Workplace Gossip – What to Do About It
by Laurie Wilhelm
On one hand, we know that gossip and gossiping isn’t OK. On the other, we often like to hear the “dirt” on someone. Not only that, but it’s hard to cut off gossip while it’s happening because it’s interesting – just take a look at most of our news sources today. Most of what’s reported isn’t “news,” it’s gossip disguised as news. It’s almost like our society is becoming addicted to gossip.
It’s no different in the workplace. There always seems to be a small handful of office gossipers who thrive on exposing the private and personal information of their colleagues, bosses, subordinates – anyone, really, and to anyone who will listen. Meanwhile, they’re probably also the ones that insist on their right to privacy!
The negative effects of gossip are well known and it’s essential to a healthy work environment to reduce, as much as humanly possible, gossip.
Instead of cornering the gossipers and confronting them about their offensive behaviour, there’s another way to approach snuff out gossip in the workplace.
Use a Business Communication Skill and Bring Gossip Into the Open
I don’t mean to call attention to specific office gossipers in a meeting in front of the whole team and reprimand them. Instead, bring the subject of gossip into the open for discussion and
- educate everyone on the negative effects of gossip on the morale, productivity, and workplace atmosphere
- discuss how it causes unnecessary and harmful perceptions of others that may lead to wrong and damaging conclusions about an individual
- mention that gossip isn’t fact but largely opinionated observations and judgements based on a lack of information and perspective.
- describe the attributes of a gossiper: someone who focuses only on the negative, who picks out the weaknesses of others, and who can’t be trusted with information because they’ll spread it around like the plague
- point out that gossiping is unacceptable and unprofessional behaviour
When you’ve objectively drawn attention to gossip and its detrimental effects, it’s easier for team members to walk away from it when it happens because they don’t want to be seen taking part in that activity – it could damage their reputation. Talking openly about gossiping in the office may also reduce the number of office gossipers because they don’t want others to see them in the negative light that was described at the meeting. As well, after the discussion, everyone is clearly aware that gossip is destructive, unproductive, and offensive.
As long as there are people, there is gossip. However, effective workplace communication helps to reduce the likelihood of it occurring is possible if it’s met head-on in an open and frank discussion. Focusing on the damaging effects of gossip on individuals, the organization, and the working environment may be all that’s needed to stop this unwanted and unhelpful behaviour.