How to Use the Office Grapevine to Climb Up the Corporate Ladder

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Gossip, or the office grapevine, is the way everyone in the workplace communicates. You can use gossip to get ahead. The trick is to understand how to leverage gossip to get you the edge.

Because it's underground and doesn't represent the official word of the organization, the grapevine has always been more interesting and therefore more influential than the news or explanations that the company approves. That's even more true in this cynical age when trust in employers is low.

So, how do you harness the power of gossip for your own career goals? Here are tips:

  • Listen. You will get a sense of the biggest talkers, where they get their information, what kinds they tend to pass on, and how they transmit it. Grapevine experts call this tracking communications patterns. All this is necessary for you to understand. It will determine how you plant in the grapevine what you want known about your reputation, special talents, accomplishments, and plans.
  • Treat the grapevine with the same respect sailors treat the ocean. It is an awesome force, which can sustain or kill. That means you have to measure everything you yourself put into it, either about yourself or others. Remember whatever you say, how you say it, and who you say it to all send signals, whether you intend that or not.
  • Develop a reciprocal reporting system with other players who are based in parts of the organization that you need to reach with information about you. Usually you will only need two or three. They will say X or Y about you in their departments, company meetings, and off-site conferences. You will, in turn, say A or B about them in your own groups.
  • Always be prepared to address what's being said about you in a way that reinforces the messages you want sent. But do that in a relaxed, conversational manner. Everyone is observing that response and will dissect it before they deposit it back into the grapevine.
  • Never miss a chance to assist your superiors, if they request it, in briefing them on the content of the grapevine. However, filter that information so that you won't be the messenger bearing bad news. They kill those kinds of messengers. In addition, you don't wan to be perceived by anyone -- superior, colleague or subordinate -- as a snitch. The old saying is: "The snitch winds up in the ditch."

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