It’s important for managers to deal with gossips swiftly, calmly and professionally.
“Sarah” was a new manager with a difficult situation — one of her employees was an office gossip. As she was getting to know her new team and spending one-on-one time with each employee, Sarah noticed that one person’s name kept coming up, but not in a good way.
The employee being mentioned by others had earned herself the reputation as the office gossip and as someone who was critical of every action taken by the previous manager. The only problem was that Sarah had yet to witness any of this negative behavior. All of the comments were from other employees, who had been trying to warn their new boss of “Tracey.”
That changed one day when Sarah walked past the copier room and overheard one of Tracey’s negative tirades. Standing just outside the open door, Sarah listened quietly while Tracey bashed the new process changes that had just been rolled out during the department staff meeting. She continued listening while Tracey then shared her opinions of their new manager (all bad).
After listening until Tracey ran out of comments, Sarah walked into the copier room. “Tracey, I’d like to see you in my office please,” she said.
Once they were seated in Sarah’s office, she asked Tracey if there was any feedback she wanted to share about the new process changes that had been discussed during the staff meeting earlier in the day.
“Oh no,” Tracey replied. “I think the changes are great. They’ll really help us streamline things around here.”
Sarah leaned forward in her chair, raising her eyebrows. After a noteworthy pause, she said, “Hmm … so you don’t think that the new process changes are ridiculous or that no one should worry about the changes since you think that I won’t last in my role more than a few more weeks?”
Tracey’s jaw dropped, and she was too stunned to speak.
“When I walked past the copier room I heard you talking about the staff meeting, so I stopped to listen to what you had to say,” Sarah told her. “Now, let’s talk about why it’s not OK for you to behave that way.”
When dealing with an office gossip, it’s helpful to address the issue like Sarah did — by meeting directly with the perpetrator right after an incident occurs and by handling the situation in a calm, professional manner. Help the person understand why the behavior is inappropriate, the impact of his or her behavior on others, and the consequences of what will happen if the behavior continues, such as progressive disciplinary measures.