Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Office Gossip, Make it Stop!

We all have that one person in the office that has nothing better to do than talk about her co-workers. And let's be honest, we have all participated in gossip at one time or another. After all, it’s tough to resist a juicy new piece of information about another person. Co-workers overhear a colleague making dental appointments, having marital spats, and discussing layoff rumors. The question is: what do they do with the information they hear? Does your corporate environment condone gossip?

Employees need to understand that rumors can “permanently damage professional images.” Busybodies who blabber about other people’s business may derail their own careers as well.

Before sharing a juicy tidbit, people need to ask themselves:

• Will discussing this information distract people from the work at hand?

• Could this tasty morsel damage morale or someone’s reputation?

• Does it “cross the line into harassment?”

If yes to any of these, then folks need to keep their mouths shut.

Now on the other hand, some gossip has also been proven to be useful in the workplace. There are supervisors who learn how hard their employees work through gossip, like how: “Jayne has been volunteering with a lot of projects lately.”

Insightful workers use gossip to their advantage. For example, learning that your co-worker is going on a month-long leave will give you the opportunity to immediately volunteer to help out with any of their projects while they’re away, making you look good in front of your boss.

As we know, not all gossip is good. Malicious gossip like: “I can’t believe that suck-up Frank got the promotion” can decrease workplace productivity and cultivate resentment. This is even worse when false rumors meant to bring others down are spread.

Negative gossip and mud-slinging does not just bring one person down. The negativity in the workplace environment fills it with tension, making it bad for everyone. If the office atmosphere is strained, small problems are blown up and of employees become anxious and tense.

Evaluate the Gossip

When your co-worker comes to you with some new tidbit of gossip to tell, try answering the following questions:
  • Why is my co-worker sharing this news and what are his/her motives? 
So Kathy's saying that Larry, the project head, hasn’t been putting a lot of effort in the new assignment. Yet hasn’t Kathy been always jealous of Larry’s fast advancement? Could she be just doing this because she wants to create an opportunity for herself? Don’t forget to ask this question when you’re the one faced with a piece of interesting information which you want to share. Why do you want this information to be known? Is it because you’re happy or concerned for a co-worker, or just jealous of him or her? If your answer is the latter, be reasonable and try to consider the negative consequences which spreading this might cause, and if you feel like you really have to tell it to someone, tell your cat.

  • Does this news have any basis? 
This question is especially important if you’re a manager. If you’ve been hearing negativity about a team member’s work habits, it’s always good to check the facts by asking more neutral parties or the person directly involved, before action can be taken to correct any problem. It's important to remember that it’s never good to cause any false speculation or mud-slinging. Rumors will only create negative outcomes and resentment. 

Inspire Positive Conversation

Everyone would prefer to work in a healthy positive environment rather than in an uncomfortable, backstabbing one. Try to be a role model in the betterment of favorable conversation; this is especially important if you’re a team leader. If you hear anyone starting gossip that you know is just malicious talk and mud-slinging, stop it immediately. You can say something like: “I don’t think Jake is a slacker like you’ve been saying. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen him working a lot of overtime lately. "If the mean talk continues, the issues should be brought up in a company meeting; talk about how the nasty gossip and mud-slinging has been negatively affecting everyone’s work. You may be surprised to see other co-workers are thinking the same way as you do. 

Act Promptly

Make sure to clarify things with anyone involved. If someone has been spreading a rumor that you’ve been taking credit for Steve's work, talk things out with Steve and make sure that he knows that the rumors aren’t true. Speak with the person who has been fueling the rumor mill. Try to uncover and solve the source of the resentment. Be calm and composed during the conversation. Acting rash or immature will only turn the situation even more against you. Show how fictitious the gossip is by behaving in a way that contrasts the chatter. By continuing to live life the way you’ve always had, you’ll extinguish any talk false rumors against you.

We spend more time with our office family during the week than we do our children and our spouses; so we need to do everything we can to make it as enjoyable as possible.