How to Deal with Office Gossip

BlogHR Advice Posted: Friday 16th December 2016 by

Negative office gossip creates an uncomfortable and negative working environment. It also has the potential to seriously affect employee productivity and engagement.

The causes of office gossip are varied, and it’s much too simplistic to blame it on human nature and a handful of loose lipped individuals. Rather use instances of negative rumour as a motivator for health-checking your employee engagement levels and the effectiveness of your internal communication. Here are our suggestions for how to deal with office gossip and stamping out the rumour mill for good!

Empower your staff

Happy workers rarely gossip. It’s impossible to keep all of your workers happy all of the time though, so how can you avoid negative chatter when there’s a problem or issue?

The answer is by empowering your staff – there’s no need to gossip about a problem when you can fix it. Make sure that your company has sound internal communication policies and practices, primarily for dealing with complaints and issues in the workplace, but also for encouraging ideas and suggestions from employees. You’re much less likely to find out that things are being discussed negatively behind closed doors if staff feel they have an effective outlet for their thoughts and concerns.

Model behaviour

Managers set boundaries for acceptable office behaviour in a number of ways, including office gossip! If a supervisor regularly whispers secrets or assumptions to employees on any number of topics, it’s very likely that staff will start acting in the same way.

Decide on appropriate behaviour for break room chat and make sure your senior staff understand and model this. Be particularly conscious of those newly promoted into managerial positions as very often these staff need to change the way they relate to their colleagues.

Speak to the perpetrators

In some cases you may become aware of the gossip source and will need to confront specific perpetrators. Make sure that this takes place in a confidential location, and that you fully explain to the individual(s) the impact of their behaviour, and what the consequence will be if it’s not stopped.

You may also need to discuss the situation with the wider team or even the entire business, and this can generally be done successfully in a staff meeting. Remember that often office gossip is a sign of frustrated employees or poor internal communications, so reinforce the message that there are effective and efficient ways for employees’ voices and opinions to be heard on all sorts of topics.

Replace negative with positive

Your ultimate aim is to replace a negative office culture with a positive one. Encourage constructive and affirmative discussion by sharing positive news and stories about your business. This could be at an organisational level, sharing recent successes such as winning a new client or completing a major project, or at an individual level, praising a staff member’s performance or idea. Staff meetings, internal newsletters and bulletin boards are all excellence platforms for this.

Use every opportunity you can to reinforce what type of organisation you are – one that celebrates success, and encourages open and honest communication to solve problems – and you’ll find that the office gossip is a distant memory.

For support on all of your HR matters, get in touch with our expert team.

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