Rumor and Its Importance to Managers


Rumor is an informal, socially transmitted information that can be either true or false. Regardless of their accuracy, rumors serve important informational and psychological roles. They help individuals cope with uncertainty and anxiety by providing a means to vent fears. They also help groups deal with a perceived threat or disaster by providing a means to express common concerns. Rumors can lead to positive or negative consequences depending on how they are interpreted and handled.

In the past, the word rumor was often used to mean general hearsay or gossip. However, the term has evolved to describe a specific type of fictitious news story or statement. In addition to describing the underlying facts of a rumor, a rumor can be the source of an individual’s interpretation or evaluation of a situation, such as “I heard he was resigning from his job.”

The term rumor is derived from the Latin rmur, meaning “common talk.” It has been used in several languages including French and German, where it is sometimes referred to as rémer. The modern scholarly definition of rumor originates from the experimental work done by Louis William Stern in 1902. He studied the effect of a chain of participants who passed a story from mouth to ear without repeating or explaining it. Stern’s research revealed that a rumor loses detail as it is repeated and becomes shortened during transmission. Moreover, people tend to pass along rumors that are consistent with their existing beliefs or stereotypes.

Some researchers have suggested that rumor should be distinguished from misinformation or disinformation, and that the terms propaganda might better describe concerted efforts to manipulate the masses. Nevertheless, the concept of rumor remains a useful tool for analyzing social and organizational dynamics.

Managers must deal with a wide range of issues, including maintaining production, recruiting staff, and dealing with high levels of sick leave. Because formal information is often not available or too late to be effective, rumors are an important part of the workplace. However, the accuracy of rumor is critical. Managers need to be able to evaluate and utilize rumours, and they must be able to distinguish between valid and invalid information.

Fortunately, a number of studies have examined the accuracy of rumors. One study found that rumors circulating in established grapevines are more accurate than those originating from outside the organization. Other factors have been found to influence rumor accuracy, including cognitive mechanisms, such as narrowing of attention, memory limitations, and perceptual biases. Motivational mechanisms, such as fact-finding and relationship- and self-enhancement motives, have also been linked to rumor accuracy. Finally, situational features, such as the ability to check the veracity of a rumor (such as the availability of superior officers in a World War II field study), have been found to increase accuracy.