Every Landscape Contractor knows that his or her company has a company grape vine, which allows rumors to spread throughout the company. These rumors can be innocent or they can be very destructive to a company and the employees working there. It seems that it is human nature to gossip about things, but the issue is that it can hurt the company morale and lead to very uncomfortable situation for employees. How to handle the company grape vine is a interesting question. The grape vine can serve a useful purpose, when sending information out to the employees, however you can never count on the rumors to be accurate. The old game we played as children, when a line of people would whisper a phase in your ear and you pass it down the line, by the end the phase was nothing like the phase at the beginning.
The best method to stop the company grape vine is to be as open with your employees as possible. This doesn’t mean that you share every piece of information with the employees, but you share information with them that affects their jobs. For example: a sales board that will list the projects sold, or a calendar that list all meetings in the company. Conduct a company meeting once a month to address things happening in the company or a newsletter that will include things happening in the company. Allow time in your monthly meeting with employees to include a question and answer session were employees can ask questions of you. This openness will help stop the rumor mill from getting started, as many of the issues will have been addressed in the meetings.
This leads to an other issue that company owners face and that is “open book management”, in which the management team and ownership share all the information about the company, financial, operations etc. I am not a fan of open book management when it opens all the information up to the employees. I feel that in small business it is a owners right to determine what information is shared. Unless you are a public corporation with shareholders, it is the ownership’s decision to share whatever they want with employees. I do however, believe that employees should be educated about things like profit and business matters in running a business. An educated employee is less likely to spread rumors about the company when everyone has the same information and knowledge. I believe a modified form of “open book management” is a good thing, but there are things that should never be shared such as human resource issues, banking information, personals issue about ownership, these are out of bounds.
The company grape vine will never completely stop, people will always find a reason to talk about issues that they find interesting even when they have little or no knowledge about the subject. But as managers or owners we can reduce the amount of rumors by educating our employees and being honest and direct with them.