The “rumor-mill” or the informal communication system can be detrimental in a workplace culture and to any safety program. We recognize the power of the “Communication Loss” syndrome.
Things to Remember
Regular ongoing communication
|Unverified information is unacceptable|
|Manage by “walking around” and talking to employees.|
|Opinion Leaders…seek them out. Tap into the grapevine.|
|React; do not ignore rumors|
|Straightforward, honest communication|
Most of us, at some point in our education, have participated in communication exercises. In one such exercise, a statement or story is passed from one person to another until the entire group has received the message. In most cases, by the time the story or statement reaches the last person, it is totally different than when it was first repeated. This is how most rumors work.
Rumors and gossip are much alike. Rumors have more of an organizational basis and gossip is normally directed toward a person. But they both are something we should all avoid. Engaging in the generation of rumors and gossip is detrimental to all. They breed an environment of distrust and an unsettled workforce. Trust in the workplace is already fragile. Rumors only add to instability. When this happens, safety is at risk.
Especially in these times of economic uncertainty, the workplace is ripe for generating rumors. People are worried; they want to know what is happening. Anything new in the workplace is suspect and prey to non-acceptance. If workers do not know what is happening or do not know the details of a new process or policy, they attempt to guess or take what little they know, pass it along, and it becomes distorted. A rumor is unverified information accepted as fact. We often give rumors credence because it’s close to what we already believe.
Safety communication: Leave no one out of the loop
Even before the economy turned and things were relatively going well in industry, we recognized that before any new safety program/process was added, it needed to be thoroughly communicated to the entire work population of a facility. As a key part of the implementation of our behavioral/cultural process, we insist that we address all employees (even if we have to do it in work shifts). We give them all the facts of what is being done, what will be done, what they can expect and ensure them that everyone will have input and be involved.
What to do
Still, the best-laid plans must contend with “human nature,” and rumors and gossip are part and parcel of being human. But there are things you can do to minimize rumor-mongering and gossiping:
While “need to know” may seem like a priority, understand that employees do need to know!