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New Study Shows That Workers Believe The Office Grapevine More Than They Do Management

Berkeley, CA - Sep 14, 2005 (PRN): During the Civil War, telegraph lines were often hastily strung from tree to tree. They resembled grapevines, and because they often produced garbled, confusing messages, hearing something “through the grapevine” has become synonymous with any distorted message. According to recent research by management consultant Carol Kinsey Goman, however, business leaders might be surprised to learn that workers these days are putting a lot of credence in what they hear through the grapevine. “This poses a significant challenge for senior management,” reports Goman, “as well as for the formal communication channels.”

Goman’s study, based on 837 responses from individuals in a wide variety of companies and industry, found that many business leaders have their work cut out for them in the speeches and presentations they give employees. In response to a question asking which you would tend to believe if there were big differences in the message delivered in a speech from a company leader or the one heard over the grapevine, 47% of those responding said they would put more credence in the grapevine. Only 42% said they would believe senior leadership, and another 11% indicated they would believe a blend of elements from both messages.

One individual offered her own formula for believing senior management: “If senior leaders don't trust you or aren't confident enough to let you in, only believe 70% of what is said and get the other 30% from the grapevine so you'll be prepared.”

The study also looked at the speed of communication on the grapevine and what employees believe when the messages they hear on the grapevine are different from those they hear from online and printed publications, from their supervisors, and from trusted co-workers.

Results showed that the printed word carries more weight than management speeches. When asked which they would believe if there were big differences in a message delivered in an official publication (online or print) or the grapevine, 51% favored the newsletter, with 40% putting more faith in the grapevine. One explanation: “When something is in writing, it is likely to be quoted and displayed as evidence. At least here there is a paper trail.”

When all is said and done, of course, the big test for grapevine communication is accuracy,” says Goman, which led her to study just how accurate people have found the grapevine. Fifty-seven percent gave it favorable ratings. “The grapevine may not be wholly accurate, but it is a very reliable indicator that something is going on,” said one individual. Perhaps the key for employees lies in this comment from one: “The grapevine distorts, formal channels edit, the truth lies between.”

Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is the president of Kinsey Consulting Services (www.CKG.com) and the author of nine books, including "This Isn’t the Company I Joined ­ How To Lead in a Business Turned Upside Down." She delivers keynote speeches and seminars to corporations, government agencies, and professional associations. For complete study results or to arrange an interview, please call (510-526-1727) or email (CGoman@CKG.com). Carol is available nationwide by arrangement and via telephone as a last-minute guest.

For more information, contact:

Carol Kinsey Goman
Phone: 510-526-1727
Email: cgoman@ckg.com


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