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Managing to Make a Difference by Larry Sternberg

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Chapter 60Don't Chase Hearsay, Rumors, or Gossip

Rumors, hearsay, and gossip damage your culture. Do not condone this kind of communication and do not participate in it.

Have you ever played the telephone game? You get a group of 10 people to form a line. You whisper a message to the first person in line. For example, you could whisper, “Shirley said that Dan has been misrepresenting the data on the study we did for Important Client, Inc.” Any message will do. You say it once and only once. The first person then whispers the message to the next person in line and so on to the final person in line. The final person then announces out loud the message they received. In almost every case, the degree of distortion is remarkable.

The game makes a point about third-party information. Rumors, hearsay, and gossip are all examples of third-party information. When someone is giving you third-party information, for example, “Tom said that Kurt…,” beware. You did not hear what Tom said. You have no idea whether Tom said anything at all. Regarding Kurt, you have no actionable information. In fact, you can probably think of many times when two people who were in the same meeting gave very different reports about who said what in the meeting. In our example, this third-party information almost certainly tells you more about the person delivering it than it does about either Tom or Kurt.

Many managers are tempted to speak to Tom and/or Kurt to verify the “information” they have received. Resist ...

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