Discover more from How to Lead Everybody (with their permission)
The Rumor Mill
Did you hear?
As leaders, it’s important that we do not gossip, and that we take steps to limit the gossip within our teams.
We won’t be able to stop it entirely, though—discussion of some group members by other group members is fairly fundamental human behavior, and there’s a “social thrill” to being in-the-know on “juicy” information.
We can let our people know our expectations for this—that spreading rumors is unprofessional and can hurt team morale—and we can privately take people aside when we see the behavior happening to discourage them from repeating it.
We can be transparent in our communication and let our team members know about company directions and our own situations (within reason, of course). If the owners are going on a work retreat for a few days, let the rest of the company know the purpose. Is it to create the next strategic plan? Is it a C-suite team-building event? Is it to celebrate the CEO’s 60th birthday?
Sometimes it’s not possible to be fully transparent with the team—for example, if the owners are considering an acquisition offer from a larger company. And that’s the issue—if your people DON’T know what’s happening, they will ASSUME it’s something negative, something disruptive, and/or that they are being kept in the dark because they are going to be thrown under the proverbial bus.
And so, they will start murmering to other team members, “Do YOU know what’s going on there?” And one of the other team members might guess, “I dunno—maybe we’re being acquired.” And then another person says to someone else at the coffee machine, “I heard we’re being acquired.” And an anxiety-inducing game of “telephone” bounces around the office.
So, when you CAN tell people what’s happening, please DO. And when you can’t tell people (due to ongoing sensitive negotiations, HR or HIPPA issues, legal exposure, etc.) give them any information you can that can keep their anxiety from being increased, such as, “If they decide on anything that will directly affect this team. I’ll tell you.”