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Seven thoughts about rumors

April 7th, 2011

I’m confident that you have never heard this question before:

“What does the existence of Bigfoot and rumors in corrections have in common?”

1. A sighting of the creature and a juicy rumor are intriguing. Either will break the monotony, sometimes causing pandemonium.
2. Some people will analyze and investigate until the truth is found. They declare rumors as reality only when presented with ample evidence.
3. A vocal minority will run with the rumor. This sort is fueled by the excitement of possibilities, but unencumbered by hard data.

Regarding the creature, I am not coming down on either side of its existence. This is not the place for it. It is a matter best addressed by crypto-zoologists and Sasquatch enthusiasts. However, this is an interesting, if not quirky, backdrop to this notion. Rumors in agencies can grow and mutate in unpredictable ways. And this is important to consider as the rumor mill turns and new theories are churned.

Here are some thoughts to consider about rumors:

1. Certain topics are near and dear to some and not so important to others. In other words, the tolerance to and interest in rumors are quite individual.
2. During times of change, rumors generally become large and unwieldy. One simply needs to compare good times to bad. When agencies have no economic woes, rumors about reductions in force typically do not come to the fore. By comparison, during budgetary crises, rumors abound. Imagination is fueled by controversy.
3. Some rumormongers spread gossip almost as if by instinct. As soon as they hear a tidbit, they disseminate the news without thought. This is done in much the same way as a bee pollinates flowers. There usually is no malice in this.
4. Some mischievous or nefarious types like rumors. They appeciate nothing better than the anxiety of others while they create and perpetuate rumors. Rumormongers prefer to bask in the warm and turbulent winds of controversy. Ironically part of their joy comes from the misery of others. And there is no better time to witness the rumormonger in full glory as times of turbulent change. Like a tapeworm, the rumormonger is really a parasite that saps the strength of the normally vibrant.
5. Levelheaded individuals, who do well under stress, generally consider each rumor. They do not take them as gospel without further analysis. This means that they do not immediately dismiss possibilities. They consider the ramifications before they perpetuate rumors. It’s the sort of calm dependability that corrections needs most in times of uncertainty.
6. Sometimes saying a little is better than saying too much. When you speak of potentials, some staff and prisoners will run with a kernel of the gossip and expand on it. I do not advocate keeping others in the dark about possibilities. However, dispensing of radical possibilities should be done cautiously and with ample preface.
7. Rumors can cause real danger in our facilities. When prisoners and staff are nervous, tensions elevate. Lower staff morale decreases our watchfulness. It is crucial to increase vigilance during times of rampant rumors.

Ours is a vocation where we deal with stress with firm resolve, policy and procedure, and general calm. Certainly, all agencies experience uptimes and downtimes. Is simply a part of the cycle. As a matter of course, we should always filter out conspiracy theories from valid possibilities. Without the ability to do this we find ourselves trapped. Though we are uncertain about future times, we run the risk of inattention to our surroundings. And that, of course, makes for a potentially dangerous environment.

Again, I neither advocate nor disavow the existence of the deep forest icon that I mentioned earlier. But just as controversy swirls around the possibility of the existence of the species, we find ourselves faced with unproven ideas in our agencies and at our worksite. And whatever our beliefs on a certain theory, it behooves us to consider that there are many different approaches.

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joebouchard Assessing the organization, Self Scrutiny, Staff relations

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