Some workplaces feel more like high school than a professional place of business. As grownups, we might have swapped drama club for happy hour cocktails, but many of us haven’t left the gossip on the playground. While gossip is part of human nature, and scholars have found it can actually work to organize and regulate our social lives, it can become a detrimental force in the workplace when it undermines cohesion and adds stress and division to an organization. While a positive workplace culture can spread throughout your staff, workplaces also tend to reproduce their worst qualities among employees, meaning that one or two gossips can quickly become a gaggle. Before you combat the rumours, it’s important to understand why gossip occurs so frequently at work and why it can be so damaging.
Check out our article Managing the Grapevine - The Impact of Workplace Gossip to learn more about recommended best practices for silencing negative conversations around your organization.
All gossip can feel personal (especially when it’s about you), but the workplace is home to a specific work-related genre of rumour and innuendo. The power dynamics unique to work mean employees gossip about promotions, restructuring, and the decisions happening beyond the boardroom door. While gossip can be destructive and tends to circulate misinformation rather than clarify it, such gossip is not necessarily malicious, but merely an expression of professional curiosity. When gossip turns to the personal lives of co-workers, though, it can be particularly damaging.
Anyone who attended high school knows that while positive recognition may be fleeting, a nasty rumour can stick to you, seemingly forever. In the workplace, gossip can increase stress among employees, lower morale, and lead to disengagement.
Teen TV dramas like Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars may be fun to binge-watch on the weekend, but no one wants to relive the high school rumour mill come Monday morning. Gossip may be entertaining, and an unavoidable part of human nature, but when it’s left unchecked in the workplace, it can have serious consequences on morale and productivity.
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