Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Gossiping in the Workplace

Gossip in the workplace is about as common as the daily arrival of UPS. Workers gossip about their families, their friends and whether Miley Cyrus should punch Annie Leibovitz in the face for that Vanity Fair photo.

But, workers also gossip about the boss. They gossip about co-workers. Sometimes it's not mean-spirited ("Did you know Daniel and Heather in accounting are dating?") but other times it is ("She's sleeping with the boss to get that job.")

I've been in plenty of workplaces where people gossip, but get their work done. I've also been in workplaces where people would shirk their duties even if they wore duct tape over their mouths. Sometimes the nicest, hardest working people gossip, and many people truly feel bad about gossiping.

Bosses gossip. They talk about another department head, customers and even their own boss. Maybe they don't mean to do it, but frustrations build and before they know it, they've made some personal comments about someone's character.

Let's face it: People in this country love to gossip. Look at the popularity of shows that do nothing but stage a 24/7 Britney watch, and the gossip rags that proclaim Doris Day is having an affair with George Clooney (and no, that isn't true) and the way gossip spreads over the Internet.

Realistically, is there a way to put an end to gossip in the workplace? Is it fair to fire someone for gossip when "everyone else does it?"


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Anonymous said...

My boss is the biggest gossip there is. He once told me and several of my co-workers about an affair another guy in our department was having with someone who was not his wife, and bunch of other stuff. It makes us all uncomfortable, but there's not much we can do because he's the boss. If you're going to fire someone because they gossip, I think you have to fire anyone who gossips, and that includes bosses. There has to be zero tolerance in order for it to work.My boss likes your blog. I hope he reads this.
Sign me,
Tired of Trash Talking

Anita said...

Well, I hope he reads it, too. Maybe then he'll get the message that great managers lead by example.
As for your "zero tolerance" suggestion, maybe that's something companies should think about. And yet, who is going to define what gossip is, and who is guilty of it?

Erika said...

I think workplace gossip can be very detrimental. Rumors spread so much faster than the truth does and one errant rumor can forever taint your tenure at the place you work.

It seems like a good remedy would be good examples set by management. People are quite moldable when they first start at a company and if they notice that the boss doesn't tolerate gossip they might not either for fear of violating the comapny culture.

Anita said...

Well said, Erika. Gossip can spread very fast, and can hurt you in many ways, but managers can set the right tone from the beginning. I feel for "Tired of Trash Talking." That must be a poisonous, demoralizing place to work.

Garrison, Keynote Speaker said...

How to use gossip to your advantage: You have people in every organization who have the ear of the masses and can’t shut up (and they never will). Somehow, through sheer personality and guile, these people have some sway over the rest of the group.
Find these people!

Get them behind your idea by showing them how good they will look to others if they support your agenda. Let them become your “PA System” and work for you to spread the word. Having a lot of people believe in what you do before you actually do it, gives you a huge edge. It’s like discussing the details of a great buffet to a hungry audience 10 minutes before lunchtime. You pretty much had their attention before you started talking. Otherwise, the only change you will make will be changing your mind about the change.