Every enterprise has its official communication channels, and then its informal one — the grapevine. As a manager, you can use the grapevine to improve your impact as a communicator and to both learn and spread the information your team needs to succeed. Try these tips:
- Use the grapevine to stamp out rumors. Many of us tend to equate "grapevine" with "gossip" and see it as the source of rumors. But it can also be the place where those rumors wither. If you've got the facts, share them with several key employees who you know are well-connected to the grapevine—and let them spread the news for you.
- Use the grapevine and formal methods together. Repeated exposure to the same message helps establish its credibility among employees. Send out crucial messages both via formal channels—memos, bulletin boards, in meetings—and through informal one-on-one interactions. And monitor the grapevine to ensure that your message doesn't get distorted as it's passed along.
- Keep up with changes in the grapevine. As personnel and job assignments change, different people end up playing different roles that keep the grapevine green. Make note—and check your understanding often—of who on your team and in your enterprise is a talker and who's a listener, who analyzes information on the grapevine and who influences other employees to react.
- Plug into the grapevine wherever you can. Even if you don't need to go to all the office parties and luncheons, employee orientations and celebrations, you should try to be present as much as you can. Obviously, you'll see more people that way and get exposed to more information. Your recurring presence will make others more accustomed to telling you news and opinions you need to know about job issues, personality conflicts, and progress and problems in the workplace.
- Cultivate the grapevine. Without informal conversation and information flow, morale would sag, employees would feel isolated, and there would be little sense of belonging or commitment to the organization. Remember this before you ask employees to spend less time "socializing." Allowing employees to take time to feed the grapevine can in the long run breed more productivity.