Communication voids cause workplace gossip

by on June 29, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Workplace gossip exist to fill the void from lack of real information

Picture in your mind a pyramid. Lots of employees at the bottom, they climb the corporate ladder until they get to the top and they become the big boss. That’s what everyone wanted, to be the big boss. Some people said, “Nah, I don’t want to be the big boss. I want to do what I’ve always done, stay right here. And I’ll do it until I retire and the company will take care of me that rest of my life.”

Well, private sector, those days are pretty much gone. Public sector, you’ll definitely still see that. And in fact in the public sector employees are going to retire on time because they have benefits.

Changing times mean workplace gossip
This whole pyramid was reliable. It lasted for decades. It was slow to change. You didn’t have all these ups and downs; you could just count on it. In fact, I remember somebody said when I got out of college, “Oh, you got a big job at a big company. This is good. Now, hide.”

Don’t get at the top or the bottom of any list. If they don’t know that you’re around or even who you are until your retirement party, you’ve done a good job. And again, those days are gone.

Now, as you looked at the workplace. It’s much more like a pyramid, lots of employees in the middle, everybody working together.

Honestly, for old timers, we know it’s not near as much fun now to be the boss as it used to be. Baseball bat theory of motivation doesn’t work like it used to. It’s constantly changing, constantly moving. We have to work together to solve problems.

Workplace gossip flourished when managers begin to bunker down
And whether you’re going through tough times or not, these uncertain times make employees nervous and encourages workplace gossip. Natural tendency of the manager then is to honker down. “I’m going to honker down. I’m going to do what I know how to do, don’t bother me, leave me alone, I’m in my office, I’m at my cubicle, I’m doing my job. I got to harder, harder to get wherever I got to be. I got to keep working.”

We tend to get isolated. The employees are out there going “I wonder what’s going on, I wonder what’s going on. I don’t know what’s going on.” There’s this void between what’s being communicated and where the employees are.

Now to fill that void in uncertain times, they fill it with workplace gossip. Even in good times, you know people who would rather be miserable than bored.

Communication is going to be critical to avoid workplace gossip
And even today’s managers – newly promoted managers, tend not to get promoted for communication skills; we tend to get promoted for our work ethic, even for our results. But in management, we’re no longer paid really to do the work. We’re paid to see that the work gets done.

And if we’re not careful, we end up rather than increasing bottom line results, efficiency, et cetera into literally this kind of baby sitting mode.

Edited remarks from the Rapid Learning Institute conference Gossip, Gab, and the Grapevine: How to Neutralize its Negative Impact by Hunter Lott

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