It happened again this week — a phone call from a friend reporting a rumor about a former employer. I have blogged previously about the duty owed to a former employer, and rumor control is a big part of it. When does checking out a rumor become party to spreading the very same rumor?
I would like to think I am a responsible alumnus for my seven previous employers. I parted on good terms with my coworkers — perhaps less so with the management — and take no pleasure in any difficulties they might endure. If asked, I provide introductions, references, and technical assistance. Companies no longer seem to value “corporate memory” until it walks out the door, so sometimes a quick call to an old-timer can save hours of digging through files.
Rumor control is tough; some I can dismiss out-of-hand because they are so “out there” or the motive of the rumor monger is so transparent. Others require an e-mail or phone call to an old co-worker.
It seems only fair to disclose the source of any rumor to the insider I call. If you ask me about any rumor and do not want your involvement disclosed please do not call me; you can’t “un-ring the bell.”
The motives of people spreading rumors are not always good. Competitors try to undermine sales efforts; headhunters try to poach key employees; disgruntled former employees try to stir up trouble; and traders hope to change stock prices.
An alumnus cares about the wellbeing of his or her former colleagues. An alumnus wants their former employer to continue to be a good, reliable supplier to the customers he or she helped develop. Being good alumni means checking out those rumors and putting untruths out of circulation promptly. Times are difficult enough without adding to people’s worries.