Social & Workplace Influence — When the Grapevine is Good (Part II)

The different types of workplace influencers

For thousands of years, the workplace grapevine has been a social and cultural case study in action.  Rumor mills, shared assumptions, and opinions have long been a part of what makes our place of work interesting, enjoyable, intolerable, or entertaining.


Social & Workplace Influence — When the Grapevine is Good (Part II)


In Part I of Social & Workplace Influence When the Grapevine is Good, we discussed how the a negative workplace grapevine is a symptom and red flag to a larger workplace cultural problem and based on a recent University of Kentucky study, 72% of workplace gossip was balanced (including both negative and positive gossip) and only 7% of conversations were found to be predominantly negative.

Social media experts are quick to segment the social audience when working on marketing or public relations campaigns.  Managers and human resource professionals of organizations should do the same.  The authors of Groundswell, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff identified 6 groups in social media based on their auctions. While the Groundswell authors created these profiles for social media purposes, I believe they can be used in a workplace context.  These six profiles to can help you identify the different types of workplace influencers and their involvement in what makes the community flow and who how thoughts and ideas are influenced.

  • Creators. These individuals are extremely socially active and are enthusiastic about their hobbies, passions, dislikes, or love of a product, brand, company, or service.  They are connected and have an established and strong community and seen among these community members as an authority because of their extensive research and ability to vet information to others.
  • Critics. These individuals are extremely vocal and use either online or word of mouth to rate and critique products and services.  These individuals can be your best allies especially if you have a great customer service department, stellar management team, or new program you are rolling out to the staff.  Don’t be followed by the word critic having a negative connotation.  These team members can be an evangelist for your organization and culture.
  • Collectors. These individuals have a great deal of influence and can generate a great deal of chatter in a short amount of time because of their extensive network and passion for sharing information.  These team members focus on collecting information and content for sharing with other members of their active community.
  • Joiners. These individuals want to feel like they belong to something.  If online, they are very active on community sites like Facebook and are extremely engaged in places that involve a sense of community like churches and professional organizations.  Their ability to connect with many individuals and persons is a draw for theses team members.  They often time join for the sake of joining to belong.
  • Spectators. These individuals love to sit back and watch and enjoy taking in the environment and situation soaking up all the information.  Online these individuals are focused on using ratings and reviews to draw conclusions.  Don’t be surprised if they use these same methods of surveying and gather data when engaging and influencing your organization.
  • Inactives. These are those individuals who are present and listening but not participating and engaging.  They have one ear to the wall but have not made an effort to actively participate within the organization or culture.  Just as they would do online.

Be sure to check out Part I of Social & Workplace Influence–When the Grapevine is Good to learn more.


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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

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