Gossip In The Workplace
Everyone has experienced it
You are working away …
when the office gossip appears from nowhere, pulls out a chair, sits down, and proceeds to tell you so and so isn’t pulling their share of the work, is taking way too long on their lunch hour, or (god-forbid), flirting mercilessly with the new VP of Human Resources.
You swore the last time they came into your cubicle, you were going to remove your extra chair. But alas, here they are, taking up space, time, and your good nature.
Office gossip is more than just these things though, and can lead to the disintegration of a good team. It causes employee fatigue and distraction, which in turn can lead to bullying, and even so much as resignation. Studies show, however (Robbins, 2017), the person causing the disturbances rarely is the one who suffers. Quite often the person (s) named in the gossip (and yes, it is always about other people) are the ones targeted, causing stress and hurt. So, not only is this a personnel issue, it becomes a company issue as well.
What can start out as even a compliment about someone else can turn dark and accusing, if fueled in the gossip’s caldron. The point here is not whether the gossip is right or wrong. Quite often, the gossip is based on some action seen or conversation heard, which is then interpreted or embellished with a flair for drama. As the conversation develops, someone else overhears the words being said, comes to their own conclusion, and depending on their opinion or integrity, could further the string of misdeeds.
There are so many hurtful and cruel facets to office gossip. Never is it complementary. If an action or statement is heard in which a person is in good standing, then it is never a secret, never spoken about behind closed doors, and usually is a way to offer a reward or recognition. This is not gossip, this is admiration.
Gossip is an ugly and disruptive occurrence, and is born from the emotional side of humanity, making it hard to disassemble in the workplace. When a person is called out on the occurrence, the office gossip is recognized for being critical of someone else. True, this is their own personal opinion, but the responsibility for actions and the hurtful issues need to be addressed. Rarely does the gossiper own the conversation alone. Most often it is passed to another person (making it gossip) or has been misinterpreted, complicating the healing process. In either case, the sooner the process is identified and action taken, the sooner the workplace can return to a thriving atmosphere.
Best practices suggest a personal conversation with said opponent. Often this is the last thing any victim wants to do, but it may disarm the perpetrator immediately. If not, supervisors and Human Resource agents may be the next step to remedying the situation. As a supervisor who needs to dismantle the practice, team-building and trust need to be built from the ground up and would prove to keep the workplace cohesive. Often, it can lead to a stronger team, provided supportive training and experienced advisors are included.
In short, communication will keep all parties informed, confident of their own devices, creating a safe workplace instead of a harmful and combative arena. The sooner bullying is unacceptable in the work environment, the sooner business will thrive and be successful for all employees.
Robbins, D.A. MD, Victorious Publications, CA 1990-2017; www.vistorious.org/pub/gossip-wrong-147
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