So why do people start and spread rumors? Rumors often grow because people like to be “in the know.” Knowledge is power, this knowledge is at the center of why and how rumors start and spread.

Insufficient knowledge or incomplete information is often to blame.

It’s difficult not to become involved in rumors at work. After all, people like rumors or gossips and interesting bits of information: you only have to look at the number of celebrity-focused publications to realize that we have a huge appetite for discussing other people’s lives.

At work, however, rumors are harmful and costly. It wastes time, damages reputations, promotes divisiveness, creates anxiety, and destroys morale.

There are a few key steps you can take to prevent office rumors: 

  1. Communicateopenly –It’s important to communicate clearly and keep the lines of communication open. You need to establish a pattern of open communication that allows you to remain aware of what’s being said. So, the best way to fight rumors is with good communication. When you communicate well, your team knows what’s happening, and they trust that you’ll keep them informed. Good communication within your team also means that you will become aware of any rumors that are starting, and you’ll be able to address them quickly and effectively. When everyone knows what’s happening within the organization, they don’t need to resort to rumors and gossips. Use newsletters, weekly meetings, or regular updates via the intranet/internet to let people know what’s happening.
  2. Be upfront –People know when they aren’t being told the whole story. Cut off the rumors from the start by explaining that you’ll provide more information after you have all the details.
  3. Be transparent – The more people understand, the more they trust. Hold open meetings and limit meetings behind closed doors only when absolutely necessary. Share industry and company performance data and reports.
  4. Visit the work areas – Go around and visit the work areas to communicate information and foster greater sense of trust. This also gives you an opportunity to hear rumors when they start, instead of only after they’re out of control.
  5. Inform everyone that rumors are unacceptable– Establish a policy for dealing with rumors and gossip.  You need to set up an environment where rumors are not as likely to start. The more that people understand that engaging in rumors is unacceptable and why this behavior is damaging, the more likely they’ll be able to monitor their own participation.
  6. Promote cooperation rather than competition–Build teams and promote support systems rather than put people in direct competition that creates an opportunity for conflict, animosity and resentment. This lays a foundation of distrust between people and departments, and it allows rumors to start and grow.

* Dr. Flor Glinoga is the President of Altabest Management Services, a corporate training services provider. She is an internationally recognized Management and HRD Consultant. With a PhD in Clinical Psychology and Masters in Development Management, Dr. Glinoga has a wealth of knowledge about individual, group, and organizational behavior.  For the past 36 years, she has engaged individuals and organizations in the change process to increase their productivity, efficiency and effectiveness to include HR Services, strategic business plan programs, develop leadership skills, and build self-mastery.