5 ways to get off the office rumor mill
Rumor mills can create distrust, conflict and disharmony among co-workers. But even if you know rumor mills are bad for productivity and professionalism, they can still be hard to avoid. Here are some tips from human resources professionals on how to break the cycle of negativity in your workplace.
1) Try to understand why rumors develop. “Rumors and gossip typically stem from conflict,” says Amy Klink, MBA/HRM, director of talent acquisition and operations for Apollo Group, the parent company of University of Phoenix. “People engage in rumormongering and gossip as an attempt to gain power and control. But this strategy usually backfires, because people who engage in gossip tend to lose peoples’ trust over time.”
2) Learn to tell the difference between rumor and truth. “Rumors are not formal, vetted information, and as such they do not come from official channels,” says Shelley Zajic, vice president of talent management for Apollo Group. “If someone is pulling you aside informally and giving you ‘secret’ information that you can’t tell anyone, chances are its rumor and innuendo — especially if that information is derogatory against a certain person or group.”
3) Trust your gut. If you hear something that makes you feel odd or suspicious, it’s likely a rumor. “Rumors tend to create an unsettled feeling in the person receiving the information,” Zajic says. “If the information you’re receiving or the way you’re receiving it makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s probably part of the teller’s personal agenda.”
4) Ignore the chatter. Just because other people are caught up in the drama caused by rumor and innuendo doesn’t mean you have to be. “Being surrounded by negativity can become a burden, but you can also stop it in its tracks by not engaging in the drama yourself,” Klink explains.
5) Be empowered by truth. “From a behavioral perspective, knowledge is power, and some people believe that by possessing ‘secret’ information, they in turn gain power,” Zajic explains. “As long as you remember that rumors are not factual information — in fact they are often completely made up — you realize that false information does not lead to power, but the exact opposite. Any information you receive should be the kind of factual information that is essential to your success on the job.”
It’s in your power to get off the negative rumor-mill cycle permanently and, according to Klink, “You can create your own positive working environment by always focusing on positive information and keeping an optimistic attitude."