Workplace gossip

Gossip in the workplace is often harmless enough. But sometimes it can cross the line and employers will need to step in.

It is a common occurrence for most of us at work. During the work party, there will always be comments about someone’s appearance or love life. At the water cooler, there will be discussions about the future direction of the company. At the pub after work, there may be hearsay about who will be the next person to be made redundant.

The dangers of gossip are clear – the employee may not have heard the whole story or it has been taken out of context or worse, they have exaggerated or lied. Not only does it waste employees’ valuable time, gossip can destroy trust, ruin employee relations and wreck careers. It can also be at the root of people feeling unsatisfied and frustrated in their job and affect staff retention levels.

Here are five key ways to deal with gossip and stop it creating a toxic work environment.  

1  Lead by example
If managers are engaging in tittle-tattle, how can you expect everyone else not to?  Make sure that all layers of management are laying down the appropriate standards and following them.

2  Communicate with staff
If employees are not given enough information or feel that they are not being trusted by their managers, they may start speculating about what is going on. Sometimes, speculation can lead to widespread worry and uncertainty. This is why it is important to foster an environment where employees can ask questions and discuss their concerns.

You should try and keep your employees informed of developments in the business – sending round a quick email or having a team meeting can often help nip gossip in the bud.

3  Encourage positive discussions
It can be great for employees’ morale and motivation if people are also talking about positive stories in the workplace – what is going well, new client wins, sales highs and team highlights.

4 Take any grievances raised seriously
If gossip has created a workplace problem, you should not ignore or disregard an employee’s complaint. It is crucial for line managers to listen to the employee and try to resolve any grievance informally. If this doesn’t work, you may need to follow your formal grievances procedures.

5  Assess whether gossip crosses the line
If an employee is sending an email to a colleague gossiping about the paternity of an employee’s unborn child, this could amount to harassment. If so, you need to take action to address this.

Of course, you can never completely eradicate gossip, but you can take steps to prevent it from getting out of hand and deal with issues that do arise quickly and effectively.

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