Founders are miserable managers, modesty can hurt a career, and important issues make it worthwhile to listen to the "landfill". In his book "Why perfection is meaningless and there is something to it in every rumor: 77 relentless job truths", Daniel Rettig has compiled studies and experiments whose findings initially seem counterintuitive. We publish a slightly adapted excerpt from it.

Rumors have a dubious reputation. Who spreads them, is quickly as a nonsense and story uncle. Those who are affected by them would prefer to discreetly eliminate them. But where people come together, they almost inevitably arise. Sometimes unconscious, but mostly full of desire.

Daniel Rettig, 38, is chief editor of the digital education platform ada. Previously, he worked for almost eleven years at the "Wirtschaftswoche" in the department of success, the last three years as head of department. Rettig graduated from the Cologne School of Journalism for Politics and Economics and studied economics at the University of Cologne. © Frank Beer

At this point a short classification. Even though the vernacular uses rumors and chatter synonymously, psychologists distinguish strictly between the two terms. When gossip and gossip it is usually about harmless revelry among colleagues who are more of entertainment and distraction serve: Here, the boss has increased during the holidays, as denied the team leader in public appearances always vote, there screwed the overburdened assistant once again scheduling , Not all friendly, but comparatively harmless. Rumors, on the other hand, are like the adult, serious sister of the blasphemers - and that's why psychologists have been studying their origins for decades.

A groundbreaking work on the subject appeared as early as 1947. In their book Psychology of Rumor , Gordon Allport and Leo Postman defined a rumor as a "specific belief that is passed from person to person, usually through word of mouth, without providing secure standards of evidence present ". Meanwhile, it is clear: rumors arise mainly in uncertainty. Where there is an informational vacuum, people tend to fill it with half-truths and speculation in the worst case to have an explanation at least. But what exactly is it about rumors?

Flurfunk as early warning system

One of the first studies in rumor-TÜV published the US sociologist Theodore Caplow more than 70 years ago. He had been collecting rumors of a military unit for two years during the Second World War. Nearly 100 percent on closer inspection proved correct: "Any major operation, relocation, or any major administrative change was rumored before the army command officially communicated it," he wrote in his study. Apparently it was a kind of early warning system in the hallway radio. And not only soldiers benefit in a life-threatening situation, but also employees on the office floor.

This is the conclusion reached by Jules Harcourt of the US-American Murray State University in 1991. The communications scientist sent a questionnaire to more than 3,600 managers, with 871 responding. Harcourt wanted to find out from which channels the interviewees heard about news. Lo and behold, one in five respondents found the rumor mill for information more reliable than official communication - especially when it came to promotions, redundancies or new jobs, salaries or strategic plans of management.

Nicholas DiFonzo are not surprised by these results. The Psychology Professor of the Rochester Institute of Technology is considered one of the world's leading rumor researchers. Together with his colleague and co-author Prashant Bordia, he has also studied the silent post office work and published several books on the subject - in at least 80 percent of cases, says DiFonzo, the information circulating is indeed true.

Rumors arise above all in uncertainties

This has three main reasons for him. Firstly, when there is uncertainty, anxiety or panic about the future of the individual workplace or of the entire company, it is not the right time for a fairytale lesson. Second, anyone who tells a rumor does not want to be caught fumbling. Because the reputation as a liar you will not go so fast again. And third, the networks in the office are usually so tightly knit that unverified rumors can be quickly verified. So if a counterfeit gets into circulation, it will be quickly corrected by the fitter. "True rumors are the rule rather than the exception in the working context," says DiFonzo, "because those involved are interested in the truth."

Only one question remains: How do I react as a victim of a rumor? Regardless of the reality content would be the worst silence, says the rumor expert DiFonzo - because that increases the uncertainty only more. Rule of thumb: If it's true, you should never deny, because most of the time the truth comes out anyway, and denying it only makes it worse. If the rumor is not true, you should communicate that as well. As concrete and fact-based as possible. So not: "That's not true!" blaring - but to address the exact content and correct.

Daniel Rettig: "Why perfection is meaningless and there is something in every rumor: 77 relentless job truths", 224 pages, 16.95 euros