Addressing Employee Gossip without Getting Sucked-In!
Allowing gossip to enter the workplace can negatively impact company culture by bringing down employee engagement and productivity. Office gossip can take many forms: company changes, employee salaries and promotions, personal affairs, and managerial problems. According to a study by Equisys, a business communications company, the average employees spends 65 hours a year gossiping at the office. When employees, especially managers get caught up in gossip, problems are less likely to be addressed, diminishing relationships and trust amongst co-workers. As managers it is our job to coach our teams and provide the best possible working environment we can. How can you avoid alienation and negativity among team members?
Read further for tips to avoid office gossip and how to kick it to the curb.
1: Address the perpetrator privately.
If you know whom the specific perpetrator(s) is, meet with the employee in a confidential setting where others cannot overhear the discussion. Help the person understand the negative impact of gossip behavior and the potential coming consequences of perpetuating this behavior. After a verbal warning comes a written warning. This is usually enough of a check, demotions or even loss of job.
2: Meet with your entire team.
If gossip is still causing a negative impact on the office, call a meeting with your entire team. Include the topic of gossip in your discussion. The gossip could have started because staff members were not informed and feeling out of the loop. Lack of information leads to perceived opinions which turn into spreading rumors. Clarify any confusion and work with your team to promote a company culture to one that encourages positive speak and open communication.
3: Encourage positive speak.
You can start by taking time during staff meetings or morning check-ins to share positive stories and successes that relate to the company, individual employees, or department teams. Encouraging positive speak can help boost company morale and help peers and bosses communicate in a way that makes everyone feel proud about their work and company. Reinforce the cultural values and positive behaviors you want in your company through story-telling.
4: Improve team dynamics.
Plan team building exercises and outings for your employees. Getting to know one another better in an environment outside of the typical day to day duties of work can break down any socio-political barriers and increase the feeling of community. You can take your employees out to a special lunch, plan an office picnic with a chili cook-off, or spend a day volunteering together at a local charity.
Gossip is going to occur, what you do about it as a manager makes all the difference. It’s important to be able to skillfully respond to it because the last thing you want is to mishandle or ignore office gossip and drive away your best employees. The worst cases of unchecked or poorly managed gossip lead to harassment in the workplace. As a manager, model the behavior you want to see in your staff. Leading by good example can impact your employees in a positive way, increase job satisfaction, and prevent a toxic work environment.