Rumors At Workplaces

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Rumors at workplaces

Rumors at workplaces

Rumors at workplaces


Have you heard the latest about the new manager? No, but do tell. Well, apparently, and you must keep this to yourself, I've heard that she intends to change our current work methods in an attempt to reduce staffing levels. What!!That's shocking. Just because her husband left her for another woman. Now where did you hear that?

Scenarios such as this are played out on an almost continuous basis in organisations. Individuals at work talk about and discuss a range of issues that do not always have as their origin formal channels of communication. Age, gender, occupational status or level in the hierarchy does not necessarily seem to play a major role in rumourmongering or gossiping. However, it is universally acknowledged that involvement in rumour and gossip processes tends to be socially constructed as “undesirable”, at least in the public sphere. This portrayal stands at odds with reality since reliance on informal communication sources is a pervasive feature of organisations and work.

Rumour and gossip: a definition

In social settings information may be transmitted by any number of means. The role of informal communication and, in particular, that played by rumour and gossip is an important part of this. One of the interesting features of both rumour and gossip is that they are derivative in the sense that information is received third hand (Suls, 1977). How often have we heard the expression “don't ask me who said it but have you heard this?” At times one wonders at the importance or relevance of the source of the information (who said it initially or who is spreading it seems irrelevant). In many cases the source or origin of the message is not easily located or identified. Because of this, and as one might expect, rumour and gossip are subject to some variation during their passage. However, previous research suggests that the core message or main theme essentially remains intact as information is being transmitted (Akanda and Odewale, 1994; London and London, 1975; Mishra, 1990).

The commonly accepted understanding of rumour is that it is talk that is unsubstantiated by authority or evidence as to its authenticity or truth. This suggests that rumours are hypotheses (unconfirmed propositions) whereby message transmission takes place in such a way that the recipient does not quite know whether or not to believe the message (Rosnow, 1988). It is often regarded as synonymous with hearsay. Popularly regarded as idle talk or trivial chatter, gossip ordinarily carries with it the presumption of having some basis in factuality. It is perhaps not surprising then that some view the terms “rumour” and “gossip” as conceptually distinct (e.g. Noon and Delbridge, 1993).

However, we question this crude dichotomy often presumed between rumour and gossip. While the basis of rumour is information that is unsubstantiated, gossip may or may not be a known fact (see Rosnow and Fine, 1976, p. 11). This distinction is more a matter of degree than substance and the issue becomes problematic in the context ...
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