The rumors are probably true

Ransom Riggs

Those rumors floating around the office lately about your job being on the line? Worrisome, sure, but easy enough to dismiss -- after all, they're only rumors. But according to a new book, Rumor Psychology: Social and Organizational Approaches, you might want to start cleaning out your desk and scouring the want ads. Rumors -- especially workplace rumors -- tend to be more reliable than we think.

"In a workplace setting — what we call a stable organizational grapevine — people are very good at figuring out the truth," says author and professor Nicholas DiFonzio. "If you tell me something and I work closely with you, I know whether you're a credible source. But even if I'm not so sure, in workplace settings the network connections are so dense that it's easy to cross-check information."

After awhile, the rumor becomes a sort of self-correcting information machine -- not unlike the socially-authored encyclopedia Wikipedia, which a study in the respected journal Nature recently concluded was, at least in terms of its science articles, nearly as accurate as the Britannica.

Of course, there's a difference between workplace rumors and workplace gossip, the difference being people often secretly want juicy bits of gossip to be true, and so truth falls beside the wayside.