Gossip in the office is about as common as a stapler. There are always those individuals who want their co-workers to think they are “in the know”. Gossipers often suffer from low self-esteem, talking about others or spreading rumors about you company makes them feel important and powerful.
Practically everyone is guilty of a sharing a little scuttlebutt at the water cooler from time to time. However, when gossip and rumors are out of control, the result is damaging and it creates an unhealthy work environment. According to a recent survey conducted by the staffing firm Randstad USA and Harris Interactive, 60 percent of more than 1,500 respondents said workplace gossip is their number one pet peeve.
From your perspective as the business owner, you should be extremely concerned about this situation. Workplace gossip decreases productivity, distracts people from their work, creates a divisive workplace, dramatically impacts morale and ulimately negatively affects your bottom line.
So what should you do? For starters, confront the office gossip monger and have a serious conversation with him/her. Make it crystal clear you don’t approve of gossipy habits and explain the importance of conversational boundaries in the workplace.
Additionally, I recommend you take a close look at the employee’s contributions to your company. Are they a truly valuable asset? Are they productive? It appears to me if an employee spends time gossiping it is probably impacting the quality and quantity of their work product.
Another concern is the exposure to potential liability. Depending on the nature of the rumors, your company may be subject to claims of harassment, slander or other types of legal recourse. That’s particularly true if you’ve been made aware of the situation and you haven’t taken action to remedy the situation.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Chatty-Cathy in your firm could cause you to lose business impacting your bottom line. Your company gossiper may be gossiping about your customers. What if one of them finds out that your employee – a representative of your company — is telling tales about them? Get ready for that person is to take her business elsewhere.
I’ll close with a few recommendations. Try creating a gossip-free workplace for six months or so and get buy-in from your team. Schedule open dialogue meetings every week to encourage positive communications among your employees and you. The bottom line is, if you’re unable to get the gossip in your office under control, then it’s up to you to put the kibosh on it and take corrective action for the good of your business.