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Rumors, you’ve all heard them, and probably have had them spread about you at some point. Rumors exist in our personal and professional lives. Personal rumors can be harmful and embarrassing. In most cases, rumors are not true, they are born of hatred, jealously or misinformation. However some are true, the details may be embellished a bit but true never-the-less. There are only a couple of ways to deal with personal rumors, ignore them and hope they go away or confront the source. There are also personal rumors at work that could defame or slander a person; I’ll get to that later.
Professional rumors are a lot harder to deal with and manage. Work related rumors such as, I hear we are being bought out, they are going to outsource this department, they hired a new CEO and they like to streamline, we have a hiring freeze, so on and so forth. What can you about these rumors?
You could ignore it but let’s be honest, a lot of information in the rumor mill is true, and at the very least has elements of the truth. That’s because when there are board meetings and conference calls, almost all the time someone involved tells someone who isn’t and the information gets leaked. I can recall early in my career, the VP called an emergency meeting with all the department heads. She told them that we were being bought out but not to discuss it. I was not at that meeting but I was told all about it. If I was told, I am certain that others were as well. The news spread like Jiffy peanut butter.
I think it’s best to listen to it, try to find out how far it spreads, and then evaluate it. Professional rumors are difficult to stop because it’s difficult to determine the source, who leaked the information in the first place. But you have to determine is it true, is it false, is there some truth or totally false. How much damage is the rumor causing, for instance is it having an effect on productivity, and morale. If so and it’s totally false, send an email, or discuss it outside with the smokers, they have the best gossip.
If there are elements of truth but you can’t really talk about it because of confidentiality, then make a general statement about maintaining professionalism in the work place and staying focus on the task at hand until a concrete statement is made. It’s my experience that people just want the truth, good or bad, and if it is bad it’s better to tell them and let them know then to allow them to seek the rumor mill. Looking back, I can say I have heard things through the rumor mill before it was disclosed in staff meetings. People love gossip; we can be just messy like that.
Now as for personal rumors at work that are meant to discredit, defame or slander an individual, you must kill these rumors right away. If someone is spreading lies about an employee knowingly, you have to investigate it. Track it down, and find ways to discredit the rumor and expose the lie so it stops immediately. You do not want to be slapped with a case and look unconcerned and as if you didn’t take it seriously. You have to be prepared.