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8 Ways to Stop Workplace Gossip
What is Workplace Gossip?
Workplace gossip is different than when someone gossips with a neighbor or family member. When someone gossips in the workplace, it can have a ripple effect that can devastate a work environment. Gossip can hurt the relationships of co-workers, lower morale, and even cause people to lose their jobs if the gossip is harmful enough. It's said that we spend more time with our co-workers than with our family, so why would we want to gossip so much to hurt those that we spend the most time with?
This article will cover the following:
The signs of workplace gossip.
How you can avoid workplace gossip.
How you can stop workplace gossip.
How a supervisor can stop workplace gossip.
My experiences with workplace gossip.
I have been a supervisor for over 10 years, so I have had to deal with my fair share of workplace gossip. I've learned how to put a stop to workplace gossip.
Have you ever gossiped in the workplace?
The Signs of Workplace Gossip
How do you know if there is gossip in the workplace? Simply look for signs in the office that those around you are involved in gossip. Some of those signs could be:
- Whispered conversations. This is a very common one. If you see two or more people whispering secretly, and even looking in the direction of someone, then they could be gossiping. If they look at you, then there is a good chance they are gossiping about you.
- Conversations in another language. This is not meant to be racist, but it's been known that those gossiping may speak in another language so the person they are talking about won't know. If they do it in front of you, then the gossip could be about you! However, this isn't proof enough. A workplace can't tell someone to speak a different language just because someone thinks they are gossiping.
- Conversations stop when the person being gossiped about comes into the workplace. This is another sign that shows people could be gossiping in the workplace. If someone normally talks a lot, then they are dead silent when someone enters the room, it could be gossip. If that happens to you, then the gossip could be about you.
- Others treat the person being gossiped about differently. If once close co-workers start to distant themselves from another co-worker, then the gossip could be centered on that person. If the gossip is about you, then you may notice your co-workers treating you differently.
- Personal conversations completely stop. If there are no personal conversations in the office, it could mean that co-workers are gossiping about others through e-mail, text message, and over various social networking websites. Be on the lookout for those e-mails that could mistakenly be sent to you that are about you!
- Gossip tends to be negative. There is rarely such a thing as positive gossip. So when people gossip in the workplace, it tends to be negative. It's okay to talk about someone who just received a promotion, or just got married. But if insults and suspicions start to fly, then that is considered to be gossip.
Office Bans Workplace Gossip
Does Gossip Affect the Workplace?
Do you think gossip negatively affects the workplace?
This poll clearly demonstrates that office gossip is clearly never good in the workplace. That's something everyone can agree on.
How You Can Avoid Workplace Gossip
Workplace gossip is avoidable if you make the proper precautions. Here are a few tips so you can avoid being involved in gossip in the workplace.
- Don't engage in workplace gossip! This should be obvious, but you will find it's actually quite difficult. Don't engage in any workplace gossip. If you hear a story, whether it is the truth or not, do not spread it around. Unless you experience something first hand and it's relevant to the workplace, then it's not worth talking about.
- Walk away when your co-workers try to gossip in front of you. If you are eating lunch or on a break, and people start to gossip or include you in the gossip, just walk away. Your co-workers will be offended by it, but you would have saved yourself a lot of trouble. The more gossip you hear, the more you will be tempted to spread it. They will probably gossip about that as well.
- Don't talk about your personal life. Co-workers love to gossip about the personal lives of those around them. Do what I do and rarely talk about your personal life. The less you share, the less others will have to gossip about. This also means not sharing your Facebook, Twitter, etc. with your co-workers.
- Find another job. While this may be extreme, if you want to avoid a workplace that is so toxic with gossip, just find another job. You may find a different workplace that doesn't have a gossiping problem.
The only time people dislike gossip is when you gossip about them.— Will Rogers
How You Can Stop Workplace Gossip
Rather than avoiding workplace gossip, you should do your best to stop workplace gossip so it never becomes a problem. Here are a few suggestions on how to do that.
- Don't engage in workplace gossip! If you don't engage in workplace gossip, you not only avoid it, you prevent it from happening. Others may see you won't engage in it, and may begin to do the same.
- Ask others to stop gossiping. If you hear gossiping, then ask others to stop. While they may find your approach blunt, they may not realize they are gossiping until that point. So go ahead, confront your co-workers about it, but do it politely.
- Steer conversations about gossip towards work conversations. If you don't want to try the direct approach, then you could change the conversation to something work related. Your co-workers could get the hint that the gossip isn't wanted.
- Tell your supervisor about it. If all else fails, then go to your boss and advise them that your co-workers are gossiping. Any good manager will try to put a stop to it as best they can.
Do Supervisors Gossip?
Have you ever heard a supervisor gossiping?
How a Supervisor Can Stop Workplace Gossip
Supervisors are very influential in determining how gossip is handled in the workplace. While employees may start it, supervisors can end it.
- Lead by example. If your staff see you gossiping, then they will see that it's acceptable to gossip and do it without hesitation. If they see you putting a stop to gossip, then they will see you want to put a stop to it, and will stop themselves.
- Discuss issues that lead to gossip. If two co-workers are constantly gossiping about one another, pull them both aside and hash out the issues. Maybe it was a misunderstanding that was leading to the gossip war.
- Develop a written policy against gossip. Developing a written policy that staff have to sign could be a good deterrent to gossip in the workplace. Gossip can be a form of harassment in the workplace, so outlining that in a policy is a good idea. Plus, this is good backup if you have to proceed to the next step in handling the issue.
- Discipline those that are gossiping. Sometimes actions speak louder than words. If your staff are gossiping, even after you instructed them not to and have a written policy against it, then it's time to discipline them. There is a good chance people will gossip that someone was disciplined, but that should be enough of a deterrent for your staff to stop.
Avoiding Workplace Gossip
Can You Avoid Workplace Gossip?
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My Experiences With Workplace Gossip
Here are a few of my experiences with workplace gossip, spanning from when I started my career to as recent as the year this article was written.
- My gossip caused someone to transfer from my office. I was working with co-workers I normally didn't work with. One of those co-workers started to gossip about the co-workers I normally worked with. The next time I saw my co-workers I told them what this person said, and one of my co-workers confronted this person about it in a threatening manner. This person felt so uncomfortable that they eventually transferred out of our office. Did this person start it when they gossiped to me about my co-workers? Yes, but I continued it when I gossiped about it.
- A former supervisor everyone gossiped about was a close friend to a new employee. My co-workers and I gossiped about one of our former supervisors all of the time. When a new employee started, we told her how horrible this supervisor was. We shared stories, insulted this supervisor, etc. After awhile, this new employee and I had become close. One day she told me she was a close friend to our former supervisor. I could only imagine how much this friend passed on to her former supervisor.
- Gossip resulted in me having to write-up one of my supervisors. By this time I had become a supervisor, with supervisors below me, and staff below them. Gossip had become so bad in my office, I didn't know who or what to believe. A lot of it centered around one of my supervisors. There was an investigation into the gossip which resulted in one of my supervisors receiving a write-up for the things they said. I still don't believe this supervisor made the comments that they were accused of, but with so many eyewitness accounts to the supposed comments and how they spread throughout the office, I had no choice but to discipline the supervisor.
- Gossip resulted in panic in the office that people were losing their jobs. My boss told one of her employees, who was a supervisor, about some changes coming up in the office. It was meant to be confidential. That supervisor then relayed that to their employees, which caused widespread panic that people were going to lose their jobs, people were being forced out, etc. Gossip like this caused a true panic in the office.
What experiences have you had with workplace gossip? How did you help stop workplace gossip? Share your experiences in the comments below.
© 2013 David Livermore