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Managing Gossip in the Workplace

Gossip can be virulent in a workplace environment. Gossip can harm relationships by leading to an erosion of trust and creating divisiveness in a workgroup. Time wasted on gossip is unproductive time. Ultimately gossip in the workplace can contribute to serious damage to the bottom line.

Managers have a responsibility to inoculate against the toxicity of workplace gossip so that the workgroup as a whole feels safe and the group can be productive. Confronting gossip is a straightforward process. The following are suggestions for a manager when dealing with workplace gossip.

  1. Communicate to the staff that gossip is inappropriate. Describe the damage that gossip can lead to, such as disenfranchisement and anxiety. Encourage staff members to come to you for accurate information.
  2. Refrain from gossiping yourself.  When an employee approaches you with gossip, express your unwillingness to participate in it and restate the negative effects of gossip.  Redirect the employee to the work at hand.
  3. Rumors frequently arise when people in a workgroup are anxious about an anticipated change, like a merger or lay-off. Rumors can turn into gossip. The role of the management is communicate to employees often and redundantly; even if the message is, "I do not have the answer at this time" with a promise of information when it is available.
  4. Sometimes a department has chief violators of the "no gossip" rule. This can become a performance improvement issue. Speak to the offenders privately and individually. Show documentation that supports their lack of restraint from gossip. State the consequences of gossip and restate the damages that gossip can cause. Reassert your expectations for a gossip-free work environment.

Eradicating gossip in the workplace creates a win-win for improved teamwork, increased productivity and an improved bottom line.

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