You’re running a successful company employing nearly a hundred people. Growth is expected over the next year or two as you try to add new product lines. A more significant operation will typically require more people, albeit in small increments over a few years.
Given this projected growth and the number of employees, it’s still a relatively small operation. But it’s big enough for some organizational issues to manifest itself. You just met with the head of your HR department, and you talked about some of the most pressing issues. One of them was about the circulation of gossips in the office and how they’re creating problems. The situation today is a far cry from when you were starting the business several years ago with only five people. It’s a reality any growing company must deal with. How does one deal with office gossip? Is there an effective way to prevent people from huddling in one area to talk about non-official matters?
Here are a few things to consider:
This shouldn’t be news. Gossip permeates practically every work environment. It’s common. But as part of management running a company that needs to remain efficient and effective to meet the financial bottom line, you need to find some control to reduce the negative impacts of gossip.
Studies suggest that 14% of breaktime huddles are focused on gossips. Furthermore, 66% of these chit-chats among office colleagues are dedicated to discussing other colleagues’ social life or related topic.
The problem with gossip is that while it provides a way for people to stay connected through conversations, it is the accuracy of the topics of the conversations that sometimes suffer. Tensions and misunderstandings then follow.
HR or even heads of teams must be keen on noticing signs of gossip. If you hear stories that fan the flames of negativity rather than trying to resolve office disagreements or disputes, then you’re dealing with gossip. Does the chit-chat have any basis on facts, or is it purely based on speculation, e.g., something about an “undeserved” promotion? If it doesn’t, it’s gossip.
More Steps to Take
People come and go in an organization. Stopping gossips might be impossible. But here are some steps you should take.
- Put it in the manual. If, from day one, people understand what’s not allowed in terms of disparaging discussions about another person, it deters gossiping behavior. Management then has the leverage to take proper action towards instigators, including outright dismissal, if warranted.
- Report. The office manual must outline a process of how gossip should be reported to the organization. Employees must take responsibility for reporting bad situations to their managers.
- Employee’s role. It’s not only management’s job to deal with gossip. If an employee is at the subject of gossip, that employee must be encouraged to engage in a polite conversation, the initiator of the scandal. Again, that “encouragement” must be expressed in the manual.
- Be firm and resolute. Your employees must understand that gossip can be a form of workplace violence. Be prepared to mete out serious sanctions or disciplinary measures that truly deter negative behavior.
- Communicate. Don’t sit on “stories,” e.g., developments about the company, because it might unsettle your employees. Feelings of uncertainty already disturb them. You might as well inform them. Communication manages people’s expectations and prevents the circulation of unnecessary gossips.
It’s going to be a continuous learning process. But follow these pointers, and you can help quell the spread of office gossips.