Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about spreading rumors:

I have an employee who is spreading rumors about me which is causing people to lose their trust in me. I am in a senior management position. I realize people vent about their bosses from time to time, but now people outside our organization are starting to hear the rumors. While I have on hearsay that he is responsible for starting the rumors, I don’t have hard evidence. What do I do to save my reputation both in and outside the company?

Signed, Reputation suffering


Dear Reputation suffering:

The nature of the rumors and the size of the organization would be factors in how you handle this. If the rumors are merely talk about you being unpleasant or lazy or whatever, that is not so harmful–even though they are very irritating. If they are about ethics or serious violations that relate to company business, that is something else.You say you only have hearsay, but obviously someone has heard something AND repeated it, or the rumor would not have spread.

So, do your own investigation starting with the person who told YOU about it. Who told them? Then, who told that person? It may be you will need to HR involved to really dig deeply about it.There is an old saying that you should never chase a lie. Just let it run itself to death. On the other hand, I realize that some rumors are so harmful you feel a need to track them down. In this case you need to decide how harmful is it, really…just frustrating or truly potentially career damaging. Next, is how far do you want to go to investigate who started it.

Next is to determine what you will do when you find out who DID start it. Will HR support disciplinary action or dismissal? Find that out.Have you talked to your manager about this? It may be that his or her advice would be helpful.Generally, if you focus on doing good work, all the rumors that float around don’t really have the power to harm you. Everyone knows that things get said. But if it’s swirling in a variety of places, you may want to consider that a lot of people are willing to say a lot of negative things about you! That may be a problem to deal with too. But, unless you can prove the employee you suspect actually said it, you would only create more problems by accusing him. Even if you can prove it, you will be wise to let someone else investigate it and deal with him.I can imagine how frustrated you feel, but I also know that rarely can one person single-handedly get a rumor to spread. So, dealing with one person won’t stop it either. What stops it when people get tired of talking, or when you actions clearly show the rumor to be false. Best wishes!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.