The Detrimental Effects of Overlooking Workplace Gossip

A recent study found that 21% of employees regularly participate in gossip, so as an executive in your organization, you have probably dealt with your fair-share of workplace gossip. HRZone defines workplace gossip as the “form of informal communication among colleagues focused on the private, personal and sensitive affairs of others.” While some gossip can be uplifting and paint a person in a positive light, it most frequently tends to be negative, as it is often a passive-aggressive attempt to hurt, demote, or harm someone’s reputation.

While it may seem like harmless chatter at first, allowing gossip to persist, or simply overlooking it, can cause a variety of consequences for your organization. Gossip frequently causes a decline in trust and morale, as employees no longer feel comfortable in the office. Additionally, it can lead to an unexpected turnover of your best talent, given the toxic culture makes work unenjoyable for not only the employees being talked about, but also for the employees who are not directly involved but are tired of the constant drama. Workplace gossip creates a high-stress environment for everyone in the office, inevitably putting undue stress and emotional strain on even the best of employees.

The consequences of workplace gossip are not only restricted to the well-being of your employees, as frequent gossip in the office is known to financially affect organizations, as well. According to Teamworks, the average gossip session lasts 15 minutes, resulting in 65 hours of wasted time per employee each year. In addition to this wasted time, employees’ productivity levels will significantly decrease as they become more and more involved in the stories being told. What can seem like casual conversations between employees actually has the power to slowly dismantle a successful team, which is why it’s important to address the issue as soon as you find out what’s going on.

In the corporate world, gossip is viewed as so dangerous and insidious that it is considered a form of workplace violence. After understanding the implications of this unwanted chatter, taking a proactive approach towards stopping or preventing it is a significant part of your organizational role. The type of approach you take will solely depend on the severity of the gossip, the consequences it has posed, and the personalities of the individuals involved.

When it comes to putting an end to already present drama, it’s important to be aware of the different personalities of every employee involved. While some individuals thrive on confrontation, others are intimidated and discouraged by it. Additionally, coddling the victim and publicly supporting them might be useful for some personality types, while others will become embarrassed or appalled by such actions, putting an even higher emotional strain on them. Don’t let this discourage you from addressing gossip head on, though; as long as you know your co-workers well, and you’re confident in your ability to cater to their personalities, it won’t be too difficult to put an end to this detrimental chatter.

While dealing with the employees who participate in workplace gossip is important, so is knowing the steps you can take to prevent it. First, communicate with office members frequently; consistent communication reduces the need for gossip, as everyone is on the same page with what’s going on. Second, make sure your company handbook has a section that discusses a gossiping policy, and ensure that it outlines the possible consequences an employee will face if they are engaging in it. Lastly, set a good example. If someone approaches you with what seems like gossip, put an end to it right away. Explain that you are aware of his/her destructive behaviors and make it clear you don’t want to participate in it.

Gossip should never be viewed as ‘harmless’, nor is it something to take lightly. If you’re not confident in your ability to gauge employees’ personalities, and need help figuring out the best way to approach them, contact us today to learn more about our Optimizing Take Back Your Life!: Personality and Productivity program.