Benefitting from the rumor mill
Written by: Renée LeMoine
Photo by: V&V
"Global economic and political
changes are forcing a few companies around us to implement changes,
including layoffs. Our company is in good shape, but watching our
business partners suffer makes my staff nervous. As a result, rumors
are starting to float around the office that are totally groundless.
Rumors, whether true or not, can seriously undermine morale. Conditions
such as those most businesses face today tend to stimulate rumor
mill activity. Management must monitor and manage it accordingly
by reporting facts and focusing on truths to counter negativity
that will stem from rumors.
Organizational studies have found that rumors emerge when there
is ambiguity and stressful conditions during situations that are
important to employees, thus arousing anxiety. Gossip often exists
and seldom goes away completely; therefore, a wise manager simply
chooses to use it to his advantage.
When monitoring and managing rumors, it is helpful to keep in mind
that gossip performs a number of purposes, including structuring
and reducing anxiety. Gossip helps make sense of limited or fragmented
information. It can serve as a vehicle for organizing group members
into coalitions, and may signal a sender's status and power. "We
are a group, and you are not part of it," or "I have the
power to include you in our group," are two examples of the
underlying meaning behind a gossiper's intention.
Managers should monitor grapevine patterns and observe which individuals
are interested in what issues, including who is likely to pass rumors
along. Doing so will make it easier to manage the grapevine by planting
messages that you want employees to hear. Monitoring the rumor mill
will also enable you to lessen the impact of destructive messages.
The impact of destructive messages can be lessened by announcing
timetables for making important decisions, openly explaining decisions
that appear inconsistent or secretive, counter-balancing the downside
with the upside, and being honest about worst case scenarios.
"News from Behind My Hand: Gossip in Organizations",Organization
Article prepared by Renée LeMoine, Executive
Director, LeMoine & Associates
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