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Workplace gossip is present in nearly every type of organization that exists and can be very difficult to avoid or stamp out. Humans are social by nature and social interactions can easily turn into gossip sessions. With an understanding of what gossip really is and how damaging it can be to an organization, it may be possible to mitigate gossip and cultivate more productive interactions.
Gossip is defined as conversation or reports about a person or people that haven’t been confirmed as true. Gossip is generally negative and can be embarrassing for the person or people that are the subject of the conversation.
If gossip is common within a workplace, it can negatively impact company culture. The mood and tone of gossip can cause an attitude shift that may make a company feel less harmonious. Employees that are the subject of gossip or that haven’t been included in the conversation may also feel isolated or outcast, which can lead to increased turnover.
In some cases, gossip about employees may lead to misunderstandings or contradictions of formal policy. For example, if an employee is being mocked because they go “by the book,” it may cause other employees to shy away from following policies and rules for fear of being gossiped about. This can lead to general communication breakdowns and behavioral problems.
Gossip can be hurtful and embarrassing, so sometimes the employees that are the subject of gossip will become angry upon finding out about rumors. Conflicts including arguments and even physical altercations may erupt between the subjects of gossip and the people spreading the rumors. This can create turmoil within the organization that may even impact the bottom line.
When employees are gossiping, they are likely not working productively. Further, employees that are interested in a rumor being circulated may be distracted from their work and have trouble focusing on daily tasks and interactions with customers. Employees that are the subject of gossip may also be distracted by emotions or may fear attacks by coworkers.
Ignoring gossip can cause situations to develop that can harm a company’s reputation and detract from the bottom line in several ways. However, addressing gossip can be difficult and delicate. Discerning the truth behind gossip shouldn’t be a concern, stopping the rumors and protecting the employees from negative and defaming conversations should.
Preventing gossip from starting up in the first place can be beneficial in preserving company culture and avoiding the negative impacts of rumors. Drafting policies that specifically forbid employees from gossiping about one another and encouraging positive communications can be helpful. Making sure that managers and supervisors act as role models and don’t feed into gossip is also an important step in preventing gossip.
By thinking ahead of time about the best ways to foster productive communications and discourage gossip and rumors, you may work to establish a positive company culture.