September 17, 2014

5 Rumors Employees Discuss That Could Kill Your Business


Unfortunately, rumors and gossip can spread in any workplace environment.

People have an appetite to discuss the lives of others. However, rumors can damage reputations, waste time, create division, promote anxiety, and negatively impact employee morale.

Rumors usually start when people try to fill in the blanks with their own interpretations of a given circumstance. This can quickly get out of hand, as new details are added to the facts, making it hard to tell apart the story from the truth.

Here are five rumors that employees discuss that could kill your business.

1. Rumors About Colleagues Being Fired

Employee turnover exists in all workplace environments; some more than others. Your employees may know (or they may think they know) something about the circumstances leading up to the firing of their colleague.

Or, based on past experiences and patterns, they may spread rumors about someone that they think is going to be on the chopping block in the near future.

These types of rumors can spread fear and anxiety. Your employees may begin to act more reserved, and they may become less outspoken than normal. If someone fears that they may be fired, their productivity is sure to plummet, along with their boldness and initiative.

Steps to take if you are dealing with this type of rumor:

  1. Reassure your team by acknowledging their worries. Tell them honestly what you do know and what you don’t know about a given situation.
  2. Show support. If there are questions you can’t answer right now, let your staff know that you will find out on their behalf.

2. Rumors About Interpersonal Relationships

If it seems like a couple of people are spending an inordinate amount of time together at work, it may appear to others that they are developing more than just a casual friendship. These rumors may continue to grow if the couple in question end up staying late to finish extra work, just as an example.

Our work life can bleed into our personal life, and our personal life can bleed into our work life. In an ideal situation, this would never happen, but unfortunately, no workplace is perfect.
If rumors about interpersonal relationships spread, it can damage the reputation of the individuals involved, and can also reflect badly on the company.

Steps to take if you are dealing with this type of rumor:

  1. Take some time to understand what the rumors are. Discern whether or not there is any truth to what is being said.
  2. Confront the employees in question individually, in private. Clarify workplace expectations.

3. Rumors About The Company

There are a variety of different types of company rumors that can crop up. For example, an employee may receive a message from headquarters that sounds threatening to the future of the business. Even if their assumptions are not based in reality, this can quickly turn into a counterproductive rumor.

Rumors of this nature can cause anxiety and impact employee morale. Your employees may lose focus or not perform up to their usual standards.

Steps to take if you are dealing with this type of rumor:

  1. Determine who is spreading rumors about your company. Regular gossipers are attention-seekers and will continue to spread rumors if they go unchecked.
  2. Confront the team members who are spreading the rumors individually, in private.
  3. Reinforce or create a company policy that restricts employees from spreading rumors about the business.

4. Rumors About Budget Cuts

Most organizations have many moving parts, and departmental budget cuts may be a necessary part of keeping a business sustainable.

Employees may spread rumors about impending budget cuts based on previous experience or hearsay. This could stir up anxiety within an entire department, or create division among other segments of the workforce.

Steps to take if you are dealing with this type of rumor:

  1. First, discern the culprit of the gossip. Who is spreading rumors about budget cuts? Speak with them privately and help them to understand why their behavior is not acceptable.
  2. Address the entire department if appropriate. Speak honestly about what you know as well as what you don’t know.

5. Rumors About Unannounced Promotions

You may be working on an upcoming promotion for your business, and your employees may know something about it. If they don’t clearly understand the purpose behind the promotion, or they are still foggy on the details, they may end up spreading rumors about it.

For example, they may tell a customer about the promotion without really understanding it. Or they may end up passing on wrong information, creating false expectations with your customer base.

Rumors of this type can affect the reputation of your company, so beware.

Steps to take if you are dealing with this type of rumor:

  1. Evaluate the situation. Find out what rumors have been spreading and any false information that has been passed along.
  2. Speak in private with the employees who misunderstood the promotion. Clarify the details and the expectations you have for them.
  3. Fulfill customer expectations to keep them happy.


Remember; the primary antidote of unwanted rumors is clear communication. Leaving out important details in conversations can cause people to “fill in the blanks” without really understanding the situation.

While there may be information that is strictly on a need-to-know basis, if you want to curtail the spreading of rumors, make sure to make your expectations clear and communicate openly and plainly with your employees.