Understand the motivation behind office gossip to halt it

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

The perverse rewards for office gossip

Understand the motivations of any employee for office gossip.
Realize you can’t make anybody do anything they don’t want to do. I control my reaction to situations. I control the environment but making people do what they don’t want to do, those days, pretty much gone. I’m not sure they were ever there. We had more of a sense as managers that we were making people do things than we do now.

Part of the challenge we have not only on uncertain times, we have four generations at work for the very first time. Trust me, how a 67 year-old looks at his or her job and how a 27 year-old looks at his or her job can be dramatically different. So the motivation piece becomes critical to understanding office gossip. Because how many times does a manager, HR people work with, “Why are they doing that? Why are they talking that way? Why would – where did this come from? You people made this up.”

Rewards and motivation for office gossip
To understand the motivation of any employee, ask and answer these two questions. What’s being rewarded, what’s their motivation for change? Why would they talk that way? Would they spread the office gossip? Why would they do this? Why would they act that way? Break it down, very practical. What’s being rewarded, what’s their motivation for change? The employee is badmouthing another employee. Okay, why are they doing that? Oh, I’m not sure what’s going on, what’s their motivation for change? Nothing, I choose to ignore it. So is it going to stop on another tone? Rarely.

The emotional relationship component of office gossip
Every now and then, and you have to just get this kind of sixth sense of when to leave it alone. But as this stuff starts escalating, what’s being rewarded? Why are they doing that? Remember this is an emotional relationship, not a logical one. The more logical you are, the more analytical you are, the tougher time you’re going to have with all this — because you’re not built that way, that’s not how you react to life in general, much less at work.

Analytical approaches don’t work with office gossip
And thank goodness for you. But realize that analytical approach is only about 17% of the workplace population. So you’ve got the bulk of the rest of the people that you’re going to have to deal with.

What’s being rewarded? What’s their motivation for change? If they’re acting out, what happens to them? Nothing. Then are they going to stop? Probably not. They’re coming in late everyday. Okay, why? Well what happens to them if they come in late? Nothing. Than they come in late.

And here’s where some of the generational stuff comes in too. And as much as we badmouth this generation, they’re really forcing us to be better managers. Well, because we yell at them for coming in late. And they’ll say, “Well, why if I’m getting my work done? Or is it more important that I put my behind in the seat or more important I get something done?” And then we complain. “Well, you have an attitude problem.”

Yeah, we can look at this and determine what’s being rewarded. “If you don’t come to work, you won’t get paid.” And these generations goes, “Woohoo, a whole day’s pay. Maybe I’ll be mom and dad.” Oh, it drives us nuts. This isn’t bad, it’s just different. You want to understand what’s going on? What’s being rewarded, what’s their motivation for change?

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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