A Field Exploration of Informal Workplace Communication

Bruce Fortado
  • Sociology Mind, January 2011, Scientific Research Publishing, Inc,
  • DOI: 10.4236/sm.2011.14027

What is it about?

Two views of informal employee communication (the grapevine, gossip, rumor, etc.) are developed. Some people view these as processes as cultural antimatter that needs to be controlled if not entirely suppressed via formal controls. Other people accept these as natural cultural matter that can be either productive or destructive. Case examples from a big box retailer and an insurance company are used as illustrations. In both cases, certain managers took steps to try quell employee gossip. Paradoxically, the versions multiplied at the first site and a gossip spiral occurred at the second. Additional examples from both workplaces show informal communication was simultaneously doing some very productive things.

Why is it important?

While the cultural antimatter view is commonly encountered in practice, these examples make it clear it is no easy matter to halt informal communication. The process of trying to suppress gossip and rumors may backfire. Further, one would hardly want to put an end to productive social processes that management was not even aware of. Due to the complex nature of these social situations, great care must be taken in evaluating them and charting a course.

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor Fortado Bruce