Is workplace gossip, “a form of warfare that [brings] everyone down,” as suggested in a recent article in the New York Times? Or as local blogger Michelle Goodman responded, might such gossip also be a force for good that can show people in a good light, clue employees into office undercurrents, or tip everyone off to changes coming down the pike?
In my experience, some workplace gossip is inevitable, but when it rises above a certain level, it is pretty much all bad. A workplace that is rife with gossip usually means employees who are tense, unhappy, and less productive. The “office undercurrents” being discussed are rarely positive and the “tip offs” are often inaccurate.
For this reason, excessive workplace gossip shouldn’t be left untreated. Management may need to increase its communication (of accurate information) to employees, counsel serious offenders, and determine what other problems are creating a poor workplace culture. Managers and supervisors may also need to examine their own behaviors to see how they are contributing to the problem.
If it’s bad enough, maybe your organization wants to adopt something like the No Gossip Policy created by Professional Pride Training Co, Inc. The policy has employees sign a document in which they agree to take several anti-gossip actions. I particularly like number 6: “I will mind my own business, do good work, be a professional adult and expect the same from others.”
For more on the advantages of a no gossip policy, see a recent article by HR blogger Susan M. Heathfield. She writes that some companies even terminate employees for violations.
Might there be reasons not to adopt an anti-gossip policy? ~AS