While gossiping seems like a harmless pastime, it can set up a hostile work environment. If left unchecked, workplace gossip can hurt employee morale, job satisfaction and productivity. Character and human behavior are not easy qualities to control in others, especially grown adults. However, approaching an office gossip problem in a positive way helps lessen the spread of the activity, and its effects.
Team Building Exercises
It's harder to talk behind someone's back when there is a healthy team atmosphere. If a work unit is segregated or imbalanced, gossip becomes more likely. Periodically gather your work team together and conduct exercises that encourage communication. If people bond together, they're more likely to take each others' feelings into account before talking behind one another's backs. Working as a team also ensures that workers share responsibilities and creates a feeling of camaraderie that will dissuade gossip.
Open the Door
One of the first methods of dealing with office gossip is giving employees a way to communicate openly. Gossiping quickly creates bullies who try to intimidate other employees. Once an atmosphere of intimidation is created, it's harder for people to speak their minds. Foster an atmosphere where people do not suffer consequences for expressing their feelings. State in employee handbooks, and explain during employee orientation, that if employees feel there is a problem due to gossiping in the workplace, they are encouraged to let management know.
Confront the Issue
Depending on the severity of the gossip problem, it might be necessary to confront the issue head-on. Educate employees on the adverse affects of office gossip. If one particular person seems to be at the root of all the gossip, pull this person aside in a private meeting. Have a discussion with her about her behavior, and ask if there are any issues that have led to her desire to gossip about her coworkers. Reinforce this employee's strong points, but be firm that the gossiping won't be tolerated in the workplace.
Be an Example
One of the best ways to deal with office gossip is to model good behavior from the top down. Make sure members of management are not the sources of gossip themselves. Hold training seminars for management and address the issue with supervisors. Give them tools to help deal with the problems of employee gossip. Encourage them to model good behavior and portray healthy communication in the office.
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