker saying something about another coworker, that might be grapevine communication.

What should corporate leaders do with the grapevine?

The first and most important step is to make sure you have a clear communication policy in place. This means that you need to have a clear understanding of what type of information can be communicated, who should be communicating this information, and how it should be communicated. For example, if your company values transparency but is not used to speaking freely about mistakes or failures, everyone must understand that they are empowered and safe within the company to speak openly about these topics.

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