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Controlling Gossip in the Workplace

Written by Amy Bax for Gaebler Ventures

It is something we have all participated in at one time or another. But why is it so bad? What can be done to stop it?

We have all participated in office gossip.
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We all want to know what is going on, who said what, and what the reaction will be to any major change or decision being made. It is human nature to be curious -- and we enjoy hearing and passing on information to others who are just as curious as we are.

Gossip can be an addictive problem -- especially in the workplace. Not only does it cause distraction, it can cause distress for the person being discussed, stress on the manager who then has to find the source and stop the problem, and decrease productivity for the company.

How to Stop Gossip at Work

As a manager or employer, it is your job to fix or stop any problems that result in disruption in work or negative working environments. In order to stop gossip in the workplace, it may take meeting with employees and explaining to them the negative consequences of the situation (such as decrease in efficiency, upset coworkers, etc.).

This all may seem somewhat reminiscent of junior high, but still necessary because there are issues to be cleared. Group discussions such as these give everyone a chance to air how they feel about an issue that has been spread, or to agree and add on to something another person has said. Hopefully, through a sit down such as this, clarification will arise.

If an employee has come to you about gossip or rumors that are being spread, try to find out where the stories originated from. Find out why the employee started the rumor in the first place. It could be because they are unhappy about a certain situation or aspect of work. If at all possible, resolve this problem or explain to them why things are being done a certain way.

How to Help Prevent Gossip in the Workplace

Stopping gossip in the workplace is more difficult than preventing it in the first place.

Promote a culture of mutual consideration and create a clause to be included in any employee handbook or guidelines for the office. Let people know that gossip is not to be tolerated. If people come to you or a supervisor to "tattle", remind them of the set policy and ask them how they would feel if the roles were reversed.

Some companies have even fired people for starting and promoting gossip. This should only be used for extreme cases (and when a policy is set in place). For most gossiping issues, work to correct the problem with the employee, not get rid of them.

If there has been regular gossip about supervisors or policies being set into place, keep employees as much "in the know" as possible. If you communicate with them regularly about new policies, rules, processes, etc., there will hopefully be no need for them to gossip because everyone already knows what is going on and what the reasoning behind it is.

Also, let them know you are always open for feedback. If there are any unhappy feelings about something, make yourself available to hear them. This will most likely keep employees happier because they know you care about them.

Gossip is unfortunately a more common problem than people realize in the workplace. It is likely that everyone has participated in it at one time or another. The main way to stop it is for people to realize the negative effects it has in the office and to promote a feeling of well-being and consideration.

Amy Bax is interested in providing innovative informational resources to entrepreneurs. She is currently an MBA student at the University of Missouri - Columbia.

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Conversation Board

Is gossip an issue at your shop? What's your advice on how to control gossip in the workplace?

UNKOWN 11/12/2009

Where i work the gossip and rumors seem to be getting worse. I work for the goverment and we have had a lot of layoffs. People are throwing one another under the bus left and right to save their own jobs. Our boss has set the no-gossip policy and has been speaking to employees. What would be a good quote about gossip and rumors to post around break rooms to just help send that little reminder to everyone that they should not gossip?

Sarah 11/12/2009

We created signs that had a red circle around the word gossip and then a big red slash through the middle. We also had signs that simply said "This is a gossip free zone." That seemed to do the job. Hope that helps.

Lady 8/19/2010

Question: What do you do when you work in a small office and a secretary is gossiping about you to try to get a new position in the office?

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