Before you decide to stop rumors in the workplace, you have to consider who is the target of the gossip and what level of influence you have to stop them.
Are people spreading rumors about you? Some would say that any publicity is better than none, so you may just want to let it go.
But what if you want the titter-tatter to stop?
Perhaps the information is true, but damaging, or perhaps the information is not true (or only partially true).
In any case, if you want to stop people from spreading gossip about you, you will have to confront them.
Even this doesn’t ensure that the rumoring will stop, but it makes people think twice before talking about you in the future.
Trace the source of the gossip – from person to person - as far as possible.
This sounds like a lot of work, and it may not even stop the gossip that is going around.
Still, this exercise is useful because it has the potential to prevent future gossip about you in two ways:
First, as people come to expect that you will confront them should they spread rumors about you in the future, it works as a deterrent.
Second, you will know what kind of people you are dealing with. Most people engage in rumoring, but some people are vicious about it, you need to identify them and know what to expect from them.
When you refuse to spread gossip about others, people may tend to view you as self-righteous and dismiss your concerns. Try being less judgmental about people that are spreading rumors. When you appear self-righteous it gives people a reason to ignore your input.
Here are some suggested approaches to stop others from spreading gossip.
The direct approach. If people are spreading rumors about others, do not participate. Let others know that you won’t be part of rumoring.
The in-the-room approach. Tell them to wait until so and so is in the room, this will dissuade some people from talking about others when you are around.
The "is-it-true?" approach. When someone comes to you with a juicy tidbit, ask them whether they know the information to be true, tell them you won’t pass the info along because it sounds like gossip. It will make them think twice before repeating it again.
The private-biz approach. You could also say, “Hum, that sounds like someone’s private business, let’s not talk about it”
The let’s-ask-so-and-so approach. Here's another way of killing rumors. When a malicious rumor starts about so-and-so, suggest asking so-and-so about it. People are likely to stop because, for the most part, people want to talk behind other people’s backs, not in front of their faces.
When all else fails, just keep to yourself, avoid getting caught in the rumor mill. Don’t even add truthful facts to the rumor, as that would have a tendency to feed it. Most rumors do have a bit of truth. Even if you are the one that contributes the truthful part, don’t become part of the rumor mill.
If you are the leader of an organization where bad rumors run rampant, your behavior needs to go beyond avoiding the rumor mill, you have to take action to stop it. When you tolerate malicious rumors in your group, it grows in a nasty way and becomes unmanageable.
It’s best if you take steps to prevent the conditions that give birth to rumors. Foster trust, share information and engage in downward communication as much as possible, encourage openness and discussion, even dissention.
To counter individual rumors as they arise, you need to spread the truth as quickly as possible. Rumoring usually fills a vacuum of information, so fill it with the truth, with official information that people can talk about and pass on.
To stop rumors in your team, you need to confront the habitual rumor monger. Issue verbal warnings; escalate and issue written ones if the behavior continues. Give it the attention it deserves. The longer you wait, the larger the problem grows and the more difficult it becomes to fix.
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