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I Heard It Through the Grapevine: The Devastating Effects of Grapevine Communication on Your Change.



During a significant restructuring, a friend of mine called me, “Gifford, come and hear this” I said, “what, where did you hear that” he said, “I heard through the grapevine.” We all have been there, don’t try to deny it. We sometimes get more information from that august chamber, “the corridor,” as opposed to the formal channels of communication from management.


Although the information might be “juicy,” in many instances, that information cannot be substantiated, and as a result, it may create an environment of mistrust and conflict. Against a background of rapid technological development, a growing knowledge workforce, and the shifting of accepted work practices, change is becoming an ever-present feature of organizational life (Burnes, 2004). As a result, grapevine communication should be avoided and removed from your organization like a plague, especially during a change.


Now, every organization, according to Dave Berube, has both an informal and formal organizational structure as well as formal and informal communications. Simply stated, the grapevine is a type of unofficial communication channel. It’s all about people communicating directly with other people outside official channels of communication. 70% of the change programmes do not achieve their intended outcomes, and communication has a major role to play in that narrative. Galpin (1995) indicated that many change efforts are poorly managed simply because managers are of the opinion that withholding information ensures that people will learn what is happening only through official channels. But this has proven to be wrong, and as a result, the grapevine has always bloomed when this happens.


In many instances, formal communication activities were often supplemented and in some cases, usurped by the grapevine. Informal communication fills the information vacuum when formal communication fails to reduce the uncertainty and anxiety that typically accompanies organizational change. The person or team responsible for leading change must recognize that ad-hoc and informal communication should not diminish and replace formal communication for consistency and timeliness.