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Review of the Grapevine Communication

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Review of the Grapevine Communication
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   i   Review of the Grapevine Communication By Alelign Aschale Addis Ababa University PhD Candidate in Applied Linguistics and Communication June 2013   ii Table of Contents  Contents Pages Introduction ..................................................................................................................................... 1   1.   History ..................................................................................................................................... 1   2.   Grapevine in Internal Business Communications ................................................................... 2   3.   Structure (Types) of a Grapevine ............................................................................................ 3   5.   Types of Grapevine Rumors (The Transmission Forms of Rumors) ...................................... 4   6.   Types of Participants in Grapevine Communication ............................................................... 6   7.   Roles of the Participants .......................................................................................................... 6   8.   What causes Grapevine to be Active? ..................................................................................... 7   9.   How Does Grapevine Communication Spread Rumors Very Fast? ....................................... 7   10.   The Pros and Cones of Grapevine Communication ............................................................. 8   10.1.   Advantages of Grapevine Communication ................................................................... 8   10.2.   Disadvantages of Grapevine Communication ............................................................ 10   11.   Monitoring Grapevine Communication for its Effective use ............................................ 11   References ..................................................................................................................................... 13     1 Introduction It is very essential to understand that human beings are communication social animals who favor alternative ways of interaction: formally, informally, vertically, horizontally, and diagonally, in chains, in wheels, in grapevines, etc. to their preferences. In the following section, a comprehensive review of one of the alternatives that human beings like to communicate, the grapevine communication, is made. The review included the history, the structure, the  participants, the merits and demerits and the ways of monitoring grapevine (informal) communication (in an organization). 1.   History The 'grapevine' is the informal communication network found in every organization. The term grapevine srcinated during the United States Civil War in 1860s (Davis, 1953). The telegraph wires used to pass military intelligence were strung loosely from tree to tree, resembling a grapevine. This stringing  procedure tended to cause the messages to be garbled. That is, since battlefronts moved frequently, army telegraph wires were strung loosely from tree to tree across battlefields, somewhat like wires used to support grapevines. The wires were used to carry telegraph messages created in Morse code (the electronic alphabet, invented in 1844) because the telephone wasn’t invented  until 1876. Since the lines often were strung hastily during battle, and messages were composed in a hurry, the resulting communication tended to be garbled and confusing. Soon, any rumor was said to have been heard 'on the grapevine'. Grapevine is now applied to messages that travel through an organization with no apparent structure or clear direction (Davis, 1953; Gibson, Ivancevich, & Donnelly, 1991).Grapevine is an excellent metaphor for describing this networking process. Rather than moving in predictable directions, it travels where the ground is most senile; bears fruit in bunches (clusters); and heads in a variety of directions depending on the climate. The grapevine travels in all directions and operates overtly and covertly. We now examine the grapevine's functions and the process. In addition, there are many sources of grapevine communication that trace back intellectuals in history. Some of the useful starting points include (Harris & Nelson, 2008): Aristotle's “ On Rhetoric ”  which is still fresh today is the earliest surviving text showing sharp awareness of the need to develop communications specifically to persuade and adapted to suit particular audiences. Shakespeare's “ Othello ”  alongside the jealousy theme, is a masterpiece that brings out the dangerous  power of rumor and hearsay, if unchecked and untested. Truly an exploration of how informal communications channels can be exploited. “ The Hawthorne Effect ” written by various authors is a famous series of studies of industrial activity and  productivity from the early 20 th  century produced many rich insights, the realization that formal "time and motion" methods and top-down control were not lastingly effective in improving performance. The importance of the "experimental effects" seems fundamental .Was it the increased attention and fuller respect given to the experimental subjects which produced the productivity gains. Certainly this research seems to demonstrate that the informal and social aspects of the work environment were of far greater impact than the choice of time-and-motion method in improving group performance.   