Office Gossip and How to Avoid It

By: Together Abroad 05-02-2017

Categories:* Ethics ,
Gossip in the office is inevitable. In fact asperthe Harvard Business Review, 90% of all conversationperiodsare considered gossip. Most gossip is harmless, and is a means of communication that allows a way for two strangers to feel closer to each other. Some gossip can be harmful though, not only to other people but also to an entire organization.

An organization I previously worked for decided to change the compensation plan for sales reps to increase sales in a specific area of the business. Rumors of this change and what the new structure of compensation would be flew around the office, and none of it was positive. Unfortunately, this ended with some of the most experienced and best sales reps leaving the company. The employees worried that they would be compensated less for the same work, so they started to look elsewhere. This situation resulted from lack of communication between managers and employees, with lots of uncertainty. Negative gossip runs through an organization quickly and if nothing is done to clear up the misconceptions, organizations will quickly feel the ramifications of their misstep.

Gossip becomes extreme during times of stress or uncertainty within an organization. Most gossip is bred from speculations and rumors going around the company about firings, reorganizations, HR issues, etc. One of the best ways to stop gossip in its tracks is communication. When changes are occurring, managers benefit from communicating as much as possible before, during, and after the changes. The more facts that employees are given, the less likely they are to fill any uncertainty with gossip and rumors.

If gossip continues after ample communication is given, managers should identify the key sources of gossip and confront those employees. It might be that those employees have a specific issue with the changes or something is unclear to them, but by not addressing this, managers are allowing the negativity to spread throughout the organization. Negativity only breeds more negativity so cutting this off at the head is beneficial for the company and the rest of the employees.

Lastly, managers need to lead by example and be sure they are not an additional source of any negative gossip. If the managers show positivity and a good outlook on the organizational changes, it will trickle down to employees. Changing habits of yourself and others around you is a long process and is not always successful, but if you can work to make the workplace a more positive place and encourage that type of culture, you will have happier employees.

Ashley Herbert