In most social situations, people communicate with one another through a variety of methods, with rumors playing a significant role. The derivative nature of this phenomenon, which is exhibited because the information conveyed is third hand, is an exciting aspect of it. In most cases, the source of information in the transmission process is unknown, resulting in details in the message being misinterpreted. Rumor is defined in familiar circles as talk and verbal interaction that has no evidence to back it up or that has not been verified by an authority, leaving gaps in its authenticity and veracity (Michelson, 339). The premise behind rumors is their hypothetical nature in that the mode of transmission of information creates a situation where the person receiving the message is conflicted as to whether to believe the information or not. Important to note is the fact that rumor has some underpinning of truth to it though unsubstantiated and to a greater extent, circumstantial.
Furthermore, the participants in a stream of rumor incorporate a crucial element in the transmission process of rumormongering details, suspension of belief. The importance here is to generate interest and curiosity which further fuels the movement of the rumor to other social circles. In this context, the idea already created in the minds of participants of this rumor relatively unchangeable in a situation where evidence presented contrasts the predetermined narrative. Moreover, it is laced with spontaneity and derives much of its momentum from exciting content like details about personal lives of individuals.
An essential facet of the rumor debate are the aspects it exhibits on a contextual basis. Rumors usually arise in situations where the contexts are not explicit or harbor some form of threat or potential threat. The ambiguity of the situation occurs where the importance or explanation of a state of affairs is not available or inadequate. An example is a situation where persons in a workplace could be anxious to know the reason the office premises are under renovation yet they received no communication informing of this activity.
Rumors also hold a functional position in undefined ambiguous situations. This role of making collective sense is to cater for the inadequacy of a person trying to understand the situation within their mind frameworks. The consequence is a process of proposal and discussion of hypotheses that eventually become part of the rumor mill. An example is the citizens in countries that belonged to the former Soviet bloc distrusted media outlets but instead relied on rumor streams to get their information. Another group that exhibits such behavior are conspiracy theorists who have a broad sense of distrust for mainstream media and would instead rely on discussing rumors. Thus, in this situation of collective sense-making, the critical aspects of verifying information and messages is relaxed since the group has an element of being more credible.
The theories created by DiFonzo and Bordia illuminate the aspect of misinformation that rumors hold, which is just information that is not authentic and genuine in respect but still believed by persons. The controversy, in this case, is whether rumors are ethical or unethical taking into account their different functions in some contexts. In many instances, people are prone to spread rumors and gossip because it is a human characteristic which stimulates conversation. On the other hand, opponents note that the adverse effects have an unpleasant influence on people’s lives.
In an organizational context, proponents of rumors argue that it can have positive effects on the productivity of workers. The premise of this discussion has a basis on the fact that recent studies point to a reconsideration by business managers on its benefits. Besides, the supporters of this phenomenon feel it promotes good relationships and cooperation between people at work further augmenting the bond and sharing of ideas. Overall, rumormongering is thought to be more of a stress reliever and a means of spreading information more rapidly thus bypassing bureaucratic channels. On the other hand, opponents of rumors hold the view that it has a negative connotation and a taint to a person participating in it. These persons argue that spreading rumors can have detrimental effects on a person’s morale in the company if they are the topic of discussion. As such, dehumanizing and embarrassing a person using rumors can create conflict and make a working environment inhospitable. Also, rumormongering can also affect the mental health of workers in an organization and is considered a waste of valuable work time. As such, creation and spreading of rumors should be regarded as ethical to certain definable extents as the benefits in the workplace have proven useful in creating a proper working and cooperative atmosphere for employees.
In the face of the positive effects of rumors on an organization and healthy human relationships, should be noted that opponents consider it a vice and damaging in a couple of ways. One is the instance of workers in an organization passing on false information. The consequence is a skewed understanding of the facts of the topic in the process of discussion which causes misunderstandings. In the same vein, rumormongering can also be fueled by malicious intent with persons in need of restoring their reputation by tainting another person’s image. The consequence here is a rampant incivility within the organization’s workforce and hostility between workers.
