Rumor and Its Impact on Business and Organizations

Rumor is a form of informal information that is disseminated without verification. It is similar to a joke or an urban legend, but it has the potential to lead to real-life consequences. A rumor is often used to create panic, frighten people or instill distrust. It is usually short and creatively presented to persuade others to pass it on. A rumor can also have a negative impact on the public face of a corporation (e.g., the rumor that Coca-Cola sponsors the Church of Satan led to a boycott), on interpersonal relationships and on employee morale and trust in management. It can also foster hatred and prejudice (e.g., the rumor about the police shooting a Native Australian in Sydney caused rioting by the local community), and can discourage employees from participating in disaster relief efforts (e.g., the rumors that the water in New Orleans was toxic stopped many workers from volunteering).

According to Knapp, a rumor is something that is “spread through word of mouth” and has three key characteristics: 1) it is about a person or event; 2) it is current and has been passed from one individual to another; and 3) it fulfills a social function and gratifies emotional needs. These requirements distinguish a rumor from other forms of information, such as gossip or newspaper reports, since they are not based on fact and are not verified by witnesses.

The origin of the term rumor is unclear, but it is believed to be from the Latin word rumor. In general, a rumor is an unsubstantiated report that can be either true or false and that spreads quickly. Rumors often lead to negative outcomes such as violence, loss of reputation, and strained relationships. They can also affect business and organizational decisions such as hiring, firing, promotion, and compensation.

In the context of modern technology, a rumor is a piece of news that spreads rapidly over social media. A recent study examined a set of archived discussions on BITnet to identify rumor threads. These were then analyzed using a coding system to categorize statements as being prudent, apprehensive, authenticating, interrogatory, providing information, belief, disbelief, sensemaking, and digressive. The rumor threads were then compared with debunking messages to determine the effect of these on the spread and reception of the rumor.

The results of this study showed that the most successful rumor threads were those that were both highly partisan and had a sense of urgency. The rumors that were successfully debunked, such as the hospital and nuclear rumors, were those that were rebutted with a high level of vehemence and in a short time frame. The bogie and wedge-driving rumors, on the other hand, were those that were debunked with more skepticism but slower than their unverified counterparts. The authors recommend further studies to investigate the effectiveness of a variety of strategies for debunking rumor threads in social media. They also recommend that future studies include network visualizations to examine how the structure of a rumor’s community shapes its dissemination and impact.