What is informal communication or Grapevine? Characteristics

Meaning of informal communication

When an organization does not follow any prescribed or official rules or procedures of the organization is called informal communication. The basis of informal communication is spontaneous relationships among the participants.

Informal communication system is the opposite system of formal communication. In this system the communication is made without following any predetermined rules of policy. Informal communication plays a vital role to operate the organization’s activities. When the employees cannot understand the subject matter of the communication, they can discuss with their authority anywhere about the matter as like in the dining table or in the playground or in the club. Some definitions of informal communication are as follows:

According to Bartol and Martin, Informal communication is the takes place without regard to hierarchical or task requirements.”

According to Bovee and his associates, “Informal communication is the flow of information without regard for the formal organizational structure, hierarchical or reporting relationship.”

So, grapevine or informal communication is the process of spontaneous exchange of information between two or more person at different status without following any prescribed or official rules, formalities and chain of command in the organizational structure.

Characteristics of grapevine or informal communication

The important features or characteristics of grapevine or informal communication are as follows:

  1. Un-official channel of communication: Since an informal communication network does not follow any rules or formalities. So, it is an unofficial channel of communication.
  2. Not controlled by management: The grapevine is not controlled by management. The grapevine is mainly controlled by the employees themselves. As employees control the grapevine information, sometimes the information may be accurate and sometimes the information may be inaccurate.
  3. More reliable information: Most employees perceive and believe that the grapevine contains more reliable information than the information received from upper management. What employees may or may not realize is that many times the grapevine contains false information.
  4. Flexibility: Informal communication is more flexible than formal communication because it is free from all type of formalities.
  5. Oral way of communication: Informal communication technique more uses oral way of communication rather than written communication.
  6. Rapid communication: Informal communication transmits very fast. Especially miss-inflation or rumor spread rapidly to others is the organization.
  7. Distortion of meaning: Something the meaning and the subject matter of the information is distorted in this system.
  8. Influential: Informal communication is very much influential type of communication is distorted in this system.
  9. Free form accountability: The exchange of message in informal communication is free from accountability to the authority or top executives of the organization.
  10. Spontaneous: Informal communication is the process of spontaneous exchange of information between two or more person at different status within the organizational structure.
  11. Multidirectional: Informal communication is multidirectional in nature. The grapevine may be largely available to simply serve the interests of the people it involves. Many times, employees use the grapevine to begin rumors that serve their own interests, with little regard to the people they affect.


    • Incomplete messages,
    • penetration capacity,
    • no record.



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