In my last post, I explored the grapevine phenomenon and some of the effects (good and bad) it can have on an organization’s internal psyche and workplace relationships.
In case you missed it: online chatter and conversation has exploded. Social media and internet communications mean the spread of information (whether true or false) happens more rapidly, reaches more people, and crosses more boundaries within an organization. Trust and relationships that have taken years to build can be destroyed in mere seconds.
As managers, we have a few options:
1. Ignore that a grapevine and/or social media exist and adopt the all-too-common belief that if we ignore something, it will go away (hopefully you have learned by now that this is rarely the case);
2. Create punishments for those who feed the rumor mill (and in doing so discourage the honest and open communication social media promotes); or
3. Acknowledge and manage the grapevine, and use social media to the advantage of our organization when addressing rumors.
I’m solidly in favor of number 3. If you’re on board with me, keep reading…
Now that we know what we have to do, the big question remains how?
For advice, I turn to a couple sources:
Both agree that the best measure is a preventative one: stop the rumors before they start (proactive internal communications is a subject for another day). But, even with the best internal communications practices, the grapevine will persist.
Building on these articles, and considering the constant presence of social media in our organizations, here are a few suggestions:
Listen and Learn. Social media offers managers an opportunity to watch a conversation unfold. Company blogs, Intranet posts, and corporate wikis provide insight into employee sentiment and concerns. E-mails and instant messages can help managers confirm suspicions or pick up on contextual clues (there is the added bonus of being able to reference them later).
Plan a Response. In a digital world where immediate replies have become the norm, it is hard to resist the urge to respond rashly—but you must. A poorly planned response or angry retort could easily perpetuate the rumor and do more harm than good.
When thinking about method of delivery, social media should not be excluded from the equation. Responding via social media shows that a manager is in tune with the organization and employees’ preferred communications methods (as long as social media is not a substitute for face-to-face communication – more on that later). Ask yourself whether your message is meant for one person or the entire organization, and make sure the use of social media reflects your intended audience.
Respond Directly. While face-to-face is almost always the best way to communicate with employees on matters of importance, it is not always possible (again, a topic for another day). Social media and internet communications provide a reliable way to ensure that people receive the same information from the same source at the same time. If your language is clear and your message direct, you are on the right track.
In the horticulture world, grapevines are pruned so that they yield the highest volume and quality of fruit. Internal communicators may use different tools but, if done correctly, the results are surprisingly similar.
Until next time…