Career Masterclass: Beat Chinese whispers

Want to beat the gossip? Follow these pointers to avoid being the subject of Chinese whispers.

by MT Staff
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
Polish your halo. A spotless reputation is the best defence against hearsay. Smash deadlines, exceed targets, honour promises and keep your nose clean. Rise above suspicion and watch the rumour mill bypass you.

Make a pre-emptive strike. Want a whisper-free workforce? Up your internal comms. Whether it's weekly meetings, email newsletters or flyers on desks, do whatever it takes to bring your team into the loop. They won't huddle and hypothesise if they already know everything there is to know.

Stop stirrers. Identify them and ask them to explain themselves. If they're genuinely worried ('I just wanted to warn people about the restructure I think is coming'), reassure them; if they relish causing unrest, tell them enough is enough.

Distract them. If your team has time to gossip, perhaps their goals aren't stretching enough. There's nothing like a little pressure to focus minds and still wagging tongues.

Turn the tide. Psychologist Anthony Pratkanis argues the best way to kill a rumour is to 'steal its thunder'. Spread a new (true) story, explaining why the rumour exists. If you can't beat them ...

Share critical news early. Don't wait until you have all the answers. That day may never come and in the meantime the whispers will be growing in number (and inaccuracy).

Ask the audience. Once you have delivered your message, encourage people to share their worries and ask questions. Be honest and if you don't know something, promise to find out.

Keep talking. Stop a secondary wave of post-news whispers by making yourself readily available to your team. Make sure they share lingering concerns with you, not the water-cooler coven.

Rise above it. Sometimes, engaging with rumours (even to deny them) only fuels the fire. If the gossip circulating is petty enough to ignore, do just that. It will soon run its course.

The Mind Gym: Relationships is published by Little, Brown at £12.99.

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