Did you hear about the new gossip?

September 30, 2016

My: Marlene Cosain

Rumor has it that gossip is pure human nature. At one point, we have all either been a part of a rumor, heard the attention-grabbing bits of gossip or have been a victim of one.  We have all heard the whispers, felt the negativity, or seen the looks on employees’ faces when someone is fired. Unfortunately, it is going to happen sooner or later, as it is inevitable. Mindtools.com noted, “After all, people like gossip and interesting bits of information. At work, however, this type of interaction is harmful and costly. It wastes time, damages reputations, promotes divisiveness, creates anxiety, and destroys morale.” This is critical because gossip is a cancer to your company; therefore, you want to do everything you can to eliminate any current gossip and prevent future rumors.

What is Gossip?

Let’s start there. We need to know exactly what gossip is to prevent it. Defined by HR Advisor, “Gossip is defined as a form of communications that an individual(s) participates in for the purpose of discussion, or passing onto to others, "hearsay" information. Gossip is a very destructive, hurtful, and divisive form of communications that often permeates the workplace.” When there is gossip in the workplace, employees are communicating negativity or information that is not known to be true that can hurt others in the workplace.

Why does gossip begin?

Rumors typically originate from someone of less authority who is seeking to fit in with others, so they make talking about coworkers a point of conversation. Small Business Chron noted research provided by The University of Virginia Health Systems, “People who gossip believe that it will help them fit in with their co-workers or it gives them a sense of importance.”

How is it harmful?

One of the most important arguments against gossiping is the unproductive atmosphere it sets. Employees are too busy engaging in negative conversations that it takes time and attention away from their priorities.  Even more imperative, not all employees realize the degree of seriousness associated with gossiping. Depending on the rumor, different people and subjects are affected. If an employee is discussing a rumor about someone’s drug abuse, criminal acts, sexuality, or racial profile it can result in defamation or other serious consequences. What seems like such a simple problem then turns into a legal matter.  To avoid these measures, Small Business Chron noted that columnist Weissenberger recommends, “Mangers be serious about enforcing a ban on gossip and explain the damage that it can cause.” By doing so, employees will understand the severity of the matter and the consequences that they will be held accountable.

Now, how do we end it?

Although gossip is unavoidable, you have the power to control it and diminish it as much as you can.  The number one tip I can emphasize is communication. Usually, people tend to gossip about topics they are uncertain about. For example, if a few people have been let go, rumors will begin about layoffs. The best away to avoid any misinformation from surfacing or being made up is to be open about certain topics.  In addition, MRSC Local Government Success also suggests that you incorporate an expectations segment. For instance, “Do not participate in spreading gossip and rumors, and do not tolerate it from others. Rumor and gossip sabotages the team's ability to work together effectively. It is disrespectful, nonproductive, and a selfishly motivated act that impedes employees from performing their jobs. If you hear about an issue that pertains directly to you, verify the accuracy of the information by asking the supervisor or the coworker involved, rather than simply passing on the information.” Set the expectations and make them known.

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