This term refers to the informal communication system in an organisation. It can be traced back to the American Civil War when telegraph lines were strung from trees like grapevine.
Message along this improvised channel often went wrong. So any rumour was ascribed to the grapevine.
The grapevine works in one or more of the following ways:
Everyone tells ‘the other a matter.
One tells everyone else that he meets in the day.
Anybody just tells anybody. Information spreads at random.
An employee may tell a few of his colleagues when they are assembled in a group.
A common tendency is to discredit the grapevine as the generator and carrier of false information. As Luthans pointed out, “The informal communication system is equated with the grapevine which is equated with rumour.
Rumour is viewed as being bad. The next step is to interpret the informal system of communications as being bad for the organisation. But the grapevine is something spontaneous and unavoidable”.
In the words of Keith Davis, “It cannot be abolished, rubbed out, hidden under a basket, chopped down, tied up. If we suppress it in one place, it will pop out in another.
In a sense the grapevine is a human birthright because whenever people congregate into groups, the grapevine is sure to develop. It may use smoke signals, jungle tom-toms, and taps on the prison wall. Ordinary conversation or some other method, but it will always be there”.