Is "the bug" spreading like wildfire in your office?
You know what I mean, that pesky, persistent and perturbing critter that refuses to obey your protests... and continues to dodge your swats?
Look close and you'll find this brightly coloured nuisance scurrying perilously close to your desk... or sneaking up behind you when you aren't looking, prompting the guffaws and whispered snickers of your office mates.
Counter-intuitively, chasing this trickster just causes it to return to its nest and multiply in droves, and once that happens... you've just unwittingly launched an army of "super bugs" even more determined to plague your ability to get any work done.
So what is this "bug" I'm talking about? And how can you stop it from ruining your work day?
The "bug" is a nasty, unsubstantiated and reputation shredding false accusation. The type of fabrication that silently gnaws tiny holes in your reputation before you're even aware of the damage it's been causing.
It doesn't matter whether you're from Wall Street or working the phones in a cubicle, whether you're a journeyman welder or a coding genius... we are ALL vulnerable to becoming the target of a false rumour in the workplace.
Ask me how I know.
Here's the thing: once a false accusation is in the wild, it's extremely hard to quarantine and exterminate, because the virus itself is an idea. One that mutates as it spreads, inflicting even more damage to your public image.
This blame contagion tends to infect offices with weak leadership in place -- a toxic climate characterized by a one-way flow of information where healthy disagreement and constructive criticism are suppressed.
Unwilling to use socially acceptable ways of dealing with the normal workplace friction, rumour mongering bullies "go rogue" with a deliberately malicious story to solve their problems... in a social environment where damage to a reputation can be measured in milliseconds.
In essence, when a bully hurls unsubstantiated insults, two things are accomplished:
They sew doubts in the minds of your co-workers. This is especially true for a bully's uncritical "favourites" whose ego boundaries are too weak to fathom the thought their hero could be lying.
They control the narrative or "frame" of your work life which in turn provides a canvas for them to attach future accusations. New rumours gain an air of believability even though they are built on a foundation of deception.
To exterminate these nasty rumours, you must reclaim your frame and re-position yourself in the mind of your co-workers.
On that note, here are 3 ways to exterminate future rumour mongering at work before more false accusations take hold:
1.Interrogate the last person you heard the rumour from and trace it back to its original source. These five questions should help you do that:
Who told you this?
How does he/she benefit from you believing that?
What didn't he/she say?
What evidence was provided?
What evidence was excluded?
2. Confront the person who started the allegation in public and present documentation that contradicts the accusations:
On talking with my (workmate A, B and C) on (date) I have documented proof that you accused me of X. These accusations are false/misleading/mean spirited and interfere with work being done. Before I report my findings to your superior, is there anything you'd like to say?
3. Counter the falsehoods with your actions.
Trying hard to convince everyone in your office that you are not what the bully was trying to make you out to be may ultimately backfire. Instead show everyone through your every day actions the kind of person you are.
What do you think... have you ever been falsely accused or been a victim of a nasty rumour at work? How far did you go to repair your reputation?