How to Deal With Rumours
Rumours are the most damaging form of communication at work. When someone is the target of rumours, he or she suffers a loss of self-esteem. This may lead to poor productivity and ill health.
Rumours about issues other than people, such as the future of an organisation, are no better. Such rumours affect morale. They worry staff unnecessarily and distract them from their jobs.
BanterBanter in a workplace can be a good thing. It keeps the atmosphere friendly and pleasant. But it’s important to recognise when banter and chat goes over the line and becomes rumour-mongering.
Ignoring a RumourWhen a rumour begins, the best approach is to turn away from the person spreading it and focus on a work issue. This may seem rude. Most people like to remain polite and respectful when they’re working for eight hours a day alongside others.
Ignoring a rumour-monger works, however. The person attempting to spread the rumour may be upset, but the message that rumours are unacceptable gets across. After all, rumour is only effective if someone listens, takes it up and passes it on.
Reporting a RumourDespite this, rumours do spread. To be fair, some rumours appear plausible. It’s therefore natural for staff to take an interest.
One way of putting a stop to a spreading rumour is to report it to a manager. It’s also wise to ask the manager what action he or she intends to take. Simply reporting a rumour can be a waste of time. A manager may even see this as an attempt to spread a rumour rather than silence it.
Management ActionA manager who becomes aware of a rumour has two courses of action. The first is to find the source.
To establish who started a rumour, the manager may have to rely on others to point out the culprit. This may not work. People rarely like giving someone up. And those who do may have another agenda for reporting an alleged rumour-monger.
In this situation, it’s necessary to use discretion. But if the source of a rumour is clear, the manager should confront the person.
ConfrontationA confrontation needn’t be aggressive. For a minor rumour, it may simply be a matter of asking the person in front of others whether or not he or she is responsible for spreading it. The manager can then correct the rumour and kill it off.
If the rumour relates to one or more individuals rather than a work issue, the manager may need to be more discrete. Calling the rumour-monger into a private room before confronting him or her may be best.
MeetingSome rumours about work issues are so widespread and alarming, the sensible approach is to call a meeting.
A meeting is a chance for a manager to outline the rumour. He or she should then explain why the rumour is inaccurate. A denial of a rumour without an explanation can affect morale and leave staff feeling more worried than before.
If the rumour is true, the manager should confirm it. Once again, a confirmation must come with an explanation.
In both instances, staff should have an opportunity to ask questions. This helps to dispel similar rumours emerging later on.