Turning office gossip in your favour

There can be two types of organisations: one whose senior management team pretends that office gossip doesn’t occur at the workplace and another which tries by all means to quit their employees from complaining and continue to do their work.

The fact is that both workplaces start to seem like a schoolyard and it becomes a very uncomfortable place to work at. Productivity starts to decline, low morale issues start to rise and staff turnover also starts to increase. Your people feel that they cannot trust their colleagues, or even worse, their managers.  The workplace becomes a dangerous environment and can be destructive and it is not a concern that you can just stop by writing a policy which bans all office gossip. How will you enforce that?

Interestingly office gossip can also bring employees together. Gossip usually starts because your people feel that they cannot change anything about the situation they’re in. They might feel lack of empowerment. So, it starts to become appealing to stick together and face situations together.

Office gossip is like a virus. It can become malicious and can very easily spread out of control.

The reality is that both of these organisations will need to answer one question: how happy are my employees? This can very likely be the root of the problem.

There are different means in understanding whether employees are happy or not. A method which has been increasingly popular in recent years is the annual employee attitude (also known as “satisfaction”) survey. These surveys are anonymous and can uncover issues which weren’t easily identifiable. You are giving your employees a voice. It is likely that the survey can reveal the issues that are causing the office gossip. Sometimes, it is just a mean of venting out what they are feeling that will reduce the office gossip. You can never eliminate office gossip altogether.

But, office gossip can start again if nothing is done about the feedback received. If you want to reduce this type of behaviour, then the solution is simple. Do the right thing and listen to the feedback they are passing on to you. Your people will talk much less if you are doing what you are supposed to be doing.

About the author(s)

Maria Zahra is Managing Director of SurgeAdvisory. She has over fourteen years of human resources and business advisory experience.