ACI HR Solutions

Gossip, a common source of unhappiness in the workplace, can be reduced if both management and employees play an active role in keeping communication channels open.

Gossip is often inevitable in the workplace. What are some detrimental effects?

Gossip in the workplace can be a serious issue, having detrimental effects to both individuals and the company itself if left unchecked. It is one of the biggest causes of employees being unhappy at work and can destroy reputations, cause people to be disrespected and result in workplace conflicts.

Lost productivity for an organisation can be a direct result of staff spending excessive time “gossiping” and wasting time otherwise spent on their core duties.  More alarmingly, it has the potential to create an impact on an organisation’s culture by creating a toxic work environment and severely erode staff morale. These are serious outcomes and some organisations have gone as far as to craft formal policies against workplace gossip.

How can a manager keep office gossip at a minimum?

Management can play an important role in reducing gossip, but for the best results, both management and employees should work together.
As a manager, it’s important you make it clear that you aren’t interested in listening to gossip if an employee approaches you with one, as simply listening is an endorsement from management that gossiping in the workplace is acceptable.
A simple response of “I don’t think it’s productive or fair to talk about other people when they aren’t present” should make your position clear.
During staff meetings, through firm but gentle announcements, make it clear to staff that gossip is not acceptable in your department. You can use the opportunity to explain the damage that can be done through gossip. However, you need to walk the talk. If you want gossip to stop, you must ensure that you will never participate.

There is a bad rumour about the company spreading in the office and employees are starting to get affected. What can a manager do to contain the situation?

Start by improving the communication flow and addressing the workplace issues openly. Gossip (or grapevine information) tends to occur when there is a vacuum of information. With the lack of official information, staff will speculate and circulate rumours. By keeping staff better informed and being more open about information, you can remove the need to create false information to fill the gap.
Also, if you identify one or two people who are leading the gossip mill, you may need to speak to them individually, and privately.
Explain to them the damage and problems they are causing, and explain that while spreading gossip seems harmless, they themselves could eventually become victims of it.
If the problem continues, you may need to make this a performance issue, since it can severely affect productivity, and team cohesiveness and effectiveness.

How can a manager ensure office gossip will carry no weight on a staff’s performance appraisals?

Managers have to maintain objectivity. They should strive to make appraisals based on clear, irrefutable information when determining performance in the workplace.
Using objective methods prevents complaints from employees who feel their performance evaluations are biased or unfair.