2 Likewise, Irving Goffman's “ Asylums ”  is another study of the closed world of a mental health institution which is significant for the way it draws out and examines the realities of the informal worlds of inmates and staff, and how these do or do not align with the official, formal processes. Professor Richard Titmuss' “ The Gift Relationship ”  is a study thorough examination of the social and economic values and meanings surrounding the ways that British and US health authorities sought supplies of blood for their medical centers has, like Asylums, had far wider impact and significance than its subject might have suggested. It is a clear evocation of social worlds where money is not an effective or efficient motivator, and an insight into ways of communicating need and touching on human altruism. Eric Berne's “ Games People Play ”  is from the father of transactional analysis, if that's not too child-like a title! This accessible little book was a cornerstone in the development of a new way of looking at human relationships and a new style of therapy, and brings unusual insights into how we behave. Intriguing; does your organization treat its audiences adult to adult, or is it locked into a parent-to-adult conflict cycle ? Various authors including Festinger, Sherif and Asch produced the “ Theory of Cognitive Dissonance ”  that have a tendency to conform to perceived group norms (often apparently without realizing it) is predicted by cognitive dissonance theory, and has been reported in a large and varied body of studies. They agreed, of course, that which groups the subject identifies with can be a crucial factor, and informal communications approaches might seek to align "the grapevine" with the organization. Robert Cialdini's “Influence: Science and Practice ”  is an easy to read study combines academic research with observations from everyday life to produce a fascinating essay on some current dominant models for influencing people; it is strictly "off topic" but full of relevant insight for grapevine communications to understand. Last but not least, Professor Simon ’s “Satisficing” and the less than perfectly rational manager or worker is a very influential extension of economic theory beyond its starting constraints of "perfect rationality". Built on reports of extended observations of people at work, which showed that managers (and workers) often do not behave as classical microeconomic theory would suggest, Simon posits limits to the rationality of humans even in a work setting, and explores likely consequences for the behavior of people in organisations and for economic theory. 2.   Grapevine in Internal Business Communications According to Prakashv (2009), the grapevine is a type of internal informal communication network which is not actually sanctioned by the organization. It links employees from in direction ranging from higher authorities to least workers. It always exist in an organization and it becomes most when all the formal channels are closed. The discussions can be anything about the organization or personal. Mostly grapevine communication develops rumors about the firm and to less extend about personal. It is estimated that more than half percentage of communication in an organization is carried through this. Most of the messages passed through the grapevine are accurate. In a survey of 22,000 shift workers in varied industries of the United States of America, 55% said that they got most of their information via the grapevine. Smart managers understand the compan y’s grapevine. They recognize who’s connected to whom and which employees are key players in the informal spread of communication. Information transmitted through the grapevine tends to undocumented and thereby susceptible to variation and interpretation. Organizational grapevine probably should not be taken too seriously. It involves not only   3 the current employees, but also the former employees and total strangers. An overabundance of grapevine rumors undoubtedly can be as a sign of organizational dysfunction, reflecting the loss of confidence in company’s hierarchy, excessive secrecy and fear, and political problems in the company.  In all cases, but  particularly in time of crisis, executives need to manage communication effectively so that the grapevine is not the only source of communication. 3.   Structure (Types) of a Grapevine Pravin (2013) identified four major structural flows of a grapevine communication. These are: 1.1.   The Single Strand Chain- in this structure, it flows like a chain, i.e., ‘A’ tells something to ‘B’ who tells it to ‘C’ and so on.  1.2.   The Gossip Chain- in this chain   one person tells everybody else. This chain passes a message regarding a ‘not -on-  job’ nature. For Tehaeureka (2012), grapevine communication is the informal communication network within an organization which is used to spread information bypassing the formal communication structure. Just like the grapevine plant, it spreads in random ways and it goes where it can. The grapevine is formed by individuals and groups in an organization. The  people in the groups have something in common that links them together. A person can belong to one or more groups. 1.3.   The Probability Chain- in probability chain   information may move from anybody to anybody. This chain is found when the information is somewhat interesting but not really significant.
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