It’s a rare facility that doesn’t promise job prospects stability, a chance to grow and a supportive work environment. But what happens when an employee feels such promises are merely lip service?

A new study finds that the least of your worries may be a worker who feels entitled to slack off. The worst is that they may be quietly spreading ugly rumors about you and your organization.

Investigators discovered that employees compelled to badmouth colleagues or bosses tended to do so because they felt they had been slighted. In fact, rumors are often a “weapon of choice for the weak,” according to “Rumor as Revenge in the Workplace.”

Slighted employees may seek to hurt a company by undermining team morale and company cohesion, banking on the clandestine nature of gossip to shield them from discovery or punishment, they added.

The study was done in two parts. The first was a hypothetical experiment involving actual workers. The second was an analysis of survey data that looked at employees’ transmission of rumors — and how colleagues perceived such actions. Their inescapable conclusion was that employees were far more likely to spread negative rumors when they felt a company had reneged on promises. That’s the bad news. The good news is that employees generally avoided indulging in hearsay when they believed companies held up their end of the bargain.

There would seem to be an obvious message here for managers: Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

But what happens when a facility is being held to a standard that exists only in a worker’s mind? Or if both sides have a different take on the meaning of terms such as “room to grow” or “supportive environment”?

When that happens, things can get ugly fast. At least, that’s the word on the street.

John O’Connor is McKnight’s Editorial Director.