Conspiracy theory
BUSINESS MATTERS BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - June 16, 2019 - 12:00am

It has been said that to get a message across the organization, the leader needs to say the same message and repeat it at least seven times before the message can penetrate the attention and consciousness of the people.

Fragmented attention. Limited attention span. Social media, games and entertainment are all competing for what is called “Attention Share.” Marketers know this very well. Perhaps this is why certain ads or streaming video always carry an element of “shock and awe” just to keep the viewer’s attention and to keep them from using the clicker and move to another channel or choose another video option.

Another sinister villain is lurking in many corners of society and one that is most prevalent in the workplace. This villain dilutes the communicated message, sends the needed attention into a frenzy and diverts the original intent of the communication into wild speculations that suck the energy and resources in the organization. Could you guess what it is? Let me give you a clue: It has been said that to get a message across most effectively, gossip is its most potent vehicle. Yes. Gossips. So prevalent among the entertainment media but likewise present in the workplace. Even well-known personalities from history are not spared from it.

An often-told story about Winston Churchill exemplified integrity and respect in the face of opposition. During his last year in office, he attended an official ceremony. Several rows behind him, two gentlemen began whispering and gossiping. “That’s Winston Churchill.” “They say he is getting senile.” “They say he should step aside and leave the running of the nation to more dynamic and capable men.”

When the ceremony was over, Churchill turned to the men and said, “Gentlemen, they also say he is deaf!”

Ellen Wilcox Wheeler came up with a limerick that goes this way:

Have you heard of the terrible family They, ?

And the dreadful venomous things They say??

Why, half the gossip under the sun,?

If you trace it back, you will find begun?

In that wretched “House of They.”

Notice that gossips begin with “They?” – Leaders need to know this fascinating nature of human behavior. The sobering truth is that as human beings, we have a strong need to make sense of what is going on around us. And when things are unclear and when we cannot figure out what is happening, we build up theories, hypothesis, and we guess and surmise and explain it away.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say a bank manager continuously communicate with a specific person. People begin to notice. When the people in the bank knows or are informed even a little bit as to the topic of their conversation then that eases the tension. But suppose the bank manager constantly talk to the same person and brings that person to converse in the private spaces of the bank vault, and without knowing what they are talking about the observing people begin to build conspiracy theories. “Could they be talking about me?” “Are we going to be surprised with a huge change that is about to happen?” “Is there a problem besetting the bank?” And the speculations continue.

When not addressed, then the psychological and physiological havoc that ensues is no laughing matter. Another way of saying this is that in the absence of information, people create conspiracy theories and this is certainly true in times of change, where uncertainty is a permanent fixture. People form their conclusions. They want to make sense of what is happening. Conspiracy theories begin to breed because we are all hard-wired to avoid uncertainty. It follows, then, that if we do not have the information we need, we are more than happy to make it up and this is not a good thing.

In my Level Up Leadership program, I spare no effort in reminding the participants that leaders cannot afford to be unclear. They need to communicate their goals and intentions effectively as this is an effective way to suppress gossips and unnecessary speculations.

One word of advice: Stay away from gossips. Somebody says: “A gossip is someone with a great sense of rumor.” And when you are about to join in the fray and participate in the spreading of an unverified piece of information because “They” said it to be true; think first before you speak. One pastor said the word think means:

T -- Is it true?

H -- Is it helpful?

I -- Is it inspiring?

N -- Is it necessary?

K -- Is it kind?

If what I am about to say does not pass those tests, then it is better to keep my mouth shut!

It would be good for leaders to know that in order to improve your influence regardless of your place in your corporate food chain; your colleagues will be on the lookout for the “why” behind what you do. If you don’t provide information, they will create their own theories and the piece of it is usually less charitable than you want it to be. But if you effectively communicate the context for your decisions and the intentions behind your actions, then you would be more trusted and respected as you increase your influence and become more effective in the process. Communicate effectively and help your people understand.

(Attend two exciting and inspiring days of leadership training with Francis Kong is about to happen. Attend this highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership seminar-workshop on July 17-18 at Seda Hotel, BGC. For registration or inquiries contact April at +63928-559-1798 or call CJ at +63917-629-9401 or register online at

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