How Gossip Affects The Workplace – We have all participated in workplace gossip. Helen was sick last week with a fever and a hangover. Jason in marketing yelled at the intern, now everyone is afraid of him. It is a harmless idle chit-chat.

Helen’s shame and anger; People don’t want to work with Jason. But this is part of office life, right?

How Gossip Affects The Workplace

How Gossip Affects The Workplace

Toxic work environments fuel great resignations, and organizations must work harder to promote healthy, positive communication among employees and curb hateful workplace gossip.

Office Gossip: 4 Steps To Protect Your Workplace Culture

In this blog, we’ll explain how to handle workplace gossip as a manager – when it’s good, when it’s bad, and how to keep workplace gossip from driving away good employees.

The study with the most informed research on workplace gossip is a 1991 paper on gossip behavior among teenagers. In this study, the researchers defined gossip as “evaluative talk about an absent person”.[1]

The key element here is “Evaluation”. Gossip usually contains judgment or is intended to inform someone’s judgment.

For example, telling a colleague, “Sandra has had the flu this week,” would not qualify as gossip, but “Sandra has been sick a lot lately,” would.

Ways To Deal With Office Gossip

The first is a neutral statement; The latter implies a judgment. What goes unsaid is that Sandra talks too much sick, and maybe not for good reasons.

Workplace gossip can happen in person around the water cooler or online through social media or instant messaging channels like Slack.

Gossip in the workplace is usually framed as petty and malicious. However, research has shown that even negative gossip can come from (somewhat) sincere intentions. For example:[2]

How Gossip Affects The Workplace

Researchers also found negative uses of gossip. These included employees with low self-esteem using gossip to compare themselves favorably with a colleague or spreading negative information about a team member who violated group norms.

The Negative Impact Of Gossip In The Workplace

However, their research proves that gossip is not always malicious. It’s not just the motives behind gossip that can be positive; The results can also be.

For individuals, gossiping at work can help increase perceptions of the gossiper’s trustworthiness, based on the “quality” of the gossip. It can have the same effect on the gossiper if they cooperate.

An example would be discussing how good it is to work with someone or celebrate their promotion (“I’m now Gavin’s department head”) compared to (“Gavin must have bribed the boss to get that promotion”) versus malicious gossip.

Positive gossip has been found to promote innovation in employees and reduce “social loafing” in teams.[3] It can increase job satisfaction thanks to the sense of social cohesion and trust that positive gossip can create.[4]How to spot workplace gossip?

Workplace Negativity: How To Recognize And Detoxify It

Workplace gossip isn’t hard to spot when you see it in a private office. Because it cannot, by definition, take place in the presence of its “target”, it is likely to be done in hushed tones in a small group.

It also often occurs in informal spaces where employees take breaks, such as the communal kitchen or lounge.

Spotting in the digital workplace is a little harder because you can’t see where people are congregating unless you’re “in the loop”. Private Slack messages or email threads are common sites for workplace virtual gossip.

How Gossip Affects The Workplace

We’ve discussed the positive impact gossip can have in groups, but what are the negative effects of gossip?

How Not To Become A Victim Of Workplace Gossip

It undermines team trust When it becomes common for employees to spread malicious gossip in the workplace, it erodes the mutual respect between colleagues that is necessary for teams to function well.

This is true for both the target of the gossip and the spreader of the gossip. The target may (understandably) feel excluded from their groups. Gossipers may not trust their colleagues, and by spreading negative gossip, they contribute to the breakdown of trust in the workplace.

It promotes cliques All types of gossip promote social cohesion, but positive gossip can create a sense of solidarity, while negative gossip and secrecy allow cliques and divisions to form.

Research has shown that group offices have more employees who gossip, and more time is devoted to gossiping each day.

A Review Of Workplace Gossip: The Development Of A Process Model For Studying Workplace Gossip

It is a vicious cycle. For an indefinite period of time, employees begin to gossip at work to gain a sense of stability. Over time, this creates confusion and social instability, causing employees to join gangs to regain that balance, which in turn increases workplace gossip.

Negative office gossip has been observed to cause anxiety and stress, and affect the well-being of employees by creating a psychologically unsafe work environment where they feel unable to share what is going on in their personal lives.

