No matter how professional and well-oiled your workplace is, there’s always going to be a healthy dose of office gossip occasionally permeating through the hallways. It’s understandable how work can get a little monotonous for everybody—even those most engaged, high functioning employees are going to have a few days here and there where they feel like they’re just spinning the wheels. Naturally, any sort of rumor about the company or a colleague is going to make people’s ears perk up a little, which can sometimes perpetuate the cycle of office gossip, which can have extremely negative consequences.
Here are some strategies on preventing that negative gossip in your workplace!
Lead By Example
Be the employee that you wish to lead! If you are a manager, you are naturally going to always know a little bit more about your organization and the people in it. If you come across some interesting news, you may be tempted to share it with those employees close to you. Even if the subject of your gossip isn’t necessarily harmful or overly negative, you have to resist the urge to share it with others. If you don’t, this could slowly influence your employees into thinking it’s OK to discuss matters of gossip and rumors, including ones with negative connotations. As a manager, you sent the tone in your workplace!
Address the Individuals
If you have someone in your workplace that is a well-known Chatty Cathy or Gabby Gary, you have to approach the subject with the employee directly. If you send a mass email to your whole team about “eliminating the gossip in the workplace”, this could easily backfire and just give the individuals more material to spin into a negative conversation. By privately speaking with those who tend to overshare and spread rumors, you can work to shut down the gossip at the source. Coach them through the impact that their behaviors have, and how it can have a negative effect on the office culture and morale. This is also an opportunity to set expectations and consequences for the future.
Address the Team
After talking with those who seem to have a penchant for spreading gossip, call together the team for a quick staff meeting and let everybody know that we need to eliminate the negative chatter. Never call out individuals in a group setting for something like this, and shut down anybody in the meeting who does. The purpose of this meeting is to simply make sure that everyone in the workplace is on the same page. Let them know that management has noticed an increase in the amount of gossip and rumors flying around, and it’s something that needs to change or else further action will be taken. Explain to your team how gossip and rumors tend to have negative context, and this creates distrust and misinformation among the team. Keep in mind that your words won’t hold any weight if you’ve personally been one to gossip a little in the past, so it’s important to keep a high standard for yourself!
Sometimes employees can turn to gossiping about other individuals or projects simply due to a lack of real information. If upper management has something in the works that seems to be drumming up interest, discuss with your colleagues if there is anything substantive that you may be able to share with the team as a whole. People are interested in things that can affect them, especially when it comes to their careers and how they make a living. There are certainly plenty of things that simply cannot be considered public knowledge—but there might be some occasions where you can communicate some information to your company that may help reduce the amount of gossip regarding a particular subject.