Gossip has always been a presence in the workplace, and you’ve likely encountered it at least once in your career. Workplace gossip may seem harmless enough, but in severe cases gossip is a form of harassment. Gossip increases conflict, decreases morale, strains work relationships, breaks trust between individuals, and puts a heavier responsibility on managers and supervisors to settle employee differences. Gossip can also make collaborative assignments difficult if employees are broken into cliques and refuse to work with each other.
It is unrealistic to think that you can eliminate gossip from the workplace entirely; after all, inter-office friendships should be encouraged. The important thing to do is to distinguish between idle office chit-chat and harmful office jabber. Although idle chatter may have no particular conversational value, gossip is usually negative, inflammatory, and embarrassing to the person being spoken about. To truly understand if something is gossip, you must consider the impact of what is being said. Ask yourself: does it cast a negative impression? Does it create divisions among workers? Does it exploit the misfortune of others? Is it hurtful or damaging? Would you say it if the person were present?
A certain amount of office prattle is unavoidable, but spreading malicious rumours or degrading comments can cause serious injury to both employees and the workplace culture. It is important that you discourage all instances of gossip and confront employees professionally. The best way to prevent office rumours from getting out of hand is to set an example to employees. Abstaining from spreading gossip or passing gossip onto others, and refusing to listen to gossip, will help promote a healthy work environment.
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