August 26; Are The Informal Office Communication Networks Unmanageable? MANAGEMENT BY THE BOOK: 365 Daily Bible Verse & One-Minute Management Lessons For The Busy Faithful
Chapter Eight: Communication; 26 August
We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive.
They are not busy; they are busybodies.
2 Thessalonians 3:11
|Are The Informal Office Communication Networks Unmanageable?|
My manager was mad at me. Again. Usually, I earned his righteous anger for some sin of commission or omission. But this time was different. Now he was upset because I knew what was going to happen before he did. I got tangled in the grapevine of informal office communications.
Paul writes of the idleness of Thessalonians as they tarried in anticipation of the second coming of Christ.
Waiting for Jesus was not my excuse.
A big realignment was coming out of corporate that would shake up the little kingdoms Your Business Professor and peers had spent years cultivating. I was going down the ‘wait and see’ and gossip avenue. Rather than productive work. The landscape was about to change and the boss didn’t know it.
Is it spreading news or dissension? Is it intelligence or just gossip?
Sometimes hard to tell the difference.
This may be what James Hudson Taylor meant when he said, “In all things not sinful, become Chinese.”
Englishman James Hudson Taylor was an evangelist to China and died there in 1905. He spent years learning the Mandarin language and Chinese culture. He understood the different civilizations of East Asia and the Pacific Rim.
Susan Cain in her book Quiet, writes about the differences, where one study,
… asked Asian-Americans and European-Americans to think out loud while solving reasoning problems, and found that the Asians did much better when they were allowed to be quiet, compared to the Caucasians, who performed well when vocalizing their problem-solving.
These results would not surprise anyone familiar with traditional Asian attitudes to the spoken word: talk is for communicating need-to-know information; quiet and introspection are signs of deep thought and higher truth.
Words are potentially dangerous weapons that reveal things better left unsaid. They hurt other people; they can get their speaker into trouble. Consider, for example, these proverbs from the East: The wind howls, but the mountain remains still. —Japanese proverb: Those who know do not speak. Cain, Susan (2012-01-24). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (pp. 187-188). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
In the days of sailing ships, fresh drinking water or other fluids were transported in barrels called ‘butts’ in the day. A hole would be drilled or cut into the butt to allow access to the liquid. The casks or barrels would be known as scuttlebutts where the crew would gather. The business counterpart is the office water cooler where “rumor control” is centered. “Scuttlebutt” is the seagoing term for rumor/gossip. “Grapevine” originated with the Army. Nautical meets land line.
Jitendra Mishra, Ph.D., Professor of Management writes,
The term grapevine can be traced to Civil War days when vinelike telegraph wires were strung from tree to tree across battlefields and used by Army Intelligence. [Robert Kreitner, Management (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1983), p. 306]
The messages that came over these lines were often so confusing or inaccurate that soon any rumor was said to come from the grapevine. The lines of communication seem to be haphazard and easily disrupted as the telegraph wires were, however, they transmit information rapidly and in many cases faster and with a stronger impact than the formal system allows.
Formal lines of communication and the flow of information are well documented in meetings and memos and the content is slower to change.
But the company grapevine is the informal communication network outside the solid lines of the company org chart and works at the speed of moving electrons. The grapevine is the fastest conduit for any number of tidings; good or bad and has remarkable accuracy.
The manager can control the grapevine with about as much effectiveness as controlling human emotion or office romances. The boss must be “in the loop” for one dominant reason: She cannot be surprised. The manager may not be able to ‘control’ the content of the grapevine gossip, but leadership must know what it is—to ‘plan, organize and lead’ recognizing the rumors and working with them.
The grapevine commands attention because it is right about 80% of the time. This might be more accurate than official inter-office memos.
My boss wanted to be the one to relay the Big Changes and new procedures that were to come down from the re-aligned polices. Whole universes were about to be pulverized and I yapped and leaked the undercover intelligence to everyone. (Thank God this was before Twitter.) But I was a bean-spiller, stealing thunder, making all gods angry. I didn’t have to tell everybody.
I could have kept my mouth shut making everyone happy instead of being both the bearer of bad tidings and bad news medium. I should have let my manager, who sets my priorities, be the news outlet. Sometimes sharing is not always good and discretion is wiser.
We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 2 Thessalonians 3:11