Where do rumours start? Typically they start anywhere there is an absence of information. There is never an empty space in the heads of your employees in relation to a topic or issue at work.
If they don’t have information, data, records or other communication from their manager, they simply fill the void with their own perception or information gathered from other, possibly more unreliable, sources.
This satisfies the need to fill the space in their heads and this fill-in content remains until more compelling evidence takes its place.
The unfounded content also informs the rumour mill.
If asked by someone else about the particular topic, people share the only content they have available – the made-up, false or second-hand information that is currently filling that spot in their heads.
In fact, given the known content is potentially flawed, people may engage in rumour-mongering to either confirm their position or replace the content with something else that is more compelling and usually more extreme.
The only way to address this problem is for the manager to provide accurate information to address the person’s concerns and replace the false content.
An interesting tactic might be to provide a fraction more information than you are allowed to. This approach has two powerful outcomes.
Firstly it tells the person you trust them and their ability to keep the information confidential.
Secondly, it almost completely reduces the urge to engage with the rumour mill because the person knows the truth and knows more than the average person. They have enough accurate information that they don’t need to speak to others or speculate on aspects of the issue.
Ensuring rumours don’t originate from your team can be reassuring and allows you to control the message.
Although this regular communication process can be time-consuming, it will ultimately save time later as you won’t have to clear up incorrect or mixed messages your staff have collected from other sources.
One more small step in the next 24 hours
Jump ahead of the rumour mill by speaking with your staff regularly. Try to keep them up-to-date with as much information as you are able to share.
Encourage them to come to you when they need more information or if they have been given conflicting information by others.
Look for small bits of additional information that you can share that isn’t in the official communication but allows you to demonstrate your trust in your team members.