Paul Wherly

Email: How to deal with rumours in the workplace

A proper Monday morning… dealing with rumours email

Arriving at your desk bright and early you swiftly realise that something isn’t right. Some quick detective work reveals a rumour is circulating that the company is in trouble. Dehydration also appears to be a problem, judging by the group gossiping around the water cooler.

The usual misery-spreaders are in their element. You know that most people will be spending the day sharpening their on-line CVs. A quick check with the boss reveals that the gossip is untrue. So you’re told to compose a “calming message” as you are “really good at positive emails”.

What can’t you say?

Mark Twain once said that, early each morning, he read the newspaper obituaries. If he wasn’t mentioned he got up and enjoyed his breakfast.

Be careful not to suggest that the end could be nigh. Imagine reading these words: “At this time these rumours are without any truth”. People would stop after the first three words and start spreading their CVs around the marketplace. Any innocent phrase will be examined in forensic detail.

What people think you’ve said.

There is often a wide gap between the positive email you compose and the one that then appears to have been received. So your words need to be both clear and simple, and free from possible misinterpretation. Otherwise your people will start to read between the lines to find the message they thought you were going to send.

What people will say you’ve said.

It would be nice to believe that everyone would read your email in calm and splendid isolation. Even if you have an office and your door is closed, you’ll hear the buzz of whispers as they crawl insidiously around the walls. Only the simplest, clearest message will survive this activity.

A few final points.

Firstly, be careful with the header. Anyone who receives a message entitled “About these redundancy rumours” will assume their truth before even opening it. Avoid humour, it will seem out of place and if people are feeling anxious or fretful it simply won’t help. For obvious reasons be careful not to miss some individuals from your distribution list! If possible, add some proof, like major contracts just gained or new Customers coming on-board, to help put these rumours into their true context.

Absolutely the last words.

When people gather to discuss your email, be there reinforcing and repeating your message. Eventually, it will get through. These simple principles will also apply to most emails you create.

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