Is it fact or is it fiction? The truth is that it just does not matter. Rumors and gossip are a destructive force in the workplace. From the top to the bottom, Managers and Human Resources toil to do away with scandalous chitchat that takes place in our work environments.
Employees who start rumors and employees who spread gossip may not intend to cause harm, but what needs to be considered is the gross negative impact on the entire business. Lives are affected in immeasurable ways; careers can come to a crashing halt, families fall apart and companies may even close their doors.
As a Human Resources Consultant, I have been privy to water cooler rumors that circulate in the workplace and have had the opportunity to fight against that, which results from thoughtless words.
Lost productivity is the most common and obvious affect on the work environment and what most managers would automatically assume to be the major problem. Productivity loss is not only experienced by the gossipers who are spending company time chatting and emailing back and forth about the “latest news,” but also consider the loss of productivity that is experienced by the victim. When someone is spreading hurtful rumors about you, you tend to focus on a resolution instead of job duties. Resolutions are not often swift and therefore a lot of time, energy and emotion can go into squashing the gossip.
Most managers fail to consider the potential liability of festering gossip and rumors. A victim could reasonably believe that his/her civil rights have been violated under Title VII and could file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If the claimants charge is founded, then damages to the company and individual manager could be devastating.
Another area of liability that may be sought by a victim is a slander suit. Unusual or outlandish situations may also be sought after by the press and although many believe that all press is good, a situation such as this may not necessarily apply. Negative news about the manner in which a company is mismanaged may cause financial devastation.
So how do you limit workplace gossip?
Be proactive. Companies and managers who have an open door policy tend to enjoy enhanced communication with their staff; they tend to be aware of what goes on outside their door and therefore have an opportunity to speak out against negative behavior.
Enhance your policies. Let employees know that the company has a strict policy against gossiping and the spread of rumors. Most company handbooks include a misconduct policy and prohibiting disrespectful behavior such as gossiping should be added to the list of policy violations.
Build a culture of mutual respect. Part of a manager’s role is to set a positive example for the team. If the manager displays respectful behavior and treats others equally and consistently, he/she displays an example of what is expected.
Encourage staff to work as a team. People tend to gossip about others if they do not know or associate with them. Allow your employees the opportunity to get to know each other through teamwork and team building activities.
By incorporating these actions into your workplace, you and your staff can enjoy a happier, healthier and more productive workforce. Human Resources Consultants are available to provide assistance to managers, facilitate team building programs and lay the foundation for developing a positive culture.
If you have questions or would like more information about the topics discussed in this article, please contact our HR Department by clicking here. Please be sure to reference the title of the article in your inquiry.
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