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Rumor Has It

The spread of misinformation can be more damaging to a company than any crisis. This is especially true in smaller organizations, where workplace rumors can cause enough concern and insecurity that morale and productivity suffer, and your best employees may decide they'd be better off working somewhere else.

Video Arts Inc., a Chicago-based business training company, has introduced "The Grapevine," a30-minute training video designed to teach companies how to deal with and prevent damaging gossip. Ann Boland, Video Arts' general manager, says smaller businesses, which are dependent on a few key employees, often suffer more when the rumor mill is in high gear. She offers these tips for getting your company through times of major change:

  • What employees are not told, they invent--so tell them what's going on before their imaginations take over.
  • Honesty acts on a rumor like water acts on a fire. Cut the grapevine back with the truth.
  • Keep your work force informed at every stage of change in order to avoid panic and to help employees feel like they are an important part of the process.
  • Avoid closed doors. They're a sure sign that secrets are being told.
  • Clear, direct, face-to-face team briefings, where questions can be asked and answered, are the best way to communicate news. It may be tempting to hide behind memos and e-mail, but these should be used only as a supplement to face-to-face meetings, not in lieu of them.
  • Encourage questions and invite ideas. When you gather the experience of the group, your staff may identify unforeseen problems and devise solutions.

You can rent "The Grapevine" for $250 a week or purchase it for $870. Contact Video Arts at (800) 553-0091, ext. 2213.

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This article was originally published in the September 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hire Power.

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