Regardless of your industry or geography, people “talk”. Gossip happens. Gossip in the workplace can be damaging and when left unchecked, can erode an organization, break down teams and quickly diminish trust. It can start simply as a joke or a snide remark. Surprisingly, when asked, many managers say that gossip is something that was left behind in high school. After 20 years working in various roles as a leader and trainer, I assure that it was not.
Dealing with workplace gossip and rumors can be challenging, but with some focused attention and a clear strategy, it is one that any leader can successfully tackle.
Sometimes, the hardest part in dealing with workplace gossip involves having that tricky conversation with the employee who is accused of gossiping or spreading rumors.
Every situation is unique … And here’s an example of a conversation that flowed well and worked for me in the past:
– “I wanted to meet with you today because I have been made aware that you’re participating in gossip (or spreading rumors). This type of behavior is disruptive.”
– “Without rehashing all the details, I want you to know that it isn’t acceptable. Gossip breaks down relationships and it builds up walls that make working together very difficult. Gossip at work can make communication between team members so difficult. Sometimes impossible.”
– Ask, “Is there an underlying problem or issue between you and “Michael” that I can help you clear up so that we can put this behind us?”
You do want to allow the employee accused of gossiping time to share “their side” of the story in order to uncover any details that might help as you work to manage the situation and assist the employee to improve their work relationships.
This meeting doesn’t have to be long and drawn out. In fact, don’t allow it to be. Get straight to the point. Sometimes employees want to rehash every detail of what you heard, what you know, and what you think … Do NOT fall for that.
I generally deliver my message whether an employee “admits” to gossiping or not. If they are adamant that they didn’t participate in gossip, I will hear them out and finish the short conversation anyway. I implore them to help me spread the word about the importance of building great relationships at work.
Dealing with workplace gossip can be tricky, but in order to keep employees focused on objectives and organizational goals, it cannot be ignored.
Would you like to talk more about this topic in general, or do you have a particular tough situation that you’re dealing with? Or maybe you would like to discuss ways to improve the atmosphere in your workplace to eliminate gossip all-together? Contact your HR strategist, Niki Ramirez, and let’s get the conversation started.
About the author: Niki Ramirez is a seasoned business consultant and HR coach with a knack for engaging business leaders. She has a successful track record partnering with a wide variety of organizations to analyze current human resources and business operations with the objective of designing cost-effective HR, training, and employee relations programs that help every organizations exceed their goals.
Maybe most importantly, Niki is the proud momma to three strikingly intelligent, gorgeous, funny kids. She loves to horseback ride and get outside to hike and explore the world every spare minute that she has.