It was 2006. I had moved to Seattle a year ago and I was excited to be in a city with a WNBA basketball team.
But one day I joined other fans heading into the gym for a noontime game. We began to hear the whispers: “Storm and Sonics are moving to Oklahoma.”
Some listened to car radios on their way to the game. Others picked up the story from street vendors.
Everyone was in shock and you might as well have hung black banners from the rafters. Although newspapers reported the team hadn’t been told, the Storm played a miserable game.
So what if you hear rumors that affect your career or your business?
(1) Differentiate rumors and gossip.
Gossip tends to be presented as fact about people. Rumors tend to be speculations about forthcoming events, according to Ralph Resnow, a former Temple psychology professor.
I would add, “Rumors tend to raise questions like, ‘What should we do?’” We feel we need to take action, now or in the present.
(2) Assess the impact on your future if the rumor turns out to be true.
Let’s face it: I would sorely miss the Storm if they moved across the bridge to Bellevue, let alone to Oklahoma. I probably wouldn’t leave Seattle or change much of my life.
But if you hear a rumor about layoffs and mergers, you may realize you could experience very serious consequences.
(3) Create a plan for your worst case scenario.
For basketball, my worst case scenario means finding a new entertainment (okay, fanaticism) for many summer evenings beginning 2008.
For some of my clients, a worst case scenario might mean looking for a new job. Some might consider starting a business.
(4) Identify actions to prepare for your worst case scenario.
Recently “Thomas” emailed to set up a consultation to get his resume revised. He had just heard rumors of a merger affecting his company sometime in the coming fall.
“I will probably be safe,” he said, “but I want to be prepared.”
Ironically, those who plan ahead tend to be spared the worst impact of a business crisis. Those who take the extra step of calling a career consultant, like Thomas, will come away with confidence, clarity and an action plan. And confidence goes a long way in any career environment.
(5) Don’t get caught up in workplace emotions.
It’s rarely a good idea to share your fears and anxieties with colleagues. With your boss and your customers, keep your game face. Friends often try to help but they’re usually clueless about the realities of the workplace. Hire professionals who can be objective and who will ask you the right questions.
And finally, during a time of anxiety, everyone will seem like an expert. We’re all tempted to turn to friends, family, neighbors, dog-walkers and even strangers, hoping for facts that will put our worst fears to rest.
Chances are, they know less than they claim.
I must admit I called a good friend on the East Coast who is a lifelong sports fan.
“They’ll never go to Oklahoma,” he said confidently. “No audience! Who watches basketball in Oklahoma?”
The next day, I learned that a New Orleans NBA team had temporarily relocated to Oklahoma City following Katrina. Local residents eagerly bought season tickets, raising attendance to sixth in the league.
Eventually the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City. They were renamed the Thunder. The Storm remained in Seattle with new owners. In 2010 – four years after the rumors – they won the league championship.
And I learned a lot more about rumors.
The best way to deal with rumors is to do what my client Thomas did. Book a session with a career consultant. In one session, we assess the impact of the rumor. We identify what’s important for you. You have a safe, confidential place to share your concerns, without worrying about office politics.
When you choose this session, we usually have time to get everything done. I’ll review your resume ahead of time. You can send me all kinds of information. We’ll talk for 60-90 minutes. You get 2 weeks of email follow-up. One client even said, “I got more in one call with Cathy than 3 months with another coach.”