Allowing negative workplace gossip to flourish can lead to a culture of distrust and negatively impact productivity, morale, engagement and turnover – not to mention increase a company’s legal liability. New managers should act quickly – unless stopped, pervasive negative gossip can be like a disease that spreads, wreaking havoc throughout the department and company....
You’ve just become a manager, and it’s your job to ensure that the department achieves its goals and objectives. This can be difficult to do if you’re stepping into a situation where workplace gossip has been allowed to run rampant.
Negative gossip can create productivity issues, because employees feel the need to engage in “CYA” behavior; morale issues, because employees come to distrust each other and the management team; employee engagement and turnover issues, because high-performing employees will look for jobs elsewhere; and even liability issues, when pervasive gossip is deemed harassment.
The good news: Being new to your managerial role is the best time to get to the bottom of what’s going on and then put a stop to it. Here’s how.
1. Address the perpetrators. Stop negative gossip on a personal level by directly addressing the gossipers one-on-one. Do this in a location behind closed doors, such as a conference room. Help them understand the impact of their behavior and the consequences of what will happen if their bad behavior continues, such as a written warning that will go into their personnel file.
2. Meet with your team. The next step is to discuss the situation with your entire team. This can be done by including it as a topic for discussion in a staff meeting. Help the team understand the differences between negative gossip and positive gossip, and the ramifications of each.
3. Encourage positive gossip. Positive gossip can be good for companies and employees. This is when managers and employees share positive stories; for example, a medical company communicating the story of a life that was saved by one of the company’s defibrillators, or one employee mentioning another who went out of his way to help a customer.
4. Model the behavior you want to see. Have you been known to gossip in the break room with others? If so, that behavior must stop now that you’re a manager. Employees will look to you for what behaviors are acceptable, and you need to lead by example.
5. Don’t try to stop negative gossip at a company-wide level. Sending out an email blast to all employees that “office gossip won’t be tolerated” or addressing the issue during an all-company meeting is not effective. Not only does this fail to address the specific offenders, it also makes management look conflict-averse. Instead, managers should be trained on how to deal with conflict and encouraged to address negative gossipers immediately and directly.