The Enemy of Rumors

When I was a graduate student working towards my PhD in Psychology I developed a theory on the origin of rumors. Oh wait, I forgot, I was never a graduate student working towards a PhD in anything. I’m just a sales guy who has been around long enough to know some stuff. (Let’s see if my non PhD turns into a rumor) 🙂

But I did develop a theory on the origin of rumors. I figure people have this space inside them, like in their brain, where they hold information. They are most comfortable when that space is full. If it isn’t filled with actual information from factual sources then they fill it themselves, often with rumors. 

That would make factual information the enemy of rumors. 

Bosses, managers and even leaders all claim to hate rumors floating around in their organizations. Yet they fail to understand their own role in the creation of those rumors. When they fail to keep their people full of factual information their people latch on to rumors to fill up their information space. 

Many bosses, lots of managers and even some leaders believe that information is power. They think that when they share information they somehow lose some of their power and control over their people. So they withhold information. Even information that could help their people be more productive and successful. 

What Authentic Leaders understand is that information only becomes powerful with it is shared with people who can somehow benefit from it. Some people may use the information to avoid a problem. Other people may use it to solve a problem that already exists. Still other may use it to finish a creative project that was started by someone else who lacked the information required to finish it. Many people just pass the information along to other people to help them grow and develop. 

Still more people file the information away in their “space” until the day they find a use for it. 

Very little information is actually useless. It will likely all be used at the appropriate time and place. That’s why the most successful people gather bits of information every single day. Most people call the gathering of those bits of information learning. 

So if you’re a boss, manager or leader ask yourself how much information do you withhold from your people for the simple reason that you can. Ask yourself if your unproductive habit of not sharing information stems from your belief that holding onto information somehow makes you more important or powerful. Ask yourself if your unwillingness to share information might be a result of you lacking faith in your own leadership abilities. 

Then ask yourself what information you’re holding right now that could help the people you lead. Maybe it’s information that would help build the culture of your organization. Maybe it’s information that could help the sales team sell more. Maybe it’s information that could help your people help more customers. And maybe it’s just a fun tidbit of information about the company that people would appreciate knowing. 

Once you’ve answered those questions then you can launch your assault on rumors within your team or organization. Information is a formidable enemy of rumors. Arm your people with the information they want and need and their space will be too full to allow rumors to enter.

Communication Always Matters

I’ve never met anyone in a leadership position who likes rumors. Rumors create lots of productivity and morale killing conversations. Not public conversations mind you, but the whispered hallway conversations that stop suddenly with the appearance of a supervisor. 

The people in leadership positions who dislike rumors the most are often the same ones who create the rumors to begin with. They create rumors by failing to communicate with their people. 

The people who work in your organization have a vested interest in what’s happening within the organization. Lots of people in leadership positions tell me they share information on a “needs to know basis.” Those leaders fail to understand that their people NEED to know. 

I understand that not all information can be shared within an organization. I also understand that far more information could be shared than is being shared in most organizations. 

Too many people in leadership positions don’t understand their people’s need to know. They want to know how the company they work for is doing. They want as clear a look into their potential future as possible. They crave information. That craving causes people to invent information when none is provided. That “invented” information is delivered to others in the form of a rumor. 

Authentic Leaders know that real information is the enemy of rumor. That’s why they provide as much information to their people as is legally and ethical possible. 

The most current example of people needing to know is still the whole pandemic situation. The omicron variant is the current Covid 19 variant making the news. I’m not very knowledgeable in the Greek language but I believe “omicron” is Greek for “who the hell knows.” 

But just because you may not have all the answers about what your organization is doing with regards to pandemic issues is no excuse to not provide your people with the answers you do have. 

While leaders are storing up information to present all at once they are creating the rumors they so dislike. One very large retail operation recently asked their employees to submit their proof of vaccination by the end of the year. No other information was provided, only a request to provide the proof by a certain deadline. No reasons where given for a request that seemed to come out of the blue. No consequences were provided in the event you failed to comply.

You can imagine the rumors that started. This company has hundreds of thousands of employees, that’s a whole lot of rumors going around. It is by all measures a really good company. One that has taken good care of their people during the entire pandemic. But it’s an example of how even otherwise very effective leaders can forget the importance of effective communication. 

I hold people who have the audacity to call themselves leaders to very high standards. One of those standards is continuous communication with the people they lead. It has never been easier to communicate with your people, even if they are spread out around the world. You can write a internal company blog. Create a weekly informational video. A simple Monday morning email update with a “what’s up” theme. 

Many leaders tell me that they don’t have time to do those things. Some of those leaders don’t have time because they are too busy putting out the fires started by the rumors they helped create. 

People in leadership positions make excuses for why they can’t communicate with their people. Authentic Leaders don’t make excuses, they make communication plans and they stick to them. 

Why Good Communication Matters

I’m really hard pressed to think of a situation where a leader could over communicate. I suppose it’s those situations similar to when a follower might ask what time it is and the answer includes the history of watch making. I don’t think there are actually many leaders who do that.

 

In my experience it’s far more likely that a leader will under-communicate than over-communicate.

 

It really isn’t necessary to provide more information to a member of your organization than they need to be successful. It is however vital that they have every last drop of information available when it’s relevant to whatever it is they have been tasked with doing. 

 

There are many reasons a leader might under-communicate but a big one is that too many leaders believe that information is power. That’s not actually how it works. The fact is, applied information is power and that information cannot be applied until it is shared. 

 

Leaders who withhold information from their people, for whatever reason, are not helping anyone, least of all themselves. A leader’s success is dependent upon the success of their people and without information their people are less likely to be successful.

 

Information is the enemy of rumor. People have this spot inside them that must be filled with information, if their leaders don’t fill it they will fill it themselves. Rumors are great filler! The trouble with rumors is that they are far too often wrong, filled with productivity killing miss-information. 

 

That’s why well thought out, meaningful and consistent communication matters so much.

 

If you’re a leader who doesn’t like rumors then stop them with information, correct, useful, and needed information.

 

Sometimes people at the top of an organization forget how invested their people are in the business. Your people want to know how the organization is doing, they want to know where they “fit.” They NEED to know they matter and that what they do is importance to the overall health of the organization. 

 

If you’re a leader then you have information that has the potential to super-charge your people. Don’t keep it a secret, don’t think being the only person who knows it makes you more important. Share the information and trust your people to use it to the benefit of the team. 


If you’re truly a leader that’s exactly what they will do.