Research shows that positive gossip increases employees’ enthusiasm for their work, but hateful workplace gossip has a significant negative effect on employee enthusiasm.[5]

How Gossip Affects The Workplace

Obviously, circulating negative information about employees and managers damages their reputation. This is true whether the employee is the target of the gossip or the one spreading it.

The Extramarital Affair At Work

In fact, research suggests that gossipers and people on the receiving end of workplace gossip may experience more negative consequences than the targets of their voice, particularly in the following areas:[6]

While it’s true that employees can’t be productive at work when they’re gossiping with each other, gossip often has a counterbalancing effect on team productivity because it acts as a self-monitoring system.

For example, employees may gossip about a team member who is more casual about missing deadlines, thereby strengthening team consensus about the importance of deadlines. If the gossip returns to its target, this encourages them to adjust their attitudes.

However, in environments where negative gossip is prevalent, the cumulative effect of negative consequences affects the productivity of your teams. The toxic environment created is likely to contribute to employee burnout.

Hidden Negative Effects Of Social Media In The Workplace

One study found that a toxic organizational culture was 10 times more powerful in predicting attrition rates than financial compensation, and another suggested that it increased employee burnout by more than 100%.[7]How to reduce negative gossip and encourage honest, open communication in the workplace : 7 tips and best practices

We’ve seen the great things positive gossip can bring to your business. We have also seen the damage that negative gossip can do.

There can’t be a workplace completely free of gossip, so how can you address malicious gossip in the workplace and promote healthy communication?

How Gossip Affects The Workplace

Is workplace gossip already spreading like wildfire? Want to know how to address workplace gossip quickly? Here’s a quick summary of our tips.

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The first step in reducing negative workplace gossip is to establish a clear, easy-to-understand definition of what you want to avoid. Provide this to your employees in your employee handbook.

The main thing is to simplify the definition for everyday events. There’s no point in giving a sharp definition if your employees struggle to understand its technical language or map it onto their own behavior.

Start simply by saying, “Negative gossip is passing critical judgment on another employee’s character or performance in their absence.”

You may choose to follow this up with a series of questions for employees to ask themselves to determine if the conversation constitutes negative workplace gossip. for example:

Guide To Tackling Workplace Gossip

Employees can easily use these to understand their own and others’ behavior and limit malicious gossip in the workplace.

Once you’ve nailed down your definition, it’s time to get people to tackle workplace gossip, starting with your leaders.

Explain to managers and executives why gossip can be harmful and get them to embrace openness, empathy and honesty throughout the organization.

How Gossip Affects The Workplace

The impact of this can be huge. Studies have shown that when leaders show empathy, organizational politics reduce the likelihood of producing negative workplace gossip.[8]

The Detrimental Effects Of Overlooking Workplace Gossip

Leaders should be trained and encouraged to be role models for the entire organization in setting boundaries around gossip in the workplace and promoting positive gossip among employees.

Of course, this can be challenging when the gossip concerns the leader – for example, direct reports spread negative gossip because they are frustrated with their managers.

However, the Harvard Business Review recommends that leaders take a few simple steps, including directly confronting the source of the gossip about their grievances.

When gossip creates a rift between team members, make sure your HR team and key leaders are proficient in nonviolent communication to resolve issues.

Mental Health In The Workplace

Broadly speaking, there isn’t much you can do at the hiring stage to prevent workplace gossip. Being a gossip isn’t an innate personality trait—or something every potential hire should screen.

You may screen candidates for honesty, but many incentives for gossip come from within your organization, including a gang culture or uncertainty about job security.

However, there are several ways hiring can indirectly reduce gossip. One of these is to eliminate hiring for the traditional concept of “culture fit.”

How Gossip Affects The Workplace

Tactics like the “beer test” — subjectively judging each candidate based on whether you want to have a beer with them — promote teamwork and groupthink by choosing hires that reproduce the surface characteristics of your existing team.

Gossip At Work Harassment

Instead of replacing this concept with the more valuable “cultural addition” that unites employees around the organization’s mission and values, while giving them the freedom to think and work differently.

This creates a difficult environment for diversity of thought

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