Gossip in the Workplace Could Signal Larger Problems

Joe Weinlick
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A little workplace gossip might seem harmless, but it has the power to ruin relationships and hurt your company's reputation. When employees spread rumors, other employees tend to panic, especially if the rumors relate to job cuts or the company's financial health. For years, many professionals wondered why workers would put their jobs at stake by spreading workplace gossip. Now researchers believe some employees spread rumors as a form of revenge.

Not all employees spread workplace gossip in an attempt to be malicious. Instead, they use gossip to strengthen their relationships with other workers. Some employees also engage in gossip to entertain themselves or relieve boredom. Unfortunately, even harmless workplace gossip reduces productivity and has the potential to cause an employee relations nightmare. A manager who is often the subject of workplace rumors may find it difficult to command respect or lead other team members.

Workplace gossip is especially dangerous when it comes from people who feel they have been slighted in some way. These employees spread workplace gossip as a means of exacting revenge against their colleagues or superiors. Doing so hurts morale and undermines the authority of managers. In some cases, these employees never have to answer for their actions because a cloak of secrecy prevents managers and HR professionals from finding out who started malicious rumors.

Many employees feel their employers are obligated to provide a supportive environment, the opportunity for advancement, job stability and a fair chance to earn incentive payments. If an employer fails to meet these obligations in an employee's eyes, that employee might set out to spread workplace gossip. Some employees don't even stop to think about whether the rumors might be true. They automatically believe the gossip and spread it to other people.

Gossip also has the potential to damage relationships between employees. If an employee finds out one of her trusted colleagues spread a rumor about her, she will have a hard time trusting that colleague in the future. If employees are always second-guessing each other, it will be difficult to complete team projects or improve employee relations. Employees who are always worried about how their colleagues perceive them may be less likely to volunteer for public speaking assignments or offer to take on new roles in the company. Workplace gossip is also a huge burden for supervisors who have to waste their time counseling employees instead of getting other things done.

Whether you are in charge of a handful of employees or an entire company, don't let gossip get the best of your company. Keep employees engaged and provide regular opportunities for feedback. Make sure the lines of communication are open, so you can put a stop to rumors quickly and discourage people from spreading workplace gossip.


Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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