The One Way To Squash Rumors

There’s probably a more famous saying covering this, but I like mine:

A vacuum of information will be filled with speculation. - Steven Saus

I say this because I screwed up recently.

The specifics-free synopsis: We got an e-mail saying that a co-worker (let’s call them Melissa) was no longer going to be the person responsible for a task, instead putting the responsibility back on the rest of us during the busier part of the day. I and several others assumed that this was at Melissa’s request, so I marched my butt into my supervisor’s office to complain about Melissa slacking off and to offer another solution so that Melissa could get her work done without pawning it off on the rest of us.

And that is when I discovered that the change was actually driven by my supervisor, and that Melissa had suggested exactly the same solution that I proposed.

Sure, I had reasons for making my assumption, and yes, I probably shouldn’t have assumed, but that’s not the point. The point is this:

Without additional information about why things happened, I (and others) speculated to fill in the void. And our speculation – as it will with humans – assumed the worst about other people.

Rumor is rarely more interesting than fact, but it is always more readily available. - Stephen L. Carter

Some organizations and people think it’s good business practice to conceal not only what they’re doing, but why they’re doing it.

Rumors and assumptions assuming the worst possible actions and motives are the inevitable result of that strategy.

Especially in our late-stage capitalist society, where organizations (even the “non-profit” ones) are frequently focused on “bottom lines” more than their stated mission, people need reassurance. Giving them additional information, in a way they understand, is the only way to squash rumors and promote actual teamwork.

(Brief aside: I am more than slightly annoyed that the only “gossip” images on Unsplash only feature women talking to each other. To find one with men at all, I had to search for “whisper”. Always fun to find some structural sexism.

Featured Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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