Friday, November 12, 2010

Grapevine of Rumors

Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. (Proverbs 26:20 NIV)

Gossip and RumorsIf we hear someone say, "I heard on the grapevine ..." about something, it means we are likely to be listening to a gossip or rumor. In organizational context, the term 'grapevine' refers to the informal transmission of information, gossip or rumor from person to person. Such information exchange on the grapevine often comes from unofficial or unrevealed sources.

According to survey estimates by several business journals, 75 percent of employees typically receive news from the grapevine before they hear about it through formal networks. Such news, nevertheless, are frequently distorted from the original information after passing through several people, and usually include deletion of fine details and exaggeration of key points from the full story. With the advancement of information technology, the grapevine today is able to create more havoc than ever before in spreading rumors faster and farther around the world—beyond traditional water cooler gossiping—via emailing, instant messaging and social networks.

Studies in organizational behavior believe that grapevine rumors and gossips are most active during times of uncertainty and when employees are anxious. Social interaction through the grapevine is therefore seen by some as acceptable response to relieve anxiety and fulfill the need for affiliation.

In a sense, it may be true that such response can serve as valuable signal for corporate leaders to take appropriate actions to resolve problems or communicate more fully through formal networks. However, such interaction can also escalate rather than alleviate anxieties. This is because distorted information from unqualified or uninformed sources can demoralize employees to think the worst of the management as lacking sincerity and concern by its slower response than the grapevine. Moreover, misleading information can also be intentionally planted by the management or colleagues, which if assumed as the whole truth, can distort the original information or create negative reaction to provoke expected action.

Just as organizational grapevine can create much damage, the Bible also teaches about the dangers of gossiping and spreading unqualified information. In the Book of Proverbs, the author wrote, “a gossip betrays confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” (Proverbs 11:13 NIV). This means unless we hold our tongues from carrying tales and put a stop to revealing secrets or leaking news from unqualified sources, we cannot be considered trustworthy or be entrusted to conceal any confidential matter. The only way to put an end to such contentment and squabbling is therefore to stamp out gossip, for without wood a fire goes out, and without gossip a quarrel dies down (Proverbs 26:20 NIV).

We ought therefore not try to justify ourselves to think it is fine for us to gossip and spread rumors as a natural response to relieve anxiety or feelings of uncertainty. Instead, we should put a stop to rumors if we hear any, and be the one to exterminate further spreading. If we wish to discuss with others about how we feel, we will do fine by first getting our information right—only from qualified sources. In this way, we will then not demoralize others by untruth or discuss matters that come from unreliable sources or are distorted from the original information.

Forgive us dear Lord for the times we spread news of what we may believe is true, but is not. We pray Lord that You will keep our hearts strong that we may not listen to rumors, but always verify the information from its original source. Help us Lord to control our tongues and our inner urge to want to gossip and spread untruth. Calm our hearts Lord in times of uncertainty and anxiety, and restore to us the confidence and trust we have in You. Strengthen us Lord that we may strengthen others instead of demoralize them. Thank You Lord for granting us the many avenues to communicate Your truth to the world beyond the grapevine and social networks. Lead us in our words Lord that through our speech and other modes of communication, we may glorify Your name in all we do and speak.

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