How to Avoid the Pitfalls of the Workplace Rumor Mill

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Dear Bob ...

Tom worked with us for about a year and then he was fired for unknown reasons. We hired Dick about a month ago to replace him. Tom applies for Dick's old job and hears Dick wants to get his old job back because he hates the new job (with us, and for reasons that mean I don't blame him a bit).

[ Also on InfoWorld: On other occasions, you should shout the news from the rooftops, as Bob suggests in "New hire? In-house promotion? Tell everyone about it" | Get sage advice on IT careers and management from Bob Lewis in InfoWorld's Advice Line newsletter. ]

Tom and I still talk, so he told me about Dick's distaste for his new job. Dick and I both report to the same manager, the one who fired Tom.

Knowing that Tom may be just trying to make Dick look bad, should I say anything to my boss about Dick?

After thinking about this all weekend, I am leaning toward not saying anything for a couple of reasons:

  1. All I have to go on is hearsay, questionable at best, but even less reliable in this situation.

  2. What good will come out of it if I do talk to my boss? They may call Dick in and talk to him, they may even fire Dick (and I know he is the sole breadwinner for his family of five). Do I want that on my conscience? If Dick quits, we (the company) will be no worse off than we were.

  3. Do I really want to be known as a tattle tale?

- Leaning

Dear Leaning ...

I won't tell you the conclusion you've reached is the "right" one because I don't know from right.

I will tell you it's the same conclusion I reached. You have no dog in this hunt. And on top of the factors you've already listed is this: Tell your manager and you label yourself as the sort of person who pays attention to rumors and passes them around.

If you seriously think Dick is a strong asset and prefer he stay on the team, you could choose to tell him you heard the rumor, letting him know you'd personally find it disappointing if he decided to leave.

But if things are as you say, the right reason to ask him if the rumor is true is to ask him to take you along when he goes.

- Bob

This story, "How to respond to rumors in the workplace," was originally published at Read more of Bob Lewis's Advice Line blog on

This story, "How to Avoid the Pitfalls of the Workplace Rumor Mill" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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