Humans have a habit of making up stories in their head and believing their own assumptions. This kind of behavior leads to gossip and all sorts of misunderstandings and unnecessary conflicts, because assumptions can become beliefs and beliefs drive behavior.
In the workplace, office gossip spreads insecurity and breeds uncertainty. Most people engage in small talk with friends and colleagues, but this can easily turn into negative gossip. Left unchecked, gossip will eventually lead to office politics and turn the work environment toxic, as it yields nothing positive.
Whether the organization is large or small, multinational or family business, public or private sector - or whether the gossip generates from employees or management - the most important thing to understand is that office gossip happens and it needs to be dealt with promptly.
While gossip may never completely go away, managers can help to control it by focusing on the following practical ways to help eliminate this unproductive habit:
1. Address the detrimental effects of office gossip in a staff meeting with your team. Point out that there are no positive effects to office gossiping. Instead, let your staff know that gossiping gets in the way of productivity and slows everything down. Mention that continued gossiping will be noted on performance evaluations, which can affect pay raises.
2. Be the first to inform staff of company decisions such as hiring
and firings, new policies and policy changes.If you can practice open communication, it will kill the need for people to speculate and perpetuate gossip. Answer your staff’s questions honestly if they come to you to confirm rumors. This may lead to your staff coming to you first before spreading office gossip.
3. Pull aside any of your staff members separately and meet with them privately to address any gossiping. Make sure you explain how it is affecting the workplace. Point out that they have wasted time gossiping and could have used that time for work or positively encouraging co-workers instead of spreading rumors.
4. The flip side of negative gossip is to create a culture where people share positive stories about their workplace and customers. Think of examples where peers and bosses can communicate to each other what they feel proud about at work. An example would be an employee going above-and-beyond in serving a customer, then management sharing the story company-wide and through social media to increase brand value.
5. Be a good role model for others to follow and don’t engage in the gossip. Be assertive, walk away, or change the subject when the gossip starts. The message you’re communicating to others is that this kind of behavior won’t be tolerated.
WHAT OFFICE GOSSIP CAN CREATE:
• Incorrect information being passed along
• Spread of rumours
• Conflicting loyalties
• Counteracts company values
• Encourages resistance to management plans
• Lack of collaboration
• Toxic work environment