Office gossip spreads like wildfire and is detrimental to the workplace morale. How do we create an environment that is anti-gossip?
- Make it clear that gossip will not be tolerated.
- Develop consequences for employees who are participating in spreading hurtful information and enforce these consequences consistently.
- Train your employees on how to handle someone who is talking behind someones back.
- Have them assertively state that they are uncomfortable talking about employee “x” when they are not there. “I’m not comfortable with this conversation, I should get back to work.”
- Give them monotone statements to say such as, “that’s an interesting thought,” or “Hmmm.”
- Tell them they can come to you confidentially and report a gossip situation or to discuss it
- Instruct them to not pass it on.
- Have them walk away without any engagement.
- Give them the option to inform the person of what is being said without disclosing who the information came from.
- Educate your staff on direct communication and give examples of how to go directly to the person they have an issue with instead of involving a third party. This decreases the triangulation that is uncomfortable for the third person, or that can cause rifts with the third person and the one they have an issue with. Since the other person can solve the problem they may feel powerless and resolution to the issue is difficult without the person who has the issue is confronted. If the third person enjoys being involved in these situation for the power or drama, they would probably do the same to you.
- Assist them in using “I” statements. Have them practice saying how they feel about a behavior or situation, and what they want or need. When people are assertive, it demonstrates that their needs matter, the issues matters, and the other person matters as well. Help them avoid passive aggressive or plain aggressive behavior and words.
- If an issue can not be worked out between the two parties, then a supervisor, not someone of equal position, can act as a mediator.
- Make sure that you are not participating in the gossip and instead setting a good example.
- If information about someone is personal and does not effect their work performance, then it does not need to be shared by anyone else but that person.
A positive work environment that practices healthy communication creates a sense of safety for employees. If the managers decide not to tolerate that behavior and there are consequences for gossip, then employees will find other ways to gain recognition and power. Hopefully these ways will be a healthy and productive addition to your work environment.