Some call it the grapevine; others call it hearsay. No matter what you call it, it can be problematic and distracting yet often a source of valuable information, so I recommend you don't ignore it. If you aren’t talking proactively about issues that are important to your employees, chances are that someone else is.
Talk to Your Managers When Employees are Buzzing About a Crisis
All organizations have a rumor mill. It’s a natural part of the employee network. And as much as leaders would like to shut it down, you can’t. But you can manage it.
Here are 5 easy strategies for managing the company rumor mill:
- Maintain your credibility and use it to your advantage.
Credibility won’t stop rumors from developing, but it will unleash the truth. It’s about communicating what you know, when you know it, and make sure your messages are consistent across all touch points.
- Be open, and careful.
We know that remaining silent in tough times feeds anxiety and fuels the rumor mill. But being too open can hurt more than it helps, especially if it adds to people’s fears because you're sharing information that people can't digest or process.
- Pulse your people.
Ask your direct reports what they’re hearing from their people on a periodic basis. Walk the halls or the shop floor and ask employees what’s on their minds. Having a better sense for what keeps employees up at night will help you get ahead of any rumors that might be waiting in the wings. The best part is that employees will know you’re listening and that you care about what they are thinking.
- Anticipate and address concerns.
When people are worried about what they don’t know, they often imagine the worst and share their concerns with others. If leaders don’t anticipate and address concerns, the vacuum will fill with rumors. Get out in front of anticipated worries by understanding the mindset that causes them and immediately address those concerns.
- Include your own messages in the rumor mill.
Engage thought leaders who typically feed and influence the rumor mill, along with supervisors throughout the organization. When employees hear the same messages from their supervisor (always their preferred source) or from the CEO, read it on the internet, and hear it through the rumor mill, they’re more likely to believe it and, most importantly, act on it.
How do you manage your company’s rumor mill?
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