Office Gossip: What Can You Do?

Office gossip can be quite a problem. It can lead to unproductivity,Office Gossip: What Can You Do? Articles mobbing, harassment, and lack of focus. We want people’s attention focused on their work at work, not on the private lives of other employees.

Why does it happen? Because we’re people and we like to sit around and talk, and probably our favorite topic of conversation is to talk about one another. The problem is that if you want to tell a good story, there’s a temptation to embellish, get controversial and head in directions that can get out of hand. Then someone hears a comment about themselves they don’t like and they begin to think they’re working in a bad environment and from there it’s just a step over to discrimination.

What can management do to decrease the amount of gossip in an office? Part of it is setting an example. If you talk about things in a straight forward manner, let everyone know, don’t keep secrets, and don’t whisper in the hall, you set that tone for employees.

It’s tempting not to talk about problems that conern the office, business or employees because from your point of view, you probably don’t have enough information yet, and most importantly you don’t know what you’re going to do about it. It’s “tidier” to wait until all the information is in, make a decision and then announce it.

However, employees always know something’s going on — we’re very astute about picking up vibes about things that impact us — and so speculation will start. This is people talking among themselves trying to guess what’s going on. It starts rumors, and remember again that human love of telling a good story and getting attention. The one with the “best” rumor wins brownie points, and it doesn’t help you or the office morale.

It’s also likely to occur when someone has too much time on his or her hands. When, as a kid, I started making trouble for myself and my sisters because I had nothing to do, my grandmother would give me something constructive to do (a chore, a book to read), saying, “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.”

Management needs to model the appropriate behavior and also to make policies known. You have to work proactively to set an environment of respect and dignity where rumors and malicious gossip isn’t tolerated. This means you can’t be doing it yourself.

Management can also work to build a culture that’s supportive rather than overtly competitive. Putting proactive emotional intelligence and anti-mobbing programs in place show positive intent. To see an excellent pro-respect statement – the State of Oregon, Dept. of Environment Quality ANTI-MOBBING policy NO. 50.110, at .

People are also less inclinced to gossip if they know there are avenues for addressing grievances within the company.

It’s important not to ignore incidents of rumor and gossip. Ignoring it is like agreeing to it in the minds of employees. It’s generally one of those things that doesn’t go away.

Rumors must be dealt with immediately. Get the two people together who are involved (the one making the rumors and the one being gossiped about) and talk it out. If you suspect someone of being a chronic gossip, go with your instincts and check it out. Then address it.

It’s human nature to test the limits, so it’s important that you publicly model what you’ve proclaimed. The first time you let something slip, your credibility goes down. People think “she doesn’t mean what she says.” It’s far harder to regain lost ground than to enforce policies in the beginning.