Give Concrete Definition to Office Gossip

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

Office Gossip Can Be Regulated and Defined

Some companies have successfully defined office gossip, not just general terms of behavior which is where we start. But very specifically. They call it triangulation. And this is their company policy in the handbook. Now, do you have to have it? People say, “Oh, you got to have it in the handbook first. I’ll never get it sold in a handbook.” No, you don’t.

Can you talk to an employee that way? Yeah. Can you redefine office gossip even in your own unit, the big operation? Sure. Triangulation. This is one of the most serious company offenses. Triangulation is simply having an issue with somebody and talking about it with somebody else. See, that takes office gossip out of subjective, makes it objective. Conflict is to be expected, people are going to have issues with people. It’s human nature. So, here’s how we’ve agreed as a team to handle it at this company. You have an issue with someone, talk about it with them directly. Have the conversation. Don’t just fail to express something and talk about it behind their back. That’s so junior high.

Now, HR people will go on alert, “Wait a minute. What about issues like harassment?” And look at the next line if you need to talk to someone else, first – in a classic example of somebody being harassed that doesn’t feel comfortable talking with them directly. Okay, fine. If you need to talk to someone else first before you have the conversation, that’s okay. But you leave that discussion with the date and time by which you have the conversation.

So, they’ve really gone from attitude now that you can’t deal with to behavior that is – as long as you can describe the behavior, then you can communicate and hold people accountable. Now, to very specifically here to triangulation that this is office gossip and this is what we’re not going to tolerate.

Now, about this time I get this, “Well, you don’t own me. You don’t own me. I have free speech right. It’s America” typically, especially private sector, public sector, a little tougher. But free speech is for our relationship with our government, not our relationship with our boss. Do you go up to your boss and you tell your boss where to put it? Pretty much expect to be on the curb by the end of the day. And we’ve oversold because of the access of information. There’s certain levels of behavior and communication that we’re going to tolerate and not tolerate.

Edited Remarks from “Gossip, Gab, and the Grapevine: How to Neutralize Its Negative Impact” by Hunter Lott

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