By: Monika B. Jensen
Gossip is widespread in the workplace. At times, it appears as if employees have nothing better to do than gossip about each other. They chat about their organization, their coworkers, and their bosses. They often take a half truth and flip it into an entire hypothetical reality. Speculating on the team’s future, who will let go, who is seeing who and what employees are doing in their personal lives.
Employees are capable about gossiping about everything, and they do in a workplace that fails to bring about a stop to the chatting employees.
A certain amount of gossip is likely to occur in any place of work; employees are curious to know what is going on and like to chat about work matters. The essential point is to determine when the gossip is inappropriate. In which case, if it is not addressed, it may lead to low employee morale or a toxic work environment.
As a manager, the need to stop the gossiping occurs when it becomes disrupting to the workplace and the business of work, it is hurting employees’ feelings, it is damaging interpersonal relationships, or injuring employee motivation and morale.
Since research shows that gossip is disruptive in the workplace, what can we do to address it? Let us look at a few different approaches as a team and as an individual to addressing gossiping in the workplace.
When you deal with gossip as a team considers putting a ban on gossiping. Some workplaces have adopted an official ban on workplace gossip by having employees sign a pledge. Although extreme it may be effective. To discourage gossiping encourage employees to speak to each other about issues that are causing them problems before they bring it to their supervisors or other parties’ attention.
In the age of social media, it becomes easier to spread rumours and gossip about others. This can cause tremendous harm to the culture of the workplace. Organizations, today need to deal with social media and keep an eye on emails, personal blogs and Facebook discussions among employees. Finally confront rumours promptly. Providing factual information about layoffs, problematic situations or surplus of employees serve them better than to leave them speculating on their own. It is important to discuss the impact that gossip may have in the workplace. Talking openly the differences between active communication and gossip. In today’s workplace, verbal harassment has legal ramifications. Employers have a duty to take action against verbal harassment when they become aware of it.
So in dealing with gossip as an individual, always share information.
Be generous with the non-confidential material. This has proven to put a check on the gossip mill. Interestingly closed doors can set off alarms even if the intent is innocent.
Let people know that you may be interrupted at any time unless in a private meeting. Be sensitive about appearances.
Often rumours and gossip form around cliques in the workplace. Try to avoid forming groups and reach out to new people to keep the loop open. If all else fails, walk away. Gossip loses its momentum when there is no audience.
Find a way to tactfully suggest a more efficient channel for complaining or remove yourself from the discussion. If you start to focus on the positive qualities of your colleagues, you will automatically have nice things to say about each other.
Workplaces that have the highest levels of gossip seem to be the ones where employees are not engaging in work duties. Stay busy. If your day is full of tasks which you find thought-provoking and rewarding you will be less likely to get distracted by trivial activities.
We spend long hours at our job, make a point of cultivating relationships and activities outside your workplace. Having strong relationships outside the office provides sources of emotional support and objective advice often.
Unfortunately lurking at the extreme end of the gossip spectrum is workplace bullying. What may seem harmless rumors to some, may amount to intimidation and harassment for the targeted employees. Complications of physical and meth health issues arise and need to be addressed in the proper forum.
Finally become a role model. Do not indulge in any gossip yourself. Become a leader in this area. Do not feel the need to chat to feel connected, liked or to be informed about your team. Taking a stand to prevent random gossiping creates a better workplace for everyone.
Monika B. Jensen
Principal, Aviary Group