Company Grapevine Pros and Cons

The company grapevine is unavoidable. That said, how can you make it work for the company and not against it? To address this let’s take a look at the company grapevine pros and cons.

The Cons

Often a company grapevine becomes more of a negative than anything else and in the process can do great harm to a company, particularly as it relates to employee morale. You may have worked somewhere that had a vibrant rumor mill where the rumors were not vetted and nobody seemed to do anything to stop them. Perhaps you’ve been the victim of a rumor that quickly spread through the company grapevine. Even if it was eventually stopped and people were told the truth, there were likely to remain a few downsides. One, some people were going to continue to believe it regardless. Even those who accepted the correction now have a grain of suspicion planted in their minds. Another example of a negative company grapevine rumor might be something like a lot of layoffs being planned. Even if management gets wind of this and addresses it as being false, the damage may well be done. There will be those who remain suspicious, especially if the company has been or begins to struggle. To make matters worse, should layoffs eventually be needed there will undoubtedly be those who say, “Ah ha, I knew it.”

These are just a few examples of the downside of a company grapevine, but keep in mind the amount of damage that can be done. The company grapevine pros and cons must be weighed carefully. Your first inclination might be to attempt to totally shut it down, but that could be a big mistake.

The Pros

Sometimes employees and/or management get wind of a rumor that presents an opportunity to improve communications. Let’s look again at a rumor of looming layoffs. Suppose management becomes aware of this and knows it to be baseless. They should be proactive in communicating with employees, including answering any concerns they may have. It is also wise to follow up with those employees who seemed most concerned. Some people need a little more reassuring.


Another upside is to deliberately let rumors continue when they are positive and management knows that it is really true, even though not communicated to employees as yet. This is a common occurrence when some manager lets something inadvertently slip while perhaps not realizing it was not for everyone’s consumption. But, remember it should be true and not just another rumor designed to feed the rumor mill.

Should the Grapevine be Shut Down?

Actually, this is a rhetorical question, as at most companies it is practically impossible to stop this practice. It makes more sense to be aware of company grapevine pros and cons and to make use of it. Stop the false rumors as quickly as possible, including talking to those who started a rumor. As long as it doesn’t get out of hand, let the positive and true rumors circulate. Let’s be real; people love to talk and tell others something they didn’t know. Any attempt to totally close-down the grapevine will almost certainly fail.

A final word of caution is in order. Be extremely alert to rumors coming back to you from customers and vendors. A false rumor can be extremely damaging. Imagine the damage of a rumor that the company is in financial trouble. Do you think that might make both customers and vendors more cautious about doing business with you?

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As always, your comments are welcomed.


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