Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Managers' Perspectives on the Effects of Online Grapevine Communication: A Qualitative Inquiry

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Managers' Perspectives on the Effects of Online Grapevine Communication: A Qualitative Inquiry

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to understand how modern-day managers perceived their subordinates were reacting to the phenomenon of online grapevine communication in the workplace. A qualitative inductive inquiry drawing upon techniques of grounded theory was conducted to collect and analyze feedback provided by 15 top-level corporate managers from 10 organizations in India. Managers cited several evidences of employees engaging in online grapevine communication and discussed reasons behind such behavior. Some of the key factors behind such behavior of employees were level of internet familiarity, anonymity of the rumor mongers, quicker and wider reach and opportunity for cyber loafing. A theory of antecedents of online grapevine communication and management reaction to this phenomenon gradually emerged from our data. Keywords: Decision Making, Web 2.0, Social Networking, Internet, Chatting, Gossip, Grapevine, Information, Leadership, Grounded Theory

In 2009, a video was uploaded in the video sharing website YouTube (www.youtube.com) by Domino's Pizza employee Kristy Hammonds which featured a colleague doing unappetizing things to food he was preparing for delivery (Clifford, 2009). The nationwide profits were reduced as the video went viral. By the time the company was able to pull out the video from YouTube, it had been viewed by a million viewers and Domino's brand name had come under the criticism of millions of shocked customers. The rise of online social media such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter has resulted in several damaging consequences for organizations and their brand names. To remain competitive and sustainable, organizations are under increased pressure for change and transformation. The pressure has been accentuated further by the so-called drivers of the New Economy (Magretta, 1999), that is., through the advent of information technology networks (Moon & Bonny, 2001).

However, these initiatives have also resulted in misuse and malpractices from employees (Conner, 1998) and have sometimes even resulted in corporate whistle-blowing as seen in case of Domino's (Stacey, 1996). In organizations acting as social systems, this increased chaos and complexity leads to high failure rate of executives and leaders in organisations (Kets de Vries, 2001). Many leaders fear informal communication propagated by insiders to be a major hindrance to corporate communication considering the distortion that rises from rumours. Informal communication, also known as grapevine communication, is not always exact but has the potential to cut formal lines and information spread through such channels are received faster (Imundo, 1991). It requires a highly anticipative leader to cultivate informal communication to use it in a way to benefit organization (Imundo, 1991).

In today's world, globalization of organizations has resulted in people working in geographically dispersed units which have further added a distance component to corporate communication. Today, the medium of communication has changed drastically in an organization. The internet has transcended the traditional method of written and verbal communication (Goroshko & Samoilenko, 2011). Organizations have presence in the online social media world through customized pages on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter etc. apart from company-owned websites and blogs. The huge bulk of uncensored message posting has increased concerns of many companies and they have begun taking some active measures to address these issues (Blake, 2008; Goroshko & Samoilenko, 2011). Rumour, when online, spreads more quickly and can gain believability not only between users but at times they may even be disseminated by other mass media sources such as television and print media (Kimmel, 2004). The damage can be serious and can rapidly affect a company's reputation. So, it is important for managers to handle the spread of rumours before it gains the momentum. In the online environment of today's corporate world, the challenge becomes even more daunting, since any potentially disturbing information can be communicated in a matter of a click of a mouse (Baltatzis et al. …

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