It seems like this story about Rupert Murdoch’s media group in London gathering information through seemingly unethical means, is growing day by day. I am sure this is a hot topic over at the water cooler, who did what, when & why. The water cooler is where we share stories, ideas and yes, rumors.
As you gathered around the water cooler you may have already shared one, you may have been the subject of a rumor. This week’s podcast is with Professor Nicholas Defonzo author of The Watercooler Effect. He is the leading world expert on why rumors spread.
All of us work in situations where there is uncertainty – the more uncertain the information the more likely you will be participating in rumors. In a recent study of 40,818 European workers in France and the U.K. by international HR consulting firm ISR, 67 percent of employees hear important information first through a rumor.
Rumors are a core part of our lives, they affect companies, finances, decisions, careers and even world markets. In some ways, I have considered rumors as being negative. However, Nick explains in his book, that rumors are simply collective intelligence in the face of uncertainty. In times like today with the role of Twitter, media and large amount of sudden change, more than ever we need to understand how to manage, leverage and protect ourselves from the power of rumors. As a psychologist, the reason Nick decided to focus his professional career “it helps to understand how we perceive and think of themselves, and others and the world. It helps to perceive anxiety and risk, how we as society process complex. It helps us to understand how we communicate, we relate to each other and how we trust.”
Learning how to manage rumors in a workplace is not only an important skill, it reduces stress, increases employee morale and affects shareholder value. According to ISR over a two-year time evaluating 57 companies. Those that were poor in rumor management lost on average 7.10 in share prices compared to an increase of share value by $8.10 to those that manage rumors effectively. It’s just good business. Lastly, Nick shared, “Understanding rumors means becoming kinder, nobler, more discerning, more helpful, more humble, sharper in our thinking and more charitable in our feeling. It means having a greater appreciation for the truth. If rumor is something we do, we should do it well”
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