Playing Dumb Won't Get to the Root of Gossip at Work

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

Supervisors must get past playing dumb to solve an problem with gossip at work

When employees are confronted about their behavior with gossip at work, many employees “play dumb”. In many cases, they’re not dumb at all, but they’re playing dumb. Playing dumb helps an employee avoid the situation at hand and possibly avoid the negative consequences of their actions like progressive discipline.

Imagine a response by an employee to accusations of gossip at work like, “that’s not fair.”
A supervisor should answer, “What is not fair about that?” The line, “it’s not fair” throws the responsibility to the manager. By answering in this way, the manager throws the responsibility back on to the employee. Although this will not solve the problem office gossip, it will stop the employee from playing dumb and allow for a serious conversation about the problems, either personal or work-related
If the employee cannot answer what is not fair, the supervisor can move forward to a solution.
If the employee goes ahead and answers why he or she finds it unfair that the supervisor is speaking to them about a problem with gossip, the supervisor can attempt to understand the issue behind gossip in the work and attempt to change it. Remember, maybe the office gossip has valid foundations and the manager has found an alternative communication channel.

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

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