It's miserable to go to work if your co-workers are constantly circulating rumors about pending layoffs or making up hurtful stories about someone's personal life. Part of you might want to tell your colleagues to grow up and stop acting like teenagers in high school, while another part might just feel down about working in a caustic environment. However, rumors in the workplace can occasionally be beneficial for staffers.
The website Mind Tools suggests that people start rumors because of a need to feel as though they know inside information. In many cases, rumors aren't based on anything concrete. For example, if an employee meets with a manager behind closed doors, the employee's peers might start a rumor that the employee is being disciplined. Or, if two peers appear friendly, it's common to hear rumors floating around that the peers are having a workplace affair.
Depending on their nature, rumors in the workplace can have a wide range of effects, many negative. If an unflattering personal rumor spreads about an employee, she can unjustly face alienation and criticism from peers. If a rumor about layoffs spreads around the office, employees will likely experience feelings of panic, fear and uncertainty. The University of Virginia Faculty and Employee Assistance Program says rumors can result in lost productivity, decreased morale, division among employees, wasted time and heightened anxiety.
Whether you're the person who's the subject of some unflattering rumors or are just fed up with hurtful gossip, you might update your resume and start hunting for a new job. If you excel at your current position, your employer will lose a valuable resource if you leave, while you'll have to go through the upheaval of finding a new job, interviewing and possibly even relocating. The University of Virginia Faculty and Employee Assistance Program says that an unhealthy workplace due to gossip can force quality employees to quit.
Whether you're an employer or an employee, take steps to end rumors upon hearing them. "Business Management Daily" advises that employers should tackle workplace rumors by clearly stating that the behavior is prohibited, conducting performance reviews to address rumors on a one-on-one basis and possibly assigning more work to keep employees busy. The University of Virginia Faculty and Employee Assistance Program recommends that employees should ask themselves questions about the effects of creating or spreading a rumor.
Although employers and employees commonly regard workplace rumors as negative, rumors can help employees spread positive news. "Psychology Today" reports that if employees feel the need to spread rumors, they should put a positive spin on the news. For example, you could spread the news that a co-worker made a significant sale because of a strong work ethic and bubbly personality.
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.