Work Gossip: Ignore or Address it?
Unfortunately, gossip is a human weakness which is quite difficult to resolve. When people speculate about co-workers, a small rumour can turn into a problem that can destroy careers and reputations. Besides, it is very sad to find out that people are speaking behind your back at work. This can affect the team unity, morale and motivation to produce. By all means, work gossip is something not to be ignored and to be solved immediately before it spreads to much.
To be prepared to face this challenge you can take a look at the following processes:
Speak face-to-face with the Instigator
After being sure who is the instigator approach him/her in a private and polite manner, however firm. According to Elliot Lasson (Executive Director and Joblink of Maryland) “Workplaces must be professional and therefore gossip-neutral or gossip-free. A rule of thumb to express might be ‘if you would not be saying that about me in my presence, then it should be avoided. Gossip may in fact be a form of verbal harassment.”.
However, the person should address the co-worker in a non-confrontational way and request the person not to continue talking about it.
Meditate on it
Although gossip is a bad thing, if we could take something positive out of it would be to understand how others see you. How are other people perceiving you? Sometimes our reality is different from others reality, and this might alert you to some positive changes of patterns for you.
Gossip tends to distract people and affect the motivation of the worker, crossing sometimes the line into harassment. It is important that you know that it is your right to go to HR and report the situation. It is important that you feel security within your company, as you have a career and reputation to maintain.
Keep your private life private
It is best to keep your private life private, not trusting your personal information with people that might tend to gossip. Analyse the environment you are in. Obviously there are co-workers that have already become great friends and it is normal you will share your personal life with them. But apart from those who you truly trust do not let it out to anyone else.
On the HR´s end, there are also some important actions to take:
Create policies about gossip in the workplace
A manager cannot disclose confidential information leading to a workplace gossip, if such thing happens, that person could face the risk of a disciplinary action or termination. Certain information must be protected, such as the salary, or other contractual agreements, amongst other things.
Be an example
As a leader you should never engage in gossip. Be assertive or change subject, but do not allow the gossip to even start.
Talk about it in a staff meeting
Let the team know that you are against it over a staff meeting, educating them towards not doing so and also expose the consequences of such action for the company and the instigators.
Flip the coin
Instigate positive gossip instead, such as achievements, awards, good examples, good stories about customers, clients, so to create a sense of proudness at work. Basically allow leaders to share testimonies on how their teams did good!
Sometimes workers might have some grudges due to something not have gone their way, or were disagreed with, and therefore these people might be quick to gossip. It is definitely best to stay vigilant as they can affect others in many ways leading co-workers to a decline towards their trust and morale, work productivity, anxiety, tension, or even an unexpected turnover and loss of good talent due to toxic work environment.