Feeding the Rumor Mill Is A Dangerous Venture

 In Develop & Coach


Someone recently asked me, “Have you done anything on your path of becoming a manager that you regret?”

One of my biggest regrets—feeding the rumor mill. It cost me a job. Here’s the scoop:

At the time I went over to the dark side, I was a project coordinator dealing with sensitive issues, confidential information and employee needs. Although I wasn’t a manager of people, I was in a position that had a lot of responsibility and was expected to be a role model for others. And I did a really good job in all of these aspects. I was on top of my game and very respected.


I guess, looking back, I was just a wee bit cocky about my abilities and my standing in the company. I expected to go far and do lots of important stuff. Ever feel that way?

We all have to deal with the grapevine at work. It’s a living breathing organism that creeps its way into all the nooks and crannies of our work lives. And it’s a dangerous animal to play with as I discovered for my very own self.

I had a great relationship with a mentor at work who was a sharp man in a higher level position. We worked closely on projects (he was the project manager), had the same values, enjoyed chatting about all kinds of things, went to lunch together often and generally challenged each other to work hard and learn everything we could about our chosen field.

No big deal right? Everybody needs a mentor, a work buddy, a supportive teammate. We never thought anything about how our laughing, joking, teasing behavior and frequent lunches were being interpreted by our colleagues.

And neither did anybody else. At first. Little did we know we were feeding the rumor mill.

Gradually, our colleagues, managers and other associates began to wonder if there was something more between us and that’s how the rumors began.

Neither my mentor nor I realized there was this question floating around for almost a year. And by the time we did, we were each making our next career moves, eventually going in different directions with different companies.


We attended a company party that was held just a couple of weeks after I had left the company for a new job. My mentor had left several months earlier and I invited him to be my guest. We knew everyone there and decided it would be fun to pretend we were attending as a couple. Oh boy.

Short term fun with long term consequences. Of course, we laughed about the knowing looks people gave us, thinking they had been right all along. We just thought it was funny and a great scam on the silly nosy people who were talking about us behind our backs. I think there’s a song about that…A bit of our own revenge. Felt great!

Until I applied for a new job with a different branch of that former employer a couple of years later. I was far removed from that old situation and excited about a new opportunity. My interviews went really well and I was a top runner.

To my surprise, I was not selected. Why? Because one of my former bosses had given a reference stating I might NOT be mature enough yet for this new opportunity based on my questionable relationship with another colleague a few years earlier. WTH???!!! I was furious.


  1. Don’t poke the bear. Ever.
  2. Don’t feed the rumor mill. No matter how tempting it might be.
  3. Gauge perception. Perception becomes reality to other people. Pay attention to how your interactions with coworkers might be perceived.
  4. Be a role model. As an adult in the workplace, you are a role model (whether you like it or not) so be a good one.
  5. Properly represent the company. Never forget that you are representing your company, even at social events outside of the workplace that involve co-workers. Everybody is watching the formal and informal leaders of the team and taking note of behaviors. It only takes one poor habit, decision or mistake to lose the respect and trust of your team members. So don’t take that lightly.
  6. Be professional. Always—even after you’ve left the company. If this can happen to someone after they’re no longer an employee, just imagine how damaging an immature decision to feed that rumor mill can be if you make it at your current workplace.

You never know what consequences you’ll face if you forget these lessons about feeding the rumor mill.

Have you ever been tempted to feed the rumor mill? Do you get caught up in the heat of the moment and forget that you’re setting an example for others?

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