Handling gossip in the workplace

Many studies have shown that a considerable chunk of working hours is usually spent on non-working activities. While some of these activities may be productive in one way or the other to get the job done, others put a strain on productivity in the workplace. This article is about best handling a significant non-productive off-the-job activity – gossiping in the workplace.

As an employee, whenever a worker approaches you to gist about some classified information about your colleagues’ personal lives, some lesser-known events in the company, or just any malicious gossip that could give you a wrong impression about a coworker, nip it in the bud by politely requesting that they stop spreading rumors as it affects the inter-personal relationship of workers in the workplace. Let the gossipmonger know that you are not available for such conversations, and you will prefer that he doesn’t bring up such problems with you.

Alternatively, you can change the topic to discourage him from continuing with his gossip-mongering. This will naturally send the “I am not interested” or “let’s talk about something else” message to him. By doing this, you will be perceived as not being a receptive audience of such talks, and you will be left out of it in the future.

On the part of the management, since turning a blind eye to employee gossip could result in low employee morale and a toxic culture in the workplace, the administration must introduce measures to curb this as such negative talk disrupts the workplace and business activities, hurts employees’ feelings, damage interpersonal relationships, or erode employee motivation and morale.

Try to diffuse the tension in the workplace the moment you notice employees are not feeling calm. For example, it may be that a group of employees is gossiping about a coworker and hence making the person thread softly while in the company. It is better to get in the situation and act swiftly before things become worse.
Investigate the source of a spreading rumor, clarify the truth and call out the gossipmonger.

In addition, the management needs to ensure an open door communication flow in the workplace to allow for the free flow of information in the organizational structure. The status of the company’s well-being should be known to its employees. The management needs to block all possible holes through which rumors and gossip may foster in the workplace.

Lastly, include your organization’s policy on gossip in your company handbook. This should consist of what you mean by talking, explaining the problems disruptive conversation causes and why you don’t tolerate it, outlining off-limits topics, and explaining the consequences of ignoring the policy.

Summarily, while employees have freedom of speech at work, the possibility of having idle talks leading to gossip shouldn’t be taken lightly as it can disrupt the fabric of the workplace. Hence, it is the responsibility of coworkers and the management to take corrective measures to curtail the occurrence of a total breakdown of harmony in the workplace.

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