Missouri State University
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Bears Business Brief: The office grapevine, hurtful or helpful?

By Elizabeth Rozell, Ph.D.

headshot of Dr. Rozell
Dr. Elizabeth Rozell

When was the last time you heard some juicy gossip about one of your coworkers? Probably not that long ago.

The office grapevine is a natural part of any workplace, and because information from fellow coworkers can travel quickly and is accepted by a majority of people, it can have a significant impact among employees.

Approximately 75 percent of the information gathered through the grapevine turns out to be true. However, that leaves at least 25 percent of the information to be false or erroneous. Depending on how it is handled by management, gossip can be hurtful or it can be helpful.

As might be expected, negative outcomes can result from gossip. One of the most observable negative aspects of gossip is the damage it can do to relationships and the reputation of another person in the workplace.

Angie Mullings, broker/owner of Century 21 Integrity Group in Springfield, says in her experience, most gossip is centered on the treatment of one coworker compared to another.

“A coworker being the boss’ pet is the best example I can think of. A feeling of inequality in the workplace is the biggest contributor to gossip that I have experienced.”

In this situation, the supposed recipient of the favored treatment is often ostracized from group activities, Mullings says.

“He or she feels a lack of support from coworkers, without understanding why.”

Another notorious impact of gossip is the grapevine effect. The longer the message travels from the original source and the more individuals it passes through, the more distorted it becomes, often resulting in incorrect information.

Although gossip often has negative ramifications in the workplace, it can be used for constructive purposes if managed effectively. The office grapevine is often the fastest way to get a message communicated throughout an organization.

When revisions to policies or other personnel guidelines are being formulated, feedback can often be achieved simply by “leaking” information, and then waiting for the gossip to begin.

This allows the reaction of workers to be observed without the threat of management reprisal.

It is also important for managers to realize that gossip, which can lead to social bonding, is a regular part of daily communication between staff and can produce more effective teamwork.

One of the long term results of gossip is that it serves as a source of information about management style and behavior of personnel.

It helps to establish the “unwritten policies” that exist in every workplace. Without issuing formal policy statements, management can allow the office grapevine to work for them as the “way to do things” is shared through the gossip/rumor mill.

Because the office grapevine is the most informal type of communication, it makes employees feel comfortable and can help form strong working relationships and meaningful social camaraderie. The informal bonding can help to establish trust between coworkers and create benefits both inside and outside of the workplace as employees identify common interests and activities.

This, in turn, makes them much more at ease with fellow staff members.

The office grapevine and other informal communication networks must be managed effectively. When gossip becomes negative, managers should act immediately to bring it under control.

The goal of managers should not be to eliminate the office grapevine, but to quickly identify it, assess the impact and take action to manage it properly, so that it can result in a positive outcome.

This article appeared in the June 15, 2014 issue of the Springfield News-Leader.  It is available online here.

Elizabeth Rozell, Ph.D., is a professor of management and associate dean of the College of Business at Missouri State University.

Rozell also holds the Kenneth E. Meyer Professorship and is director of the MBA program. Her specialties include organizational behavior, leadership and emotional intelligence. Email: erozell@missouristate.edu.

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COB students experience business and culture in Vietnam

At the very end of the spring 2014 semester, six students participated in a unique course, Business and Cultural Essence of Vietnam, led by marketing instructor Courtney Pham.

Students and Instructor Pham at at the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City
Students and Instructor Pham at at the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City

During the course, students met during the regular spring semester six times to complete assignments and prepare for the trip.  The group even went to dinner together at a Vietnamese restaurant.  Then, from May 17-31, the group traveled to Vietnam for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“An experience like this helps students develop skills and gives experiences a classroom setting will never provide. It’s an opportunity to discover new strengths and abilities, conquer new challenges, and solve new problems. Students will encounter situations that are wholly unfamiliar and will learn to adapt and respond in effective ways,” states Pham.

One way students were able to develop these new skills was through visits to companies in Vietnam, learning about topics ranging from operation styles to management approaches.  Visits included United Airlines, where students met with Country Manager, Joe Mannix.

“Visiting United Airlines was a great experience for all of us.  Mr. Mannix talked to us about the cultural differences between Vietnam and he also talked about Thailand.  It really exemplified how important it is to go to different countries and experience their cultures in order to have the competitive edge when you get into the workforce,” stated accelerated MBA student Kristina Lor.

