Stopping workplace gossip may be impossible, but it should be among your priorities as a leader. Workplace gossip wastes time, ruins reputations, and generally does more harm than good.
I’ve written a new piece for Medium this week Gossip in the Workplace – Stop Before Someone Gets Hurt.
I know that it is human nature to gossip, to share, to communicate. But I also believe that gossip can be the root of many workplace evils. It certainly wastes time. It can ruin good people’s reputations and cause damage that takes a long time to get over.
As a Virtual VP, a manager who heals and energizes teams for companies worldwide, I know that gossip flourishes in a culture of fear. Excessive workplace gossip is often a sign of poor communications. Employees, starved for accurate, honest information, speculate and share their guesses (gossip) for validation and feedback with coworkers. The result? Gossip, a lot of incorrect guesses, and a corporate culture that thrives on rumor. When the rumor mill takes over and is the best source of information in a company, you’ve got an unhealthy company environment that should be fixed.
The Cure for Workplace Gossip
The cure isn’t simple but it is straightforward. To stop excessive workplace gossip, focus on:
- Honesty – be honest with your employees even if the news is unpleasant
- Truth – always speak the truth when asked a question. It’s better to say, “I can’t answer that now” than to
- Trust – develop a reputation as a trustworthy leader, and those who work with you will trust your word when you speak
- Openness – openness goes hand-in-hand with honesty and truth. Be open with your team about what’s going on. Share what you can. Keep them updated. Enact an open-door policy so they can talk to you about whatever is bothering them.
Gossip flourishes in a culture of secrecy. It’s like a mushroom; it needs darkness to thrive. Honesty, truth, trust, and openness are light and air and warmth thrown onto a cold, slimy, dark situation. They squash rumors and keep the air clean, the office free from harmful gossip.
Think of truth like Lysol for the conversation. It kills 99% of gossip germs before they start.
This article was written by Jeanne Grunert of Seven Oaks Consulting. Jeanne is a writer, marketing consultant and coach, and virtual team leader with over 20 years of experience. She is a compassionate lifestyle advocate and favors a kind, benevolent, accountability-driven management style.