Did You Hear It Through the Grapevine?

Did You Hear It Through the Grapevine?

Did You Hear It Through the Grapevine

The organisational grapevine has long been the most effective communication channel man has ever devised. Perhaps the most amusing thing about it is that no plans were drawn up, no committees were formed, and no one was tasked to make sure that it was implemented. It simply happened.

While we don’t know what got the ball rolling, we can make a pretty good guess.

“Don’t tell anyone, but . . .”

In a world that’s gone crazy over what it considers to be “politically correct”, the word “grapevine” has taken the edge off of what it really is: Gossip. Few will admit that they are guilty of it. Instead, they’ll call it something else.  

“I was just telling my friend . . .”

Of course, that friend has friends as well. We call them networks.

An optimist would say that gossip is a form of internal “communication” – getting important information to the people who need to know; however, a pessimist would say that it’s a negative form of internal communication. Who’s right?

To answer that you have to understand what gossip is. Dictionary.com says that it’s “idle talk, or rumour, especially about the personal and private affairs of others.”

There’s something of a hidden meaning in that definition. It’s that part about the nature of others’ affairs. Why would you want to talk about the “personal and private affairs of others” at all?

Your answer will reveal a lot.

To you, gossip may seem entirely innocuous; a bit of harmless fun. “Everyone does it; so what’s the problem?” The answer must include either the desire to tarnish another’s reputation or ambivalence if you do.

Think about it.

If you were only saying nice things about someone else, would you be able to talk about it for hours at a time? Could you discuss the many attributes of someone to the extent that your entire conversation consisted of admiration? Would it occupy your lunch hours with your friends? And be honest. Can you think of a single example where this has happened? Have you actually heard two or three people whisper quietly or look the other way when the person they were praising happened to come into the room?

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

The reason that people gossip, ultimately, is so that they can gloat. It’s so that they can assure themselves that they would never say or do what the person their gossiping about has said or done. It’s the holier-than-thou attitude that makes it worthwhile; the feeling that the person they’re talking about is beneath them in some way: that whatever it was that put him or her in that predicament, it was self-inflicted.

There’s another perspective, however, that you need to consider. Maybe you hadn’t thought about this.

Do others gossip about you? Have there been occasions in the past where you’ve discovered rumours – lies (let’s call them what they are) – about you that have been circulating around your place of work or among your “friends”? How did it make you feel? Was it just a bit of harmless fun?

Here’s another thing: What makes you think that those about whom you gossip will feel any differently about than you do?

Here’s another thing for you to think about. How can you know, in advance, who is most likely to gossip about you? The answer is really simple. You probably know it already. The people who are most likely to talk to you about others are the same ones who will have no problem talking to others about you. That’s how it works. Everyone is worth talking about, including you.

So the next time you find yourself listening to a titbit about someone else or are tempted to throw in something “juicy” yourself, then stop and realize that if they’re passing the skinny on others, then your turn will come as well.

You could be next.

If you'd like to discuss the organisational grapvine further, contact me today.

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