HUMAN RESOURCES / OCT. 09, 2014
version 3, draft 3

How to Deal with Rumours in the Workplace

Gossip is a common phenomenon in almost every workplace. People are always trying to make sense of what is going on around them, whether it is the boss’ personal life or impending changes in the organization. As a result, stories are created comprising of guesswork combined with little truth. With time, such rumors end up spreading to the entire organization.

Gossip can be very costly and harmful to any organization. It can waste time, create anxiety, damage reputations, lower morale and promote divisiveness. So, how can you prevent rumors from spreading?

  • Keep employees updated – When people know what is happening in the organization, there is no room for guesswork. Information can be shared through the intranet, email newsletters or regular meetings.
  • Be honest and open – Information should be shared in an open and honest manner. This way, people will know that you are sincere. If you don’t have all the facts, assure your employees that they will get the full information once you have it.
  • Establish transparent procedures – All the processes in your organization should be as transparent as possible. For instance, the criteria for promotion should be very clear. Having transparent procedures will minimize complaining and gossip.
  • Apply management by walking around – Being around your workers constantly gives you the chance to communicate information constantly. It also allows you to catch and deal with rumors before they spiral out of control.
  • Encourage cooperation instead of competition – When people work in an overly competitive environment, resentment and conflict is likely to develop. This results in distrust, which in turn breeds rumors. It would therefore be advisable to promote a culture of cooperation instead of competition.
  • Outlaw rumor – Rumors should not be acceptable in any organization or team. Establish a policy that outlaws rumor and outlines how people perpetrating this behavior will be dealt with.

Here are some tips for managing rumors that are already spreading:

  • Deal with it right away – Rumors spread very fast. The more they spread, the more damage they cause. Therefore, when you get wind of a rumor, have a meeting with the people involved immediately. Give them the facts about the situation and remind them the organization’s policy concerning gossip.
  • Lead by example – Anytime a colleague shares a ‘juicy’ story with you, don’t get involved. To get the truth, it would be advisable to go directly to the source. For instance, if the rumor is about another workmate, talk to this person directly. This will help prevent the spread of rumors.
  • Monitor rumor patterns – Keep track of the rumor patterns in your organization. If a particular rumor is persistent, then you might need to provide updates more frequently. If a specific individual is the common source of rumors, it would be advisable to let them go.

Eliminating gossip completely from the workplace is not possible. People are curious and will always try to explain what is going on around them. However, applying the tips above will help you curtail rumors in the workplace, creating more trust and unity in your team.    


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