How To Defeat Office Gossip

Virtually all conversations at work are gossip! Does that figure surprise you? We are all, regardless of whether or not we believe it, a provider and consumer of gossip of some form. Similarly a growing proportion of email is actually of the gossip-kind and this figure is growing steadily.

Whilst we cannot ever stamp this out we have to recognise that it poisons working relationships, challenges our reputation and standing at work and limits co-operation and collaboration which actually disrupts work and will deflate the bottom line.

Gossip is born out of uncertainty. When we are uncertain our natural defence mechanism is to make assumptions, especially if those assumptions are suitable to our own, slightly, biased views and perceptions. Gaps in knowledge encourage gossip: the less gaps there are the less damage gossip can do!

Try the following to limit gossip:

Tell staff what is going on!

Always fill any void that emerges with the truth and details about what is happening. Major organisational change always generates huge amounts of gossip but this is because managers are not quick enough to plug those knowledge voids with accurate and relevant details of the reality of the situation!

A lack of knowledge creates panic – this creates gossip!

Find out what your Team thinks!

Always ask lots of questions off the Team when you re bringing in change – regularly seek out opinions and feelings from the Team before, during and after the change programme. How did staff feel about the changes before, during and after the process of change?

Also by asking they feel after a change allows you an opportunity to gauge the likely gossip and undercurrents that will be heading your way.

Always be clear!

Be very mindful of the damage that gossip can bring: this can be achieved by fully knowing the characteristics and feelings of the team and how work is planned and delivered. Good, open meetings and focused and meaningful 1:1 sessions will ease this problem.

Be a strong role model!

Employees look to their managers as role models and messengers of organisational values. A strong ethical and empathetic focus will always reduce gossip and allow the “right” message to get to where it needs to get to. Similarly always keep to the facts at all times and avoid speculation in your communication – this will give untold power and credence to gossip as there will be a void waiting to be filled by uncertainty.

In short, uncertainty and unclear communication stimulates gossip – simple steps can minimise its destructive power and make for a happier and more productive workplace.

Good Luck!

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