Gossip doesn’t just tear apart friendships at the local middle school. It can erode a positive workplace environment. Once a culture of gossip gains a foothold in your small business, it starts sucking people in one by one. Pretty soon, the entire office is engaged in a daily ritual of whispering, badmouthing, and backstabbing. Productivity declines as employees’ attitudes turn from positive to negative, and workers spend more time focused on the latest piece of gossip than on their jobs. It is crucial to stop gossip in your workplace before it starts.
Lead by Example
If the business owner is by the water cooler sharing the latest tidbit about Sally from accounting’s divorce, this behavior trickles down through the entire company. Regardless if your business has a stated policy prohibiting gossip or rumours, it goes out the window when employees see company leaders engaged in the practice. Lead by example. Refuse to discuss your personal life or that of your employees. Moreover, if you have a problem with a specific employee, address the person directly rather than complaining to someone else. What you might see as the harmless venting of your frustrations is actually a form of gossip, and it can undermine your efforts to foster a positive work environment.
Have an Open-Door Policy
When employees feel like they can’t talk to company leaders about issues they’re having at work, that’s when gossip starts to thrive. A worker has her feelings hurt by a manager, and instead of going to the business owner and having a private conversation about it, she hops from cubicle to cubicle, telling her coworkers what a jerk the manager is. Before long, the entire floor is trading stories about the manager and his unpleasant ways, when it’s possible the encounter that started the gossip wheel churning was a simple misunderstanding that could have been straightened out had the leadership team gotten involved. Make it company policy that your door is always open for employees to come to you during working hours with any problems they have with other employees or work in general. Also, make sure your workers know that anything they say in these meetings will be kept confidential.
Confront Culprits, But In Private
Because gossip is a part of human nature, measures to prevent it only go so far. At some point, you’ll have an employee who can’t resist. Deal with this behaviour swiftly and sternly. Do it discreetly, though, opting for a private conversation rather than a public reprimand that just gives the rest of the office something else to gossip about. Let the employee know that if the behaviour continues, potential consequences include write-ups, docking of pay, and even termination. Office gossip is harmful, and it can crush morale and negatively affect productivity. If you take the right preventative measures and deal with flareups properly, you can stop gossip in your small business.