The usual implication is that the information was passed person to person by word of mouth, perhaps in a confidential manner among friends or colleagues. It can also imply an overheard conversation or anonymous sources of information. For instance "I heard through the grapevine that Brad was getting fired."
|“||Often the slaves got knowledge of the results of great battles before the white people received it. This news was usually gotten from the coloured man who was sent to the post office for the mail... The man who was sent to the post office would linger about the place long enough to get the drift of the conversation from the group of white people who naturally congregated there, after receiving their mail, to discuss the latest news. The mail carrier on his way back to our master's house would as naturally retell the news that he had secured among the slaves, and in this way they often heard of important events before the white people at the 'big house,' as the master's house was called.||”|
According to Jitendra Mishra:
|“||The term grapevine can be traced to Civil War days when vinelike telegraph wires were strung from tree to tree across battlefields and used by Army Intelligence. The messages that came over these lines were often so confusing or inaccurate that soon any rumor was said to come from the grapevine. The lines of communication seem to be haphazard and easily disrupted as the telegraph wires were, however, they transmit information rapidly and in many cases faster and with a stronger impact than the formal system allows.||”|
The grapevine communication existed in Civil War to World War 1. It was coined this term because of the nature of networking and reaching several at one time.
In regards to the popular song and lyrics," hearing it through the grape vine," refers to the Highway 5 that goes North from Los Angeles to Bakersfield CA. People used to refer to the news as though they just heard it coming from the city to the country, and they would say, "Oh I just heard it through the grape vine," - referring to hearing new news from the Big City, coming off of the physical 5 Highway from LA to Bakersfield.
The term grapevine communication is often used interchangeably with the term informal communication. The term originated in the 1860s during the American Civil War. It was used as a term that described the telegraph lines that were strung through the trees in a manner that resembled grapevines. It also came to mean informal communication that was not very effective because the telegraph system was not a reliable source of communication at the time. Almost a century later, it was discovered that the path of grapevine communication does resemble a cluster of grapes.
It has been shown that informal communication or grapevine communication occurs when formal communication is not sufficient. Research and studies have concluded that informal communication occurs either when insufficient of ambiguous information is transmitted through formal communication. Some organizational theorists feel that some informal or grapevine communication is needed in organizational life.
The way grapevine communication works is one person, Person 1, sends a message to Person 2 and Person 3. Then, Person 2 tells Person 4 and Person 5. And Person 3 tells Person 6. Not all participants within the grapevine send messages. Some participants are just receivers. Liaisons within an organization usually help facilitate grapevine communication. The use of this type of communication is common among managers as well as subdivision employees.
The types of rumors that are spread through grapevine communication can be classified into two groups, spontaneous and premeditated. Spontaneous rumors are spread when people are stressed or in an untrustworthy environment. Premeditated rumors spread within highly competitive environments. These two groups can be broken down into four classifications: wish fulfillment, anxiety, wedge drivers, and home stretchers. These types of rumors can also be spread through other types of informal network structures such as the single strand chain, the cluster chain, the probability chain, and the gossip chain.
Jitendra Mishra derived 8 reasons grapevine communication exists. Some of the reasons include the need for faster communication, useful messages transmitted, outlets for imagination and apprehension, and helps build teamwork and corporate identity. Surprisingly, 75% of all organizations’ practices, policies, and procedures are shared through grapevine communication. Though there is a negative thought about grapevine communication, studies have shown the employees find informal communication such as grapevine communication to be more effective than formal channels of communication because it coexists with the formal communication system.
Features of Grapevine Communication
Flexibility: There is no formal control over grapevine, so it is more flexible than other forms of communication.
Rapid communication: It is faster than any form of communication.
No record: There is no evidence which can be documented for future reference
Distortion: The message which is passed gets distorted when it passes from one person to another.
Spontaneous: Grapevine communication is spontaneous as it is passed automatically from the top level of the organization to the bottom level without any difficulty in delivering the message.
Grapevine is used by management to spread the information that either can not be shared officially or want to test the waters.
- Managing the grapevine., Jitendra Mishra, Public Personnel Management.
- Clegg, Stewart R., et al. The SAGE Handbook of Organization Studies. SAGE Publications, 2006.
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"Managing the Grapevine". journal excerpt. Public Personal Management. 1990. Retrieved 2009-03-05.
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