How Managers Can Neutralize Gossip In The Workplace

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

What Managers Can Do About Gossip In The Workplace

Some behaviors for neutralizing the negative effects of gossip in the workplace.

  • First, this concept of leadership. We are the example. They’re going to follow us, our approach to situations, how we respond to situations. As I said, just like any kid, they’re looking toward us. Good people know who the bad ones are. They know we know. And they’re looking toward us to do something about it. So that if we ignore the destructive gossip in the workplace, they’re sent the message. “Yup. Well, that must be okay because look it’s ignored or everybody gets permitted the same and treated the same way. So what am I worried about?”
  • The power of praise. This one’s so much fun. Take employees to lunch. As a new manager, they called it fast track. I asked personnel what that meant and they said, “We don’t give you any training. We throw you up against the wall. If you stick, you’re in management.” If you’re in a big bureaucratic company, it’s a little harder to do. Smaller companies, a little easier. If you’re the owner of the company, boy, you can really create this message.

    Gallup showed the average employee had been talked to I think the number of actually specifically 65% of employees had said they had not been given a thank you in the last year by their immediate supervisor. Remember, if there’s a communication gap, they will fill it typically with the negative gossip in the workplace. And that’s a pathetic number, 65%. If we don’t have the time to say thank you, we get the employees we deserve. It’s not that hard but a great opening for us. Small unit a company, small company compared to the one down the street trying to attract and keep good people. These are little things. But what employees are telling us is the little things make the big difference. And when the supervisor’s paying attention, the gossip in the workplace does not become destructive.

  • Consistency. Ditto, Ditta. Do it to one, do it to all. Usually, morale is a direct line to consistency. If people know where they stand, then the morale is not the issue. We are hotwired as individuals for consistency, some more than others. So that consistency is a powerful link. If people know where they stand, they may not agree with it but I know where I stand with this guy. Then that limits the effect of the gossip in the workplace. And I’ll make exceptions. I will make exceptions to my policy procedure for good people, not based on age or sex or race but based on performance, based on behavior.

    So if I have a weekend that comes up and it’s inventory or it’s craziness and I ask for volunteers. These are salaried exempt employees. They don’t get a dime more for any of this. And I get a handful of people that come in and we slug it out. We’re working all day Saturday, all day Sunday. And it was extraordinary behavior and performance on their part. And then I walk up to them on Monday. I said, “That was extraordinary. Here, take Friday off. Here’s $100. Here’s $1,000. Here’s two days additional vacation day. Thank you.” “Well, that’s discrimination.” Yes it is. Not based on age or sex or race but based on performance, based on behavior. “You have to treat everyone the same.” No, equal opportunity doesn’t mean – never meant equal treatment. If I treat good and bad employees the same, I’ve sent the wrong message. And this opens the door for gossip in the workplace.

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

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