We hear a lot these days about so-called ‘fake news’ (thank you Mr Trump). This got Mark thinking about how rumours, myths and untruths can unsettle even the best businesses and what is the best way to handle these.
So, apparently Thomas Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb, Marie Antoinette never said “let them eat cake” and Christopher Columbus probably wasn’t the first to discover the Americas. It’s all stuff of myth, legend and rumour but somehow people believe many things to be true. Myths and rumours run amok in the workplace too and while sometimes a welcome distraction, can seriously impact business performance. Consider this fact: The average employee works perhaps 40 hours per week. That’s around 1,900 hours a year. Let’s say they earn £10 an hour and spend just one hour every week (a conservative estimate) talking with colleagues about rumours and myths in the workplace – that equates to a ‘loss’ in productivity to the business of around £500 per employee. That’s £5,000 per annum for an organisation of 100 people, £25m for a global organisation of 50,000 people. Shocking, right?
The solution to addressing the spread of rumours and fake news is quite a simple one, but not many businesses I’ve worked with over the years have cracked it well enough. Each time a story is retold it changes, which means we must respond with much more speed. The first job is to keep a constant ear to the ground and stay connected to what people are talking about in lunch breaks, in the kitchen areas and out by the smoking shed. Then comes the difficult bit – finding a workable way or process to feed this information back to the right people, usually the management or leadership teams. The final step is then to address the rumour head on and keep going with the communication (people may choose not to believe you first time round when you try to dispel the myth).
I’ve seen this system work brilliantly in only a handful of places. One example was an ‘open line’ to the CEO (a ‘rumour busting’ email account). Here you could post things such as: “Is it true that…?” and the CEO would respond personally. A great way to address rumours directly from the horse’s mouth, as it were.
So next time you hear a rumour at work, think about who to tell about what you’ve just heard rather than just passing it on.
[In researching this blog post, Mark also discovered that lightening can strike twice in the same place, bats aren’t blind, elephants have no particular fear of mice and that the Earth is not flat].