Students also attended a briefing at the U. S. Consulate General, met some high ranking diplomats and visited the American Center.  While in Ho Chi Minh City, the group went to Saigon Technical University and met with local students who took them on a moped tour of the city.  Many cultural sites were also on the must-see list as a part of this experience, including the Vinh Long Floating Market, the Imperial Palace in Hue City including Emperor Tu Duc’s Tomb, Mun Island, Mot Island, Tam Islands, and the Oceanographic Institute in Phan Thiet City.

Students meet with Joe Mannix, United Airlines Country Manager at the United Airlines Office in Ho Chi Minh City
Students meet with Joe Mannix, United Airlines Country Manager at the United Airlines Office in Ho Chi Minh City

Students were also able to experience dinner with a local family while in Vietnam.  Instructor Pham’s father lives in Ho Chi Minh City and invited the entire group to his house.  It was a special evening for the students to see a traditional home and experience a traditional dinner.

“This experience was beneficial to each of the students on the trip as they got to know another culture first-hand. Cultural differences are more than just differences in language, food, appearances, and personal habits. A person’s culture reflects very deep perceptions, beliefs, and values that influence his or her way of life and the way that s/he views the world. Students who experience cultural differences personally can come to truly understand where other cultures are coming from,” states instructor Pham.

For more information about potential study away experiences for business majors, visit the International Business Programs office on the second floor of Glass Hall or online at http://ibp.missouristate.edu.vietnam 4

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Student Spotlight

LaWanda Darden: follows her passion for fashion to NYC

LaWanda on NYC city street
LaWanda in NYC for her internship with Zac Posen

LaWanda Darden, from St. Louis, Missouri, is currently a junior in the Fashion Merchandising and Design program with emphases in Fashion Merchandising and Management as well as Fashion Design and Product Development.  This summer she is living in New York City, working as an intern with Zac Posen.

“I am working with the design team on the Spring 2015 collection. We are doing image research for inspiration, developing new fabric manipulations and techniques, assisting with model fittings, and learning about sourcing and product development.  This internship has meant so much to me…  I feel like it’s given me the opportunity to test drive and apply the skills that I have learned in the classroom,” states LaWanda.

LaWanda credits much of her success to her experiences at Missouri State.  “My professors in the fashion department are such a positive influence on me. Ms. Bailey, Dr. Starr, Dr. Roberts, Dr. Granger, and Ms. Dake are genuinely interested in my progression as a fashion designer and merchandiser. I honestly would not be who I am without these individuals,” states LaWanda.

LaWanda’s dream job after graduation is to become a Fashion Director of a large company, or start her own company and design special occasion and ready-to-wear clothes for men and women.   “The reason I chose to attend Missouri State was because of the impressive fashion program and the opportunity to take both fashion and business courses.  Each of my potential dream jobs will require design and business experience.  Having both skills will be invaluable,” states LaWanda.

When she returns to campus, LaWanda will serve as the Director of Media Relations for the Association of Fashion and Design (aFAD) and participate as an active member of both TRiO and the Association of Black Collegians (ABC).  She is also looking forward to participating in the annual student-produced Fashion Show, sponsored by the MSU Fashion Department, which will occur in spring 2015.


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Students learn about international marketing and logistics in Costa Rica

During the 2014 spring break, Dr. Chuck Hermans, professor of marketing, led a study away trip to Costa Rica.  Students learned about international marketing and logistics with visits to businesses and distribution centers.  Students were also able to experience eco-tourism and learn about the culture and landscape of this Central American country.  Check-out the video and hear from our students!



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Faculty and Staff Spotlight

Dr. Cathy Van Landuyt
Dr. Cathy Van Landuyt

Cathy Van Landuyt, senior instructor in computer information systems (CIS), received her PhD in Divinity from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland earlier this summer.  Her thesis, titled “Facebook, Friendship, and Faith: Connecting Practices of Young Adult Christians,” combined her research interests with her experience in the CIS Department.

Cathy VanLanduyt, senior instructor in computer information systems (CIS), received her PhD in Divinity from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland
Cathy VanLanduyt, senior instructor in computer information systems (CIS), received her PhD in Divinity from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland
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