A rumor is usually defined as “an untrue or unverified report of facts about current affairs, usually with no concrete foundation.” Rumors are often started by someone who has heard something that sounds too good to be true. This “rumor” then travels from person to person, and if the rumors are true, it is passed on. On the Internet, rumors can travel at the speed of instant messaging or e-mail.
In many ways, a rumor is a modern form of a folk tale – that classic story that has somehow been “copied” and passed down throughout time. Allport believes the origin of allport’s famous “rumor” about President Obama being a secret Muslim. Allport claimed that this rumor was started when Obama traveled to India and during his visit there, he met with India’s first President, Jawaharlal Nehru.
Allport did a great research on the origins of this “rumsour.” He interviewed many people who had been associated with the matter, and all of them told a similar story. According to these individuals, former President George H.W. Bush once stopped in a restaurant to eat a meal with prominent Americans. While dining with the prominent Americans, all of a sudden the conversation turned to the recent President’s religion and the fact that he was a Muslim. Immediately, several rumors began circulating in the restaurant that President Obama was a Muslim, which the restaurant’s management tried to stop by warning all of the diners that they were going to be subjected to uncomfortable questions regarding President Obama’s religion.
Schachter believed that the incidents described in the Allport study were the result of a form of covert psychological persuasion, whereby a rumour is planted about someone. This “rumour” is then circulated throughout a culture, thus making it into part of everyday life. Like all fictions, myths are designed to either mis-inform or mis-understand a particular group of people. The basis for Schachter’s theory of Rumor Management is the fact that a rumour is more effective when it is subtle, unclear, and not tied to an individual or event. The goal is to diffuse a rumour through several multiple stages to ensure that its impact is minimal, and, if possible, to completely eliminate it from the immediate social environment.
Rumors can be very harmful to a business or organization. Organizations depend on employees to provide vital information to the company, so that critical decisions can be made. In environments where rumors and gossip are rampant, organizations are unable to make good strategic decisions, and their ability to do so is severely hindered. Strategic communication experts believe that by planting a subtle rumour bomb, the organisation can effectively counteract the negative effects of the rumour.
Rumors can kill a brand or project; they can ruin relationships; and can destroy businesses and cause organisations to go under. Effective managers know the value of fostering trust and communicating it to the workforce, but how do you stop a rumour before it begins? Conducting psychological studies on the impact of rumour will give managers an insight into what behaviours create successful rumours and which ones create ineffective ones. This will allow them to understand what kind of behaviour creates a Rumour Bomb, and therefore what actions need to be taken to mitigate the negative impact. These studies could prove to be very important in helping managers create and maintain effective and healthy relationships.