How to Deal With Rumors of Change aka: The Grapevine

Changes Ahead , Road Warning Sign , 3d renderHow to Deal With Rumors of Change aka: The Grapevine
By Bob Moore, CMC

How busy is your organization’s grapevine? It is likely to be most active during time of change. A grapevine message can move so quickly that rumors often reach people before the formal announcement does.

The usual implication is that the information was passed person to person by word of mouth, perhaps in a confidential manner among friends or colleagues. It can also imply an overheard conversation or anonymous sources of information. For instance “I heard through the grapevine that our division is about to be reorganized and people may lose their jobs.”

The primary causes of rumors are lack of information and insecurity, and the anxiety that goes with it. Conflict can be another major cause of rumors particularly during times of organizational unrest or tension between groups.

Dealing With Rumors
Given that rumors are a fact of organizational life, it is important for team leaders to learn to overlook those that are harmless, and give prompt attention to the serious ones. Then, determine how factual or relevant it is and act accordingly. For example, immediately share any relevant information you can or agree to look into the others. Always request that workers refrain from spreading what may be an unfounded rumor until you can get the facts.

Always follow through promptly since your reputation as an effective team leader is at stake. Avoid referring to the rumor directly when you decide to refute it. This will tend to reinforce the rumor in the minds of your team members.

Frequently rumors are a symptom of inadequate communication. This may be a signal that you need to increase the amount of information you routinely share with your team. Highly effect team leaders have regularly scheduled meeting with the team and on an individual basis.

Trust is the foundation upon which all high performing organizations are built. Always keep the mission, vision or the team’s primary objective clear and prioritized. Allow adequate time to process any changes that are likely to occur well in advance of their implementation. No one wants to be caught by surprise. Finally, be sure everyone knows their role in executing the tasks required, particularly when it involves a change in the process they have been following.

The Talent Management Institute offers a number of resources to develop team leaders’ capacity to support change, and to be more effective communicators. Click on the following link to learn more.

Bob Moore is CEO of Effectiveness, Inc and Managing Principal of the Talent Management Institute.

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