Furthermore, the harmful effects of rumors on productivity indirectly and directly. A direct consequence well illustrated in the healthcare sector is the decrease in work output of employees concerning the time required for patient care, stress problems at work, absenteeism at work and job satisfaction. The indirect effects include increased cases of employee turnover, cases of staff burnout and legal proceedings of defamation brought against the organization which further compounds on the problem. Rumors also lead to escalating conflicts that increase employee turnover and reduced patient care (Novac, 3).
In an organization, workers cooperate and share information with each other either in freedom or confidence. In case word about the last breaks out, the peddler of the rumor does two things to the victim party; the rumormonger loses a person’s trust, and at the same time this person suffers a bad reputation because of being bad mouthed. Galford and Drapeau came up with three kinds of organizational trust, personal, strategic and corporate trust. If they are violated, conflict and low productivity occurs since it creates an atmosphere where people are driven back into self-preservation and draw away from central operations (Robertson, 540).
On the other hand, studies done on rumors illuminate its benefits in a variety of situations. One curious aspect is the structure of communication in an organization. In essence, people need to communicate to express reasons for their actions or to explain themselves. Thus, in a company work setting, workers are compelled to communicate with each other which ultimately results in improvement of the team spirit and bond between employees. As such, continued communication leads to gossip and rumormongering between members of a group who share a common affinity towards problems such as allowances, office scandals, and management change. Eventually, it creates uncertainty amongst people who will go into finding more information about the truth of the matter (Manaf et al., 54).
There is a paradox benefit when it comes to positive and negative rumors. University of Groningen, Netherlands, researched the effects of positive and negative rumormongering. From the study done, the findings illustrated that when people hear gossip about them that are positive, they tend to hone their skills to maintain the status quo. On the other hand, a dangerous kind or rumor about another person will stimulate the employees in an organization to perform at their jobs more competently to avoid being the subject of any subsequent gossip doing rounds. Additionally, rumormongering proponents argue that it can act as a form of anxiety and stress reliever. Allport and Postman suggest that through techniques such as leveling and sharpening of content in the gossip, it is possible to simplify the problem, and henceforth the solution becomes simpler also. Rumors are essential especially in a workplace setting and ought to be encouraged, as it is an indication of the rapport and closeness employees have with one another.
Moreover, the arguments laid out by both the proponents and opponents of rumormongering are well-supported with facts and studies were done to underscore their respective positions. Rumors are beneficial in the workgroup setting and are aided by grapevine communication in passing on information rapidly. On the other hand, spreading of rumors is also harmful and disrupts with the smooth human resource relationships by creating conflict and misunderstandings from people believing the unverified information. A solution to this debate would be employing a balanced kind of approach where the benefits derived from the process of spreading negative and positive rumors is employed, while also cognizant of the dangers of the same rumors.
Even though opponents of this phenomenon consider it a negative human characteristic, and a vice since it promotes spreading of falsehood and information not based on facts, rumors also have an element of truth in them. As such, they should not be discarded away as pure lies but could serve as a tool to generate curiosity and dig for the real truth. Also, proponents observe that rumors have a role to play in creating a conducive interactive environment for employees and reduces loneliness and stress. However, this element can easily ignore the fact that it can be easily abused resulting in employees spending a lot of time in gossiping and less time doing actual productive work.
Lastly, managers in organizations should be willing to embrace the dual characteristic of rumors. Acknowledging the fact that they could be damaging as well as beneficial within restricted parameters and distinctive contexts. The point is that rumormongering is not unethical as it achieves some goals, the only difference in the matters is the abuse by human beings to gain social capital and selfish interests. As such, it should be encouraged not only in daily social settings but incorporated seamlessly into an organization’s structure.
Michelson, Grant, and Suchitra Mouly. “Rumour and gossip in organisations: a conceptual study.” Management Decision 38.5, 2000, pp. 339-346.
Novac, Andrei, Stephanie McEwan, and Robert G. Bota. “Negative rumor: contagion of a psychiatric department.” The primary care companion for CNS disorders 16.2, 2014.
Robertson, R. G. “Rumours: constructive or corrosive.” Journal of medical ethics 31.9, 2005, pp. 540-541.
Manaf, Mohd Mursyiddin Abdul, Erlane K. Ghani, and Ismie Roha Mohamed Jais. “Factors influencing the Conception of Rumours in Workplace.” Journal of Arts and Humanities 2.6, 2013, p. 50.