The rumors are probably true

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Those rumors floating around the office lately about your job being on the line? Worrisome, sure, but easy enough to dismiss -- after all, they're only rumors. But according to a new book, Rumor Psychology: Social and Organizational Approaches, you might want to start cleaning out your desk and scouring the want ads. Rumors -- especially workplace rumors -- tend to be more reliable than we think.

"In a workplace setting — what we call a stable organizational grapevine — people are very good at figuring out the truth," says author and professor Nicholas DiFonzio. "If you tell me something and I work closely with you, I know whether you're a credible source. But even if I'm not so sure, in workplace settings the network connections are so dense that it's easy to cross-check information."

After awhile, the rumor becomes a sort of self-correcting information machine -- not unlike the socially-authored encyclopedia Wikipedia, which a study in the respected journal Nature recently concluded was, at least in terms of its science articles, nearly as accurate as the Britannica.

Of course, there's a difference between workplace rumors and workplace gossip, the difference being people often secretly want juicy bits of gossip to be true, and so truth falls beside the wayside.

December 21, 2006 - 8:46am
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