People love to gossip, especially at work where it can be about anything, from colleagues to superiors and the company policy itself. However, gossip in the workplace can be damaging. What can you do about it?
Discussion and Gossip
Discussing work related matters is obviously necessary when at work. However, there is a fine line between discussion and gossip.
- A discussion is always friendly and supportive. It is where two people exchange information based on facts in a positive, matter of fact way.
- A Gossip on the other hand is a confidential talk between people, where someone or something else is portrayed negatively; it can be an office policy or the behaviour of a work colleague. Character assassination is one possible consequence of these types of chats.
Gossip is often fuelled by uncertainty and bad communication between the management and the staff, foe example in the case of the new management or new policies.
Effects of gossip
Even though discussions about workplace are good, gossip usually leads to bad results:
- It disrupts the work place
- It can demotivate and demoralise the employees
- It can hurt someone's feelings
- It can damage work rapport
Who can start a gossip?
Sometimes you may not even notice that you are already in the middle of it and by the time you know what's going on, it's already too late. You end up thinking about work but don't want to be in the office. You look at others with suspicion and you don't find your work interesting any more. The worst part is, the one person you considered your best friend at work, is out there to get you!
Believe it or not, such people do exist and they are very meticulous. They’re often sweet talkers adept at moulding conversations to their advantage. They will twist and turn and slowly have you entangled in their web and if you are caught, there is no escape! But why do they do it?
According to experts, there are two main reasons why such people start gossiping – Either they are jealous of you and want to clear their way to work up to the top of the corporate ladder; or they suffer from low self-esteem and feel powerless.
In order to feel more powerful and to get what they want, they might befriend so one day they can come to your rescue. As you start trusting them, they’ll fill your ears with vague talks and unsubstantiated 'facts'. While they are pretending to be close to you, they would gain an insight into your habits – both at work and personal. Then, they would use this knowledge about you when talking to others, portraying you in bad light, tearing down your rapport with your friends and bosses. All this while, you will not even have a clue about what's happening and suddenly you'll find yourself being the outcast at work. You will end up in depression, want to leave the job and go start a new life.
How to deal with it?
Before it's too late and everything gets out of hand, you need to examine your workplace carefully. Look around for what people are talking about and refrain from indulging in any discussions that are not factual. Gossip-mongers always tend to keep their talks vague, they wouldn't directly quote an incident or a name, but will generalise things so that they can't be held accountable for taking any name.
The best way to deal with such people is by being direct with them. Tell them straight that you do not want to indulge in any gossip. If you find them talking about something vague, ask them for specific information every time they make a vague reference.
All this while, when you are trying to deal with a gossip-monger at work, it's very important to keep your own morale high. The best way to do it is discuss it with your partner or a friend who is not at work. It will keep your spirits high and you won't take the work gossip to your heart. You should also take the issue up with either the HR or a trustworthy senior at the work place.
If you are someone in a position of authority at work, you should look for facts and find out why the gossip originated in the first place to get to the root of it. If the gossip is not personal and about workplace policies, you should ensure that factual information is easily accessible to everyone to cut back on speculations. For personal gossips, find out the person responsible and deal with them directly -
- Ask them what's really bothering them?
- Tell them that you are going to follow up the gossip with the targeted person.
- Try to offer genuine assistance to the gossiper, finding out if there is a real cause of unfair treatment.
- If the gossiper is adamant and doesn't come clean with it, you must let them know that it needs to stop. This will alert them and they might be scared to carry on with their shenanigans. If not, be prepared to let such a person go. Remember that one bad fish can spoil a pond!
- Also find out why the targeted person was being targeted, if there is some way to improve their morale, do it.
You should also encourage your employees to not participate in work gossip and make it a company policy. Put it in a positive perspective by telling staff what they should do and discuss instead of what not to do.
You can have your HR department come up with posters and emails that inform the staff what is considered to be gossip at workplace and how they can avoid it.