Office Gossip Interferes With Synergy Amongst Employees

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

Failure To Communicate With Employees Leads to Office Gossip

Let’s start by defining office gossip. Basically, this refers to destructive communication at work. So often in the past we said, “You can’t do anything about this. It’s just all a part of it.” Meanwhile HR would say, “Well, until it affects performance, you really can’t do anything, but as soon as soon it affects performance.” But the problem with that – if you’ve ever managed anyone at any level, you have people that just do enough to get by. But the office gossip drives us nuts. Take that out of the subjective and make it objective. Also, there are people that are very good that even if you raise the performance bar, they can meet minimum performance but they’re driving us crazy.

And in uncertain times, they’re going to come up with stuff even in some respects make up stuff. You will find that people would rather be miserable than bored. This really puts a lot of pressure on management at whatever level we are. It is critical that we fill that gap with communication and create an atmosphere where this kind of behavior isn’t rewarded. It’s important to know how to hold employees accountable, how to know when enough is enough. And then know some of the things we can do to neutralize some of the negative effect of office gossip.

In good times, you can put up with some of this. In uncertain times, the stakes are way too high. We can diagram or look at where we are now in 2008 and going into 2009, whereas the old work model very much looked like a pyramid, lots of employees at the bottom. You climb the corporate ladder until you became the big boss.

The beauty of that old system is that once you got to a certain level, you could hide. As a manager, you could hunker down in your office and hide. You didn’t have to deal with the water cooler, the office gossip — all these other stuff. Line managers will tell you, “It used to be a lot more fun. Now, boy, we’ve got to be working together.” We’ve talked about synergy for 15 years, that good teams tend to outperform great individual players. We’re working much closer together rather than a pyramid, much flatter in this gyroscope.

When you were a kid, you played with the old gyroscope, it stayed upright only as long as the speed was there. And as it slowed down, it tended to collapse. And this is what’s happened to most of us at our workplaces. What then goes on is that the office gossip interferes with this synergy, and we can’t hide it. We’re either part of the problem or we are part of the solution. This isn’t bad. It’s just a whole lot different.

At any given time, any of us have 11 minutes of uninterrupted time. If you look at a block of the day – and you may have several 11-minute spots but that you can’t count on any more than 11 minutes to concentrate on anything. Why? Well, emails, phone calls, people stopping by checking this over the cubicle here in the office, faxes, mail — the pace is so much faster. And that’s why the office gossip that we used to tolerate not that long ago now, we just can’t.

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

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