EPISODE 2, GRAPEVINE GURU - the need to distance yourself from rumour and gossip


The organisation’s grapevine is like a good and dangerous pet. It may be fun, yet it might lash out at you at any time.

Unlike emails, intranets, and the more regular channels, the grapevine is informal and uncontrolled.

It’s a network based on social relations rather than organisational charts or formal publications like newsletters or video announcements.

With no rules or politeness to worry about, rumour and gossip can run wild, from a dozen sneaky words about someone’s clothes to a vague suggestion about life-altering, top-down decisions.

No one has seen a grapevine, yet it exists. It’s invisible and based on unverified information. Yet it often consists of good news.

Worldwide research confirms that between 75 and 95 per cent of information coming via the Grapevine is accurate. It provides managers and staff with better information than formal communications.

If people have unanswered questions, the grapevine will quickly supply answers. These may not be correct or complete, though. A flourishing grapevine usually contains lies, half-truths, overheard conversations, and even total rubbish.

You might call it Fake News or misinformation. Parts can be genuine and even reveal essential news or information.

Or it may be nothing more than a cry for help and attention.

You help spread rumours and risk becoming known for peddling half-truths and even lies by sharing stories. That’s a sure way to reduce your impact at work, not increase it.

Gossip is more personal. It’s usually a juicy detail that makes the information shocking or personal. Such as love, relationships, sex, and other issues that people don’t talk about openly at work.

Here’s a dude putting a scientific spin on the whole dubious process…

“evolutionary….gossip 1.13-1.36

Gossip may appear harmless yet has the potential to cause pain and humiliation for the person it’s about. People tend to share it without considering what sort of impact it might make.

So, Grapevine rumours and gossip can cause havoc! Together, they can damage reputations, careers, and even lives.

Despite this downside to the Grapevine, around 70% of those at work rely on it. It’s how they get news about what's going on around them and across the entire organisation.

Checking on the impact of the grapevine, one reliable study found nearly half chose the grapevine as believable over a speech from a company leader.

You may not realise it, but you could be an internal Grapevine influencer. Someone who does remain passive before this potentially dangerous creature. By refusing its enticements, you can gain some control over the beast.

Knowing its power both for good and evil, aim to reject its promise of easy and unreliable listening. Let yourself be known as someone alert to its dangers. You can become known as a Grapevine Guru, who refuses to feed the creature.

Most internal rumours from the grapevine are about change. About a third of these concern people changes. For example, a senior person leaving to join the opposition, staff moves in a management shakeup or a staff shake-up in leadership.

So the grapevine is not to be ignored. Neither, though, should you indulge it by feeding it tasty titbits just because you can do so.

Help to tame the creature by defusing the stories with humour and disbelief. Another way is to convince colleagues that the information is either untrue or unreasonable.

Finally, here’s a much-favoured way of stopping gossip on your patch. The moment you detect the chatter is involving someone not present and is disrespecting them, ask:

“Why are you telling me this?

This is likely to stop them in their tracks.

First, it disrupts their thought processes; second, it exposes unsavoury motives. It also shows that you are not interested in this conversation.

Try it!


  • Don’t ignore the grapevine while treating it with great caution.

  • Fight grapevine nastiness with counter-stories of your own.

  • Without believing you can master the grapevine, use it to stay in touch.


At least 70% of all organisational communication comes through the grapevine. Strangely, most employees also consider it to be trustworthy.

Today’s episode is from the theme: COMMUNICATING FOR SUCCESS