Rumors – little snippets of unconfirmed information, usually of unclear origin, and usually spread by e-mail or word of mouth. We’ve all heard rumors and may have either inadvertently or purposely helped to spread them. Rumors are born out of and thrive on uncertainty, insecurity, and dissatisfaction. Left unchecked in an organization, the spread of rumors can be destructive to morale, productivity, and ultimately, to the overall health of the enterprise. Effectively circumventing the spread of rumors can mean the difference between an organization’s survival and failure in a crisis.
Here are some key practices we employ at Working Person’s Store to minimize the destructive effects of rumor-mongering.
1. Build an atmosphere of trust and respect. The spread of rumors insinuates that the organization cannot be trusted to disclose needed information and that team members cannot be trusted to act responsibly when presented with information. Both attitudes are detrimental to the building of healthy relationships – a key component of the overall wellbeing of an organization.
2. Nurture a culture based on empathy for every member of the team. Business decisions affect both the professional and personal lives of every member of an organization. While we cannot control every event in our lives, having information reduces the anxiety that comes from uncertainty.
3. Create a good communication plan and practice it all circumstances. It is simply human nature to desire information. If the organization does not provide information, people will seek it out, whether accurate or not. And if the organization communicates both good and bad news, there will be no need for team members to rely on destructive rumors.
4. Consider your messages carefully. Providing accurate, straightforward information does not mean prematurely broadcasting every piece of business information as it becomes known to you. When you do not have all the information about a given situation, be honest about it. People will respect that.
5. Make it clear that rumor-spreading and gossiping are unacceptable. Once the organization and its leaders are recognized as honest, caring and truthful – and team members are encouraged to seek you out for the truth – there will be no need to rely on rumor.