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Communicate Well and Avoid the Grapevine Effect

Communicate Well and Avoid the Grapevine Effect

By: Amy DeBruyn, SHRM-CP (she/her), HR Consultant, Insight HRM

I have no idea how many people I’ve interviewed during my time working in the HR field, but I do know – it’s a lot! One of my favorite questions to ask (and I ask it 100% of the time) is, “What frustrates you at work?” Spoiler alert – it’s communication.


Poor communication. Lack of communication. Too much meaningless communication. Unread emails.

The responses go on and on to detail a laundry list of communication misunderstandings, shortcomings, and outright failures. This goes for every industry, every size organization, from entry level to executive positions. There’s one common frustrating theme, and that’s communication.

Year after year, to the torment of organizational leaders, employee surveys reveal communication frustrations. When these survey results come in, frustrated managers and leaders feel confused and deflated because they truly feel they’ve effectively communicated information, organizational changes, and other important details to their teams. So, what’s the issue? Where’s the disconnect? How can organizations get their communication intentions to match reality?


Instead of throwing hands in the air and saying, “We tried, we’ve communicated every way possible, there’s not anything else we can do!” Embrace this opportunity. The good news is that we can do something about it. Communication is an art and there is always room for learning, improvement, and growth – if one is willing to do the work.

If your team is telling you there are communication issues, believe them – they aren’t making it up! If you’re not sure if your communications are reaching your team or colleagues? Ask them. Ask them how they want to be communicated with and then work to communicate with them in that way. Lean into the issue and work to understand how you can make improvements.

Try this: “I’d like to keep the lines of communication open; how do you prefer I provide information, ask questions, or check in with you?” Then make note of the responses and be sure you’re communicating the way you’ve said you would.

Say good-bye to assumptions. Your team is depending on you to take the lead on fostering respectful, clear, and purposeful communication.

When in doubt if your message has been received as intended or if you’ve heard and understood someone’s communication to you – clarify, clarify, clarify – you will be a more effective coworker, manager, or leader with a more productive and engaged team. Excellent communication supports engagement at all levels, not only between managers and their direct reports.

Thoughtful, engaging, and clear communication is the grapevine’s kryptonite – grapevine assumptions just don’t travel or survive in a highly effective communication environment. When teams are purposeful and serious about ensuring excellent communication, they stave off any potential problems before they even hit the grapevine – and your team knows that important organization information is going to come from you, not the grapevine.

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About Amy DeBruyn
Amy DeBruyn is an HR Consultant with Insight HRM. She has a background in Healthcare, Non-Profits, Accounting and Payroll, Higher Education, and Manufacturing. Amy also serves on the Human Resource Association of Southeast Michigan’s Board of Directors as the Diversity Director where she shares Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion workplace initiatives and best practices with other HR leaders. She has presented topics of special interest including Gender Roles in the Workplace, LGBTQ+, Neurodiversity in the Workplace, and Unconscious Bias.
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