See No Rumours, Hear No Rumours at Workplace

Rumours can be costly when there is a lack of trust and substantiated information

How many times have you walked past your colleagues and overheard them whispering “hot” rumours to one another? Well, rumours are a form of hear-say existing in any social context. It is essentially unsubstantiated and incomplete information is transferred and distorted from one person to another. Gossiping about rumour is a form of unproductive conversation that possesses an ad hoc quality, which undermines its durability.

If gossip is so unproductive and negative, why do people still engage in gossip to talk about rumours? According to Mr. Ralf Sommerfeld of the Max Planck Institute of Germany, gossip has a form of “magnetic stronghold” on the participants even when they have access to both substantiated and unsubstantiated information. In short, people are more readily prepared to believe in gossip than the truth because of its “juicy” content and its relevance to the workplace issues.

There are different types of rumours and the origins are pretty different from one another.

Wedge-driving rumours. These are started deliberately as a way of creating tension and sowing discord. Someone may spread a rumour that the rival sales team members are getting better bonus than they actually deserved or that one of your colleague is promoted because of favoritism. These types of rumours are often believed because people want to believe them.

Agenda-driven rumours. These are usually employed by managers and team leaders to manipulate rumours to serve their own ends. For example, they could suggest that a failure to raise production or beat the sales target may results in job losses or pay cut.

Malicious rumours. Sometimes, people are motivated by a desire to take revenge or simply to create trouble for being unfairly treated or hurt. Spreading a credible rumour also gives them a sense of power and control.

Self-fulfilling rumours. Such rumours actually created a non-existing truth and turned it into a reality. Powerful isn’t it?!? The stock market witnesses many such self-fulfilling rumours whereby some sellers sold on rumour that company A’s stock price is going to crash and as a result, everyone follows and heavily sold the shares until it really crashed on rumour.

Social rumours. These rumours usually concern the private lives of the people in the workplace. Gossipers may indulge in talking about the boss’s rumoured mistress or a rumoured romance between two colleagues as a way to relieve themselves from the daily work routine.

Rumours can be destructive.They often surface when misunderstandings arise and when people withhold information, creating a lack of trust. Rumours also reflect an “us and them” culture which will adversely impact interpersonal relationship in the office. Okay, now we know rumour is counter-productive and bad for everyone. Let’s start with ourselves to talk-no-rumour and hear-no-rumour from today onwards.