We generally don't think about how rumors hurt people.
Many times we spread hearsay thinking we are being helpful. When I forward an email to others about a new identity theft threat, I'm just trying to be helpful. But if I didn't take the time to check if the email rumor I got was a hoax, then I will have wasted my time and the time of those I forwarded the email to.
If an employee is told by another employee that management is considering layoffs, both employees are now more anxious, and this is likely to affect their work.
Rumors do hurt people, and this is how:
• Rumoring is a waste of time and energy. Employees could use that energy on creating and producing, and on improving their own lives. Instead, the time and energy is used to the detriment of others.
• Rumors increase anxiety in an already anxious environment. When employees gossip about others, there is always the nagging feeling of “who is next?” People wonder if they will be the next targets of gossip, or if they already are.
• Perhaps the worst effect of rumors is that they hurt people in very real ways, they can destroy relationships, careers and reputations.
• Rumoring creates camps and divides organizations. As people learn something through hearsay, they tend to take sides.
• Rumors reduce the credibility of those spreading them.
• Rumoring reduces trust and confidence. Employees begin to withdraw, and they may not take actions that could lend themselves to being the target of a rumor.
• All in all, rumors and gossip create a divided, stressful and harmful working environment.
Next time you hear a rumor, remember that people's careers and reputations may be harmed. Check if the information is true before you share it.
Related content: Interpersonal Communication Articles