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Managing Rumour and Perception


Introduction

A rumour is a piece of information the credibility and validity of which cannot be confirmed. It is usually a mixture of truth and untruth. Rumours spread easily between people, especially if there is a lack of official information, or facts, that are believed. At times rumours are purposefully circulated to promote the interests of a certain person or group – such as for financial, social or religious gain. Rumours are often ‘unproveable’ and therefore taken as truth, or fact, when they are spread, and people begin to hear the same from many sources.

Perceptions are the awareness and understanding that people have about any given thing. Different people may have different perceptions about the same thing. For example, one person might perceive an organisation to be doing helpful work whereas another person might perceive the organisation as there to do harm. Perceptions and rumours are closely linked as a person’s perception – especially ‘thought leaders’ or authorities in that community – can cause rumours to spread more quickly if it validates the perception a group already holds. This is true for both online communities as well as physical communities.

Organisations need to be aware how rumours and perceptions can affect their activities and staff safety. Situations can quickly arise where managers are unaware of a perception held about them by a community or a rumour that is spreading around them. The organisation needs to have a way of filtering and managing information circulated in rumour and understand the effect that can have on communities in which they work. Every organisation has a responsibility to use information wisely and sift rumour from truth before acting.