Gossip is a common occurrence in the workplace. A recent study reveals that 72% of workers admitted that they have been involved in gossip at their workplace.
Do you know what workplace gossip is?
It’s when employees talk about each other behind their backs.
You may hear things like “Did you hear about what happened with Jane and Bob?” or “I can’t believe she said that”. Sometimes, it can be harmless and involve lighthearted banter.
Gossiping in the workplace is something that many people do, but unfortunately, it can also be a cause of tension and conflict.
Workplace gossip can be a huge distraction and negatively affect productivity. If too much gossip goes around the office, it can make employees feel uneasy, make them unsatisfied with their jobs, and increase the turnover rate.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss the negative impacts of workplace gossip and offer some tips of addressing gossip in the workplace.
What is gossip at work and why do people do it?
Workplace gossip is “rumors or stories about colleagues’, supervisors’ and coworkers’ personal or professional lives.”
People occasionally disclose their private information to coworkers or superiors out of need, a desire to create connections, or a sense of belonging at work. It is not considered gossip to discuss one’s information, but it is when someone discloses another person’s private or sensitive information.
People gossip because it’s a way to bond with others, feel more connected, and get a sense of what’s happening in the workplace. It can also be a way to relieve boredom or stress.
Workplace gossip typically happens among friends or colleagues. It is not considered gossip when coworkers discuss problems among themselves; nonetheless, it is considered a kind of gossip when someone shares private or personal information in the workplace.
Despite the bad connotation that the word has, gossip may also be positive or negative.
When is gossip at work good?
Workplace gossip is good when it’s positive and can help build morale, improve communication, and create a sense of community.
Positive workplace gossip can include things like:
- Compliments about a coworker’s work performance
- News about a coworker’s promotion or raise
- Anecdotes about a funny thing that happened at work
- Information about work
- Helps build relationships
- Can be used as a tool for networking
When should you be addressing gossip in the workplace gossip?
Professional boundaries frequently exist in the connections and relationships formed at work; therefore, it is best to keep some things secret. While sharing personal information at work is occasionally required, it is not always necessary.
You probably don’t need to address the matter if coworkers are chatting it up. However, it is best to confront the matter if workplace conversation is not constructive or considerate. You can either communicate with the offender directly or privately with a supervisor.
You should address workplace gossip if it’s:
- Damaging relationships between coworkers
- Decreasing productivity
- Leading to a hostile work environment
- Causing employees to feel uncomfortable or dissatisfied with their job
Negative effects of gossip in the workplace
If workplace gossip goes unchecked and unaddressed it may cause harm to organisational culture. Here are some of negative effects of gossip at work:
a) Reduced productivity
Workplace gossip can be a huge distraction and negatively affect productivity. Because people are emotionally engrossed in a scenario like teenage kids.
If employees spend their work time in gossip, it means they are wasting their precious time. They become unable to focus on their job in hand and their productivity will ultimately reduces due to this bad habit.
b) Damaged relationships
The most damaging effect of gossip is on relationship among colleagues and workers. In a workplace, trust and mutual cooperation is the basis of teamwork and productive workplace.
Employees who are involved in gossiping lose trust of each other. And especially the employee who is target of gossiping will never trust his/her colleagues in the future. And this situation leads to a toxic workplace.
c) Increased turnover
It’s quite natural that when employees feel uncomfortable and dissatisfied with their job, they would eventually leave workplace. It is found is multiple research studies that workplace gossip in one of the major reasons for staff turnover.
If workplace gossip is left unchecked, it can lead to lower employee morale and there will be high turn over rate.
d) Increased Stress
Gossip not only affects our productivity but it is very harmful for our mental health. There are lot of research evidences which show that if knowing other colleagues or coworkers are involved in gossiping about us would make us stressed out. We may feel anxiety and depression in extreme cases.
It is the fear of being judged by coworkers and lacking trust and making poor relationship with coworkers that put lot of strain on mental well being of any individual experiences gossiping at workplace.
e) Reduced Teamwork
Gossiping also kills team cohesion in the workplace. Team members don’t trust each other when there is frequent negative gossip at their workplace. Since trust is the foundation of a cohesive team so they fail to make a good team in absence of required trust level.
