If you work in an office, like I do, you've probably have caught yourself talking about the office even when you are not at the office. Stories are endless, and there's a sort of sick pleasure in trading stories with other office-workers. Haunted offices (there's always at least one ghost per employer!), terrible bosses (the most profuse archives on the topic), shitty employers and kill-'em! coworkers. The types of fauna (and sometimes flora, as some people seem to go to the office only to do some photosynthesis) are broad, but easily identifiable. Not all types are present at once in each office, but you can rest assure each medium-to-big-to-huge company has a sample of each and probably creating newer and newer species for our communal delight.
This is not a post to talk about each of them, but of a certain type, the Birds of Mysery. These birds plague every single workplace, and often gather up in huge flocks at certain departments, particularly those related to Human Resources, but also places where the level of influence of the employers is low. They can be easily identifiable for the one trait that annoys the planet around them: they are constantly spreading bad news. They claim to have the contacts, know the right people that allow them to access the news before they are officially communicated. These contacts must be of the same sort apocaliptic churches use to predict to the day and the hour the End of the World... every two years. Their sentences start with "I've heard..." and their favorite words are "fired" and "layoff".
It doesn't deter them if the prospect of what they say is highly improbable (as they also work in the Public Sector, where the prospect of getting fired or laid off is nearly impossible), that their earlier forecasts have never come to materialize, they still spread their message of desperation, particularly among the newer employees. It seems to delight them to spread stories like "the worse possible boss is taking over your area", "the reestructuring is making your area disappear, and all of you will get fired except a handful this person picks". Several friends of mine in the company had to suffer through the claws of birds of misery, who told them that they were getting laid off, their department would disappear, they were getting demoted to a lower position because there was no more use for them where they were, that all wages would be cut back (which is ilegal by law) among other things.
Birds of Misery are usually coworkers or bitter assistants or secretaries, but it's not strange to find bosses who are birds of misery. These even try to officialize the ill rumour by refering to their bosses, and making people work as if the threats were real.
After over 10 years dealing with office flora and fauna, there are a few things I can tell you about birds of misery: they lie. 10 out of 10 time, what comes out of their poisonous beaks is a big, fat lie, so you do well taking their words with a grain of salt. They may have heard something, but they'll always make it a bigger deal. Like what? Well, for instances a superior is being removed of their position and placed in another for whatever reason. The bird of misery will say that this superior is being removed from the position they held so far, AND the area that had lead will be disbanded, and whomever is caught without a place to go in the company, is getting fired. If you get the right data, and confront them, birds of misery will always say "well, I'm just telling you what I was told". The best way to deal with them is ignoring them. So this person said pink slips will be delievered to everybody on Friday? Sure, bet $1 it's bullshit. Says the sky is going to fall? Yes, I bet it will. A Fraud Team from the FBI is seizing the place and will throw everybody in jail? Awesome! Is Peter Burke and Neal Caffree coming too?
However, if you feel the need to retort to somehow cut the crap (some birds of misery are not affected by being ignored and continue their annoying jabbing either you want to hear them or not), there are two awesome ways to do so:
1. If the bird of misery is a coworker or a boss' assistant or secretary, you'll ask for evidence. "Really? We are getting laid off? Do you have the memo? Would you send it to me? No? Oh well, let me know when you do. You see, I've heard so much crap of this kind all over the place, and every single time it turns out to be a lie. You know, there are people who would say anything to make others feel bad and make themselves the center of attention. I prefer proves over hearsay."
2.If the bird of misery is a boss, you simply have to ask them to issue you the news or the "decision" on written form. They won't, but if they do, you take that written statement and check it with the proper area, on the highest, most descentralized position. When it turns out to be a lie, you have in your hands evidence to process the boss for mobbing. Class action to it, if they said so to the whole group.
And this, my dears, is how we deal with this type of fauna.