Stopping Negative Office Gossip within the Work Environment

Negative office gossip is a destructive force in any team environment. From reducing productivity (as in people spending more time talking about other people and speculating about events than doing work) to introducing problems related to harassment or bullying, negative gossip causes serious problems in the workplace.

As a manager, it’s your responsibility to get a handle on office gossip before it gets out of control — or you could find yourself with a far more serious problem. Usually, the best way to do so is to address the issue head on and nip it in the bud. Take helpful tips to this website on dealing with office gossip.

Address the Perpetrators

In most cases, as a manager you have a fairly good idea of where gossip is coming from and who is responsible for spreading rumors. When you discover the perpetrator, your best course of action is to directly confront him or her. This is where you can put your human resources skills and training you received while earning a Bachelor of Arts in Management to good use. In a private setting, discuss the rumors with the gossiper and explain why the information being spread is harmful. If necessary, clarify any misunderstandings and clearly explain the consequences should you discover he or she continues to spread rumors. Carefully document the conversation; you may wish to include a member of the human resources staff as well to ensure everything is handled according to policy and to have a witness to the reprimand.

Avoid Office-Wide Directives

While it may be tempting to send an email to the entire office or make an announcement in the next staff meeting that you are aware of the gossip floating around and that it needs to stop, such a strategy could backfire. Not only are you not addressing the specific offenders — who may not even realize what they are doing — you’re likely to spark more gossip, as everyone wonders who is spreading the rumors and what they are. Instead, meet with your team directly to discuss the issue of gossip and share the ramifications, both positive and negative. Work together to create an office culture that doesn’t encourage negative gossip or rumor-mongering.

Model Appropriate Behavior

One of the most effective ways to discourage office gossip is to avoid gossiping yourself. As a manager, you have a responsibility to model the behavior you want to see in your team. This means resisting the temptation to repeat things you’ve “heard” or unconfirmed information. If you’ve been recently promoted, it may be difficult to distance yourself from gossip, especially if you engaged in it before, but if you want a transparent and respectful culture it’s important you do so.

Get to the Bottom of the Rumors

Many times, gossip is created as a result of uncertainty, fear or misunderstandings. Perhaps your employees saw a news item in the papers and jumped to conclusions about their jobs’ stability; by the end of the day, rumors of impending layoffs are spreading like wildfire. Maybe someone overhears part of a conversation or sees a confidential memo by accident, and tells a cubicle mate, starting the cycle. Regardless of how rumors start, it’s important for you as a manager to understand why they are starting and work hard to be as transparent and open as possible to avoid misunderstandings. For example, if you think rumors are due to an impending merger, meet with your team to discuss the possible ramifications and keep them informed of what’s happening. Getting to the bottom of the issue and clearing up any misinformation can go a long way toward stopping gossip.

Positive Gossip: It’s a Good Thing

Not all office gossip is a bad thing. Sometimes, you want positive news to spread. One way to do that is to encourage positive gossip. Did you get a compliment from a client? Share it with your staff and encourage them to tell others. Winning awards, people being promoted and stories about satisfied customers — these are things worth sharing. Again, talk with your people about the difference between positive and negative gossip, and encourage them to talk about good news as much as possible to create a positive and productive environment they can be proud to work in.

Managing office gossip is one of the most important — and possibly least pleasant — tasks any leader has to undertake. But by effectively doing so, you can create a high-performing team, and earn a reputation as an excellent and effective manager.

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