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June 9, 2008

Have You Heard the Rumor?


The CEO of my client was troubled. “I’m troubled,” he said. That’s how I know.


It seems there was a spate of rumors circulating through the company. One had the company up for sale. One had massive layoffs in the offing. Yet another suggested a merger with a long-time competitor.


The buzz in the hallways was unmistakable.


“D.F., we can’t have these rumors spreading like wildfire throughout the human infrastructure of this company,” said the CEO. “It will undercut the foundation of everything we’ve built and create an environment in which it will be impossible for us to steer our company in the strategic direction we’ve embraced.”


I heard a rumor that the boss likes to mix lame metaphors. I can’t confirm that, though.


So rumors are going around. You’re worried that too many people are hearing them. You don’t want that. So what would you do? You wouldn’t call a massive assembly would you? On the off-chance that someone hadn’t heard the rumors?


Of course you would!


The employees filed into the company cafeteria. There were about 150 of them, which makes for a full 75 percent of the company. Why not invite the other 25 percent?


“Someone has to get some work done, and besides, we don’t want to inadvertently spread the rumors.”


No. You wouldn’t want to do that.


Before I tell you what happened at the meeting, I have to say at this point that I was disappointed by the fact that all these rumors were spreading, and I hadn’t started them. There is nothing more hilarious than planting a completely absurd rumor and seeing it take root because people will believe absolutely anything.


One time I started a rumor within another company that the CEO was going to demote himself to a shipping clerk position, resulting in a pay cut of something like 85 percent. Dopes. People are so gullible. But I digress . . .


“I would like to address the various rumors that have been circulating within the company,” the CEO announced. “Rumors are like cancer cells spreading through the walls of our corporate gray matter!”


Everyone looked at each other with that what-the-heck-was-that-supposed-to-mean look.


“First, let me address the rumor that the company is for sale,” he said.


“I heard that rumor!” said Spengler.


“You did?” said Jackson. “Why didn’t you tell me?”


Everyone started buzzing. The CEO called out: “People! People!”


Quarters raised her hand. “Sir, have you heard the rumor that OSHA is about to shut us down for safety violations?”


“No!” the CEO said. “I haven’t heard anything about that!”


Smithson stood up. “We’re about to be shut down and our CEO doesn’t even know about it?”




Well, by the time the rumor control meeting was over, approximately 17 new rumors had taken root in the company, but on the plus side, I don’t think anyone really remembered the original three. I think Spengler and Jackson are fighting – at least that’s the rumor I heard – but at least Quarters has inspired everyone to check their work spaces for safety violations.


As for our CEO, he pronounced himself satisfied and his strategic goals met. Then I saw him checking the supply of FedEx envelopes and asking someone to explain exactly how they’re used.


I swear. I did!

© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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