Blog » Did You Hear it Through the Grapevine?

Did You Hear it Through the Grapevine?

Spring is here and life is bursting out at the seams! The bees are buzzing, the flowers are blooming, and people are hard at work getting their gardens ready for the growing season.

Experienced gardeners know there’s more to just planting the seeds, laying down some mulch, and watering the soil. Creating the best environment for growth also requires getting rid of weeds and other plants that may look attractive but can prevent the plants we want from growing.

Which leads to today’s million-dollar question: if a corporate grapevine pesticide were available, would you be first in line to buy it?

Most companies have an informal information network (grapevine) and they usually thrive on negative information and speculation. As a leader or manager, no doubt you’ve had to deal with rumors in your team, department or organization, and know the turmoil they can create. However, regularly pruning your grapevine can keep those pesky rumors from growing out of control.

Here are some useful gardening tips:

An active grapevine often signals boredom
When employees get bored, they talk and create their own excitement. Grapevines can be very exciting, and bored individuals are among their most industrious feeders. You can help prevent this situation by keeping an eye on workloads, recognizing when employees are being underutilized, and reacting immediately.

Poor communication is the best grapevine fertilizer
When you communicate with people consistently and frequently, they won’t depend on the grapevine. But if you leave them in the dark on important information and individuals believe they can obtain fairly reliable facts from sources other than management, your grapevine will inevitably grow. And employees who spend time trying to find out what’s going on generally don’t produce at the highest level.

Rapid, accurate communication is especially important to younger employees who grew up with information at their fingertips. Accustomed to the instantaneous communication of the Internet, they feel left out when managers fail to answer their questions or get them up to speed on projects, changes, or organizational issues.

Grapevines can alert you to burning issues
Managers and supervisors should never get so remote from their workforce that they stop hearing employees’ concerns. Enlightened companies hold regular discussions between staff and senior managers. These discussions can be excellent opportunities for sharing accurate information and arresting any misperceptions that are causing concern and fear. It helps to cultivate rapport with a few select employees who stay tuned in to grapevine issues. These employees can let you know what burning issues are being discussed so you can address them properly.

Grapevines give you insight into the participants’ character
You can gain useful insights into how a grapevine works by watching the employees who feed into it. It’s easy to identify the most enthusiastic participants because over time information can be traced back to them. Even if they are reasonably productive, avoid blindly trusting these workers and placing them in positions of influence.

The best way to forestall major grapevine issues is to inform, inspire, and engage people on a regular basis. Tell them where the organization is headed and how their individual roles help it to get there. Share your passion for winning, and let people know how your company makes a difference in the world. And keep employees connected to the mission and goals by giving them what they say they want from their jobs:

  • A challenge. Most people want to make a difference. Knowing they can personally impact the business, even in a small way, is intoxicating.
  • Appreciation. Receiving praise for a job well done (on a frequent basis) is an incredibly powerful motivator. Never underestimate the power of a simple “thank you.”
  • Accountability. The majority of people want to be in charge of something, large or small, for which they have real responsibility to make decisions.
  • Inclusion. People desire to be involved in something greater than themselves. Employees want to know how their role fits into the big picture.

Define excellence up front so that you can manage success versus catching people doing it wrong. Constantly criticizing people after the fact (rather than proactively coaching for success) is an open invitation to hurt feelings, backbiting, and constant complaining – all of which make excellent grapevine fertilizer.

So get out your shears, prune your grapevine, and stop the damaging rumors that prevent your organization from winning!

Got a green thumb when it comes to organizational gardening? Write and tell us how you keep your grapevine from growing out of control.

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