How rumors poison the climate

Photo by Nathan DumlaoI admit that I also like to exchange news with my colleagues. “Have you already heard…”

It can also be quite soothing – especially if are upset about something and can then lock the door of your colleague’s office to talk about the stupid situation. It often makes you feel better. After all, you actively contribute to informal company communication and exchange ideas with your colleagues.

This behavior is as old as mankind itself. Already the ancient Greeks knew the gossip and even the wise Socrates suffered from it:

Socrates once walked through the streets of Athens when a man excitedly ran towards him. “Socrates, I must tell you something about your friend…”

“Wait a minute!” interrupted him the sage. “Before you go on telling: Did you apply the three sieves?”. Confused, the man denied. “The three sieves? Which three sieves?”

“Well then, let’s check your story accordingly,” Socrates suggested. “The first sieve is the sieve of truth. Are you sure that the story about my friend is true?” – “Well, I heard this story from someone. I’m not sure if it’s true, though.”

“Well, maybe she will pass the second sieve – the sieve of good. Is the story about my friend a good one?” – “Well, to be honest, I don’t think it is,” the man admitted, insecurely.

“Hmm, only the third sieve remains – the sieve of the necessary. Is this story important to me?” The man looked at the floor, stepped on it and gave a meek “Actually not”.

Socrates only smiled wisely. “Well, let me summarize: You come to me with a story about my friend that is neither relevant to me nor benevolent to him. And beyond that, you don’t even know if it’s true. Then why should I waste my time with it?”

Rumors are always poison for a climate. Most often they are also connected with negative feelings like envy or malicious joy. Not exactly ingredients for a positive and appreciative environment. Rather, they promote a negative atmosphere, which we can then use to complain again with our colleagues. This is how we create our hell.

The worst thing about rumors is that they create a culture of chatting behind-the-back. The exact opposite of an open culture of conversation based on mutual respect. How could the poor friend of Socrates have explained himself if he was not even confronted with the gossip?

Especially as managers, we are often cut off from the gossip. After my promotion, I had noticed how the coffee conversations fell silent when I entered the kitchen. A good assistant will only be able to close this gap partially.

So, it’s better to talk to each other than about each other. The old wisdom of Socrates certainly helps in establishing a conversation culture. After all, in the coffee kitchen, you also have the right material to illustrate the 3 filters.

How about you?

Do you like to huddle with colleagues to exchange news?

Do you know someone who acts as your information center?

Have you ever been a victim of rumors?

Also interesting:

How to stop rumors

Psychology Today: Office gossip ruins relationships

How to handle rumors

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