Titanic rumors? Sea for yourself.

Ignoring rumors can be a life saver at work.

During the recent 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the New York Times told the story of Lawrence Beesley, who was among the mere 14% of male second class passengers to survive.  It’s likely that ignoring a rumor saved his life.  It can do the same for yours—literally, or professionally.

Early in the “women and children first” phase of the evacuation, Beesley “was standing on the top starboard deck of the boat with a large group of men when a rumor went around that the men were to be taken off on the port side.  Almost everyone moved across the ship.  Only he and two others stayed where they were.”

Beesley later wrote, “I am convinced that what was my salvation was a recognition of the necessity of being quiet and waiting in patience for some opportunity of safety to present itself.”   Which it did.  With all the men having fled, there was room in a lifeboat.  And he was saved.

“The drastic separation of families, so that women could be given precedence, gave him grounds to suspect that there were too few lifeboats.  And if so, what more hazardous place to be than in a crowd of doomed men? By declining to follow everyone else across the ship, (Beesley) improved his odds of escape considerably.”

Why did he live?  He remained calm and thought for himself.

We give a lot of power away when we allow others to dictate how we should think and feel. 

Recall a recent time at work where you were exposed to a rumor—or gossip—or slander.  How did you respond?

Did you stay open to the possibility of growth that comes with a change in procedure, function, or leadership?  Or did you join the crowd in disparaging and resisting the change, even before you gave yourself a chance to see what benefits it might bring?

Did you give the new boss or teammate the benefit of the doubt and stay open to building a positive relationship, one that would help you become more productive and successful at work?   Or did you allow slander to poison the relationship even before it began, and hold the person at arm’s length and miss out, at least for a period of time, on what that person had to offer?

Or worse, did you make life unnecessarily difficult for someone based solely on some unconfirmed gossip?  How does making problems for other people tend to affect our own performance?  It usually winds up making work harder for ourselves as well.

When we enable other people to make up our minds on our behalf, we risk putting ourselves at a competitive disadvantage.

Even in the most frightening of circumstances—and in our professional lives, that usually means a change of some kind—we have choices.  We can follow rumors –or subscribe to and transmit workplace gossip–right down with the ship.

Or like Lawrence Beesley, we can be quiet, climb into the lifeboat of independent thinking, and live.   It’s a tough choice, but it’s yours.

As I repeatedly tell my clients, “You’re more in charge than you may think.”