Fake News Afflicts the Workplace Too

office gossip

The recent weeks have offered quite a bit of discussion and debate about “fake news.” It’s apparent many people just accept what they hear and read as fact when in reality, the truth is missing from those “facts.” What is happening?

I seriously cannot get my head around this phenomenon. Are we that complacent to just gobble up what is served? We check food labels before consuming what’s in the package. Why wouldn’t we search for what’s true before allowing it to shape our thoughts and opinions?

This notion got me thinking about how this same behavior happens in our workplaces — on a regular basis. One way it shows up is via the rumor mill or water cooler gossip, which is quite a powerful communication vehicle. Much of what you hear from this channel may have a kernel of truth baked in but is rarely the full picture of things. When you start to hear things that include assumptions or accusations, the facts are absent. It’s someone’s thoughts about the facts.

Those who participate in water cooler gossip, I would classify as SPECULATORS. They indulge in conjectural thought. In the dictionary, the synonym is “daredevil” or “gambler.” Speculators make guesses about the truth. They love to argue and debate, but they guess because they don’t want to know the truth or take the time to discover it.

Speculator is also used in the game of rugby, referencing “an undirected kick of the ball.” I’d say that just about sums it up!

In contrast, SEEKERS are in search of the truth or the solution to a problem. They ask questions to discover what’s valid and real. Seekers study; they watch what is happening and engage in finding answers.

Seekers are also associated with a sport – Quidditch, from Harry Potter fame. The Seeker plays a crucial role in Quidditch, as a game does not end until the Seeker catches the Golden Snitch. Maybe the analogy here is the Golden Snitch = the Truth!

I believe the number of Speculators may outnumber the Seekers for a few reasons.

  • It’s not the easiest or fastest path. Searching for what is fact, real and relevant, takes time and diligence. It’s hard work.
  • What you discover may be in conflict with what you want to believe.It requires that you be open to a different perspective and calls for a bit of humility to realize you may be wrong.
  • It requires a driving need for justice. I’m referring to justice here as a strong desire for doing what is right, no matter the cost. Again, it takes a selfless person to be concerned for others above personal interests.
  • It takes courage.You may need to ask some difficult questions and ruffle feathers of some who are more senior or experienced than yourself. It could often call on you to address the elephant in the room, which is uncomfortable – not only for you but others in the room.

So what’s it going to be for you? Are you willing to roll up your Year of the Roostersleeves and dig in to the details to seek out what is true?

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2017 is the Year of the Rooster in Chinese astrology. The Rooster is almost the embodiment of fidelity and punctuality. For ancestors who had no alarm clocks, the crowing was significant, as it could awaken people to get up and start to work.

Maybe 2017 will serve as our wake-up call to start to work on seeking truth rather than allowing speculation to shape our future.