While workplace gossip is a part of corporate culture that is unavoidable, there are steps that managers can take to deal with this challenge.
The first step is being able to tell the difference between criticism and supportive discussion and when there is any criticism, if it is constructive. This kind of discourse is highly beneficial to workplace morale since it can offer encouragement for workers to improve their performance.
However, the harmful type of gossip is the kind that undermines the character of an employee without their knowledge. The employee who starts the gossip may be doing so for attention, exaggerating a co-worker’s fault or trying to create a feeling that it’s them against a manager or co-workers.
Grapevine gossip is one of the most harmful kinds of gossip. It typically starts around some change in the workplace and can quickly get out of hand. Imagine a game of Telephone where the details are changed due to poor communication, damaging morale at the workplace and forcing management to stamp out any fires before they get out of hand.
Take it With a Grain of Salt
Workplace gossip is often filled with innuendo and exaggeration. Yes, it must be dealt with before it becomes too much, but don’t take it personally if you are the subject. Find out the reason behind it and deal with it in an objective and professional manner, and whatever you do, do not let emotions play a role.
Find Out the Facts
Gossip often starts around a truth or fact, so find out who is in a position to give you definitive answers. Use other resources, such as internal bulletins or minutes from meetings, to find out if the gossip may have started surrounding an internal publication. Changes in management can lead to gossip, so it is best to be as transparent as possible to avoid any potential unpleasantness.
Determining and Dealing with Gossip
First, determine whether or not the gossip is personal or from the grapevine. For instance, if it is about a change in the workplace, address it quickly and honestly. Many employees may fear changes in the workplace, but if you offer them reassurances, this will go a long way to preventing any negative gossip.
Dealing with personal gossip presents a bit more of a challenge; you will have to confront the individuals doing the gossiping directly. Ask what is bothering them to start a constructive dialogue, but be firm in letting them know this will not be tolerated and if it continues, they will face disciplinary action.
But keep in mind that there may be a kernel of truth to the gossip, in which case your employees may have genuine concerns with the subject of the gossip’s behaviour or performance. In other words, don’t immediately assume the subject of the gossip is completely innocent; consider all sides of the issue.
Set an Example
Whether it’s not participating in gossip yourself or making it clear that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated, 3C Contact Services advises that there are steps that both employees and management can take to cut down on, if not completely eliminate workplace gossip.
“How to Deal with Office Gossip,” WikiHow.com; http://www.wikihow.com/Deal-with-Office-Gossip, last accessed January 30, 2015.