Okay, everybody, it’s time for rumors and gossip


A friend of mine told me one technique his boss used for keeping group meetings on time. The last item on every meeting agenda was called Rumors and gossip.

A group meeting is sort of like a mandatory watercooler session. Everybody is now in a room sitting around a table, and you naturally start discussing whatever rumors you've heard about what's going on in upper management, that newspaper article about what your competition is up to, or whether you think your supplier is really going to deliver that component on time.

Whenever the meeting started to drift into rumors and gossip, the boss would simply say, "Save it for rumors and gossip." And then the meeting would reach the Rumors and gossip stage, and everybody (including the boss) could gossip about whatever it was that they heard from a friend of a friend. The boss might confirm some rumors, deny others, say "I don't know either," or even "I don't know, but I'll try to find out." This was also a good time for the employees to raise their concerns about the project.

From what I could gather, Rumors and gossip was a big hit. Everybody knew to save their rumors and gossip for the end of the meeting, allowing the rest of the meeting to stay on track, and it became the part of the meeting everybody looked forward to.

Comments (11)
  1. Sheng Jiang says:

    It is natural. The gossip forums are also very popular on the forums sites I frequent.

  2. D-Coder says:

    "A friend of mine told me…" So this is just a rumor?

  3. Deduplicator says:

    @D-Coder:

    Cannot be a rumor. That's gold-plated gossip, including quality seal and the works.

  4. Jolyon Smith says:

    Hmmm, I can see this having additional benefits:

    • A bug reported by only one user has the status of "Rumour" until confirmed by QA or independently reported by at least one other user.
    • Bugs reported by multiple users but which development assert are "by design" become the subject of disgruntled "Gossip" in the user forums.

    This nicely creates a space for those issues to be addressed rather than being swept under the carpet/ignored until they go away.  :)

  5. cheong00 says:

    And those upper managements can actually hear what are the lower level employee's current concerns without monitoring too closely.

  6. Brian G. says:

    I proposed this idea to my boss.  I was informed that this would be a poor idea as in our department, it would likely turn every 1-hour meeting into a 3-hour one.

  7. pete.d says:

    Best of all, people who have better things to do than hang around a water cooler or waste time in pointless meetings can just leave at that point and go get some real work done.

  8. Robin Williams says:

    "From what I could gather, Rumors and gossip was a big hit."

    Rumours was a HUGE hit.

    en.wikipedia.org/…/Rumours

  9. WendyHome says:

    nice open culture you describe. Some of the key characteristics of rumours and gossip I keep hearing are

    (1) the person delivering the gossip derives please from multiple 1-2-1 story telling (e.g. saying it in a meeting where everyone hears removes the fun factor

    (2) when subsequently content-checked with the subject of the rumour / gossip many details are found to be untrue and offensive to the subject

    (3) the subject of the rumour / gossip is normally in our team meetings

    rumour / gossip is normally very personal (e.g. who's having extra-marital sex, surgery, bullying etc)

    This presents some challenges when considering the approach you are suggesting. Though I have suggested it as an AOB agenda item…

  10. Bob says:

    I've always thought it would be an interesting social experiment to allow people to file Blame Forms. The idea is that if things start to go wrong you're covered if you've filed a form explaining why you're not to blame but someone else is.

    As a manager it would be easy to introduce them. You'd announce them one week and everyone would laugh but no one would use them. Next week you'd say "the Blame Forms have been a big hit, I'm surprised the scheme works so well". Week after that you'd get piles of information to use against your subordinates.

  11. Lead: We spent the last third of our one-hour meeting talking about rumors and gossip!  Do you know how much wasted time that is?

    Team: 40 minutes?

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