Gossip means different thing to different people. To some, it refers only to malicious or actionable talk about someone beyond the person’s hearing while others believe that gossip involves just untrue tales and still others think it can include truthful remarks. Another belief considers gossip to be any talk of a person’s or institution’s affairs — whether personal or professional, harmless or slanderous.
Unfortunately, gossip is rampant in most workplaces. Sometimes, it may seem as if employees have nothing better to do than gossip about each other. They talk about the company, their coworkers and their managers.
The dangers of workplace gossip
Some negative consequences of workplace gossip include:
- Erosion of trust and morale
- Lost productivity and wasted time
- Increased anxiety among employees as rumors circulate without clear information as to what is and isn’t fact
- Divisiveness among employees as people take sides
- Hurt feelings and reputations
- Attrition due to good employees leaving the company because of an unhealthy work environment
How and when do you manage workplace gossip?
The key is to know when the gossip has gotten out of hand. You need to act if the gossip is:
- disrupting the workplace and the business of work,
- hurting employees’ feelings,
- damaging interpersonal relationships, or
- Injuring employee motivation and morale.
Gossip should be managed exactly as you would manage any other negative behavior from an employee in your workplace. Use a coaching approach, when possible, to help the employee improve his or her behavior.
But, when needed, gossip management starts with a serious talk between the employee and the manager or supervisor. If this discussion of the negative impacts of the employee’s gossip has no effect on subsequent behavior, begin the process of progressive discipline with a verbal warning, then a formal written verbal warning for the employee’s personnel file.
If you decisively deal with gossip, you will create a work culture and environment that does not support gossip.
Do you need help managing a workplace issue such as excessive gossip or other bad behavior? BCN Services can help you assess your situation and develop an action plan and set appropriate policies to avoid future problems. Contact us for assistance by calling 800-891-9911.
Lisandra Quinones, Human Resource Administrator