Office gossip has always had its negative effects at the workplace. It makes a team unproductive, breads resentment and is a roadblock to open communications. Office gossips includes complaints being mouthed off between co-workers, managers and executives about work-related matters.
Speculation about important matters can really affect a staff’s morale. When complaints are fired up with baseless “inside information” it causes fear to rise and the company morale may dip even further.
Gossip is human nature. It can never be erased altogether. Its human nature to talk and sometimes, innocent talk lead’s to gossip. The juicier the piece of news, the more interesting the talk becomes and the more the news travels. Even ancient civilisations engaged in gossip.
Gossip spreads with the help of individuals who love to be the centre of attention. They usually initiate such provocative discussion. To some, gossiping is a way to feel part of an important social circle at the work place. Gossip creates camaraderie among members of a group. It creates trust among them.
Gossip is also rampant in a work place where there are trust issues. It is common for organizations to be divided into “camps”. Each have a certain view about the other. Accusations and blames are bound to be flying.
Gossip starts when workers are idle and have nothing much to do. They have too much time on their hands. They may be bored and have nothing challenging to occupy their minds.
A study conducted in the United Kingdom revealed that in a day, people spent at least an hour in exchanging gossip. Gossip takes up a lot of productive time at the company’s expense.
Management need to encourage open communication between management and staff. Bosses need to create a work environment where employees feel safe about voicing out their thoughts, practice an open-door policy and welcome staff into their rooms to talk openly about anything bothering them. Set a tone for transparency. Make the employees know that if they’re unsure about something they’ve heard, they can always go to the top source for clarification.
Alternatively, a suggestion or comments box can be set up where letters of complaints or worry can be dropped off. Employees need to know that it’s okay to approach the boss for clarification and that bosses will be responsive to them
The best way to keep a lid on workplace rumours is to pre-empt them in the first place. Gossip and rumours start when the employees don’t know what’s giving on or why certain decisions are being made. One of the way to resolve this is to talk to employees as much as possible and fill them in on what’s happening and why. Withholding information or delaying updating staff with important news will only make them distrust management and fire-up their fears.
There is always the other side of office gossip. Engaging in it does serve a purpose. Gossip connects people together, builds trust and friendship, and provides co-workers insight into office norms and behaviours.
According to David Sloan Wilson, a professor of Biology and Anthropology at the United State University of New York, Binghamton and author of “Darwin’s Cathedral’, gossip is a very sophisticated multifunctional interaction which is important in policing behaviour in a group and defining group membership.
Some psychologists take the stand that gossip is a relatively safe way for employees to blow off steam. Gossiping is one way to take off or relieve the pressure, otherwise the whole situation could explode. It’s an outlet for the staff to diffuse some of the tension.
Gossiping is also seen as one of the way to build friendships. Sharing a workplace secret with another person creates a kind of intimacy between those involve. It can strengthen the bond between them. Gossiping in how informal groups established in a formal organization
For some, office gossip can be the best thing you listen to in order to move forward as a team. Often gossip gives in sight in to staff’s feelings and fears. Managers can glean information about current sentiments at the workplace by keeping and ear out for non-formal communication. Then they may be better able to address the issues of concern, respond to the situation and take action to move forward.
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