If people at workplace don’t work like a team then they might fail their organisation in a big way.
8 Tips for Addressing Gossip in the Workplace
If workplace gossip is left unchecked, it can seriously impact an organization. That’s why it’s important to know how to deal with it.
Here are 8 most powerful ways of addressing gossip in the workplace:
1. Identify the culprit
The first step is identifying the person or people causing the problem. Once you’ve identified the gossipers, it is important to address the issue with them directly, talk about it, and explain that these types of gossip are unacceptable.
Give them examples of how your gossip disrupts the team or affects work productivity. Inform the gossiper of the consequences of their behavior if they don’t change their ways.
The ideal approach is a one-on-one conversation with the culprit; otherwise, the situation can worsen and lead to workplace gossip.
They could be more willing to change their conduct if you make them aware of the effects of their actions. Be sure to encourage them and handle any issues or challenges they raise.
2. Create a workplace gossip policy
A workplace gossip policy can help to discourage workplace gossip. The policy should outline the consequences of engaging in workplace gossip.
Documentation about gossiping can be included with the zero-tolerance policy. But gossip policy can be tricky if it is left too broad. There are certain labour laws which gives right to employees to discuss their issue related to workplace and working conditions and employees have right to form unions.
The best way is to clearly define and explain what type of gossip is allowed and what in not allowed. And this policy should be communicated to every one at workplace so that everyone knows what falls under gossip and what doesn’t.
3. Encourage positive workplace relationships
Try to encourage positive workplace relationships. This can be done by organizing social events, promoting teamwork, and encouraging communication.
Team leaders make an effort to promote healthy conversations at work. Encourage your team to tell inspiring stories about the company, its employees, and its clients. Every time you overhear bad gossip, try to counter it with an example of good work or professional conduct.
4. Encourage employees to focus on their work
The secret to being productive is to focus. Help employees focus on their work by setting clear expectations and deadlines. You can also provide incentives for employees who meet or exceed their targets.
Due to deadlines and expectations, the team will carefully adhere to the schedule and will not have time for gossip about unnecessary and irrelevant things.
5. Lead by example
As a leader, you need to set the tone for the workplace. If you’re seen as someone who doesn’t engage in workplace gossip, others will also be less likely to do it.
Act ethically when interacting with superiors, coworkers, or other colleagues is essential. Be trustworthy and keep that information to yourself if someone reveals sensitive details to you about their lives.
You can always politely let someone know that you don’t want to participate in their attempt to spread gossip about someone else at work.
6. Encourage positive gossip
Gossip is all about sharing information about who did what and when. Is that information is always negative?
No. There is a flip side of negative gossip and it could be like sharing of positive information about team members and coworkers at workplace. Managers and leadership can share and communicate stories of employees who perform well or accomplish success.
By sharing positive gossip you can overcome all the toxicity of negative gossip at workplace.
7. Encourage employees to report workplace gossip
Employees should feel comfortable reporting workplace gossip. Please encourage them to do so by creating an open and friendly environment.
If an employee is the subject of workplace gossip, encourage them to speak up. This will help to stop the gossip in its tracks.
8. Communicate clearly and regularly
It’s job of leadership and managers to communicate clearly and regularly with their colleagues and coworkers. This communication involves everything from regular updates on business, new opportunities, strategic decisions etc.
This kind of regular communiaction reduces the chance of gossiping and its negative effects. When everyone knows about what is happening then there is less likelihood of negative gossip.
Whether intended to be good or bad, workplace gossip can make someone feel vulnerable and negatively affect your organisation, it’s important to address this common issue of workplace. Before knowing tips of addressing gossip in the workplace, it’s important to understand reasons that what and why people gossip in their workplace and how its damages productivity, morale and team cohesion. There are certain steps and ways which guide us on minimising gossip at the workplace, if not removing it altogether.