Why Workplace Gossip Might be a Good Thing

workplace gossip

Did you hear? Gossip at your new store may not be so bad after all.

If you recently found out that a co-worker had a crazy, over-the-top weekend and got into a little trouble with the law, chances are, you didn’t hear it from that co-worker. Like most workplaces, office gossip is commonplace, and according to a recent study by BambooHR, it’s one of the top ways employees spend their non-working time while on the job.

Ranking third on the list of top office distractions, just under making trips to the bathroom and continually visiting the water cooler, office gossip is generally seen as harmful – creating discord and resulting in loss of productivity. But BambooHR says that perception may be changing.

Although 44% of the 2,000 U.S. hiring and HR managers surveyed say they would hesitate to promote a known “office gossip.” The BambooHR study found that 18% of employees surveyed believe workplace gossip may actually benefit overall work performance. The key? Building teams within the workplace that practice eliminating toxic work gossip, encourage healthy communication and are conducive to the workplace.

Make office buzz beneficial instead of bad by implementing these five ways to encourage productive water cooler chitchat from Entrepreneur at your new store.

Set the Example

Since upper management is guilty of the majority of office gossip, it’s largely dependent on employers to set the standard for what’s considered appropriate chatter and what isn’t. Employers should strive to model the behavior they want to see in their employees. If you don’t want to hear about after hour antics, then be sure you aren’t talking about those antics yourself.

Practice Transparency

If your store makes goals, incentives and progress public for each employee, then there is no need to guess how well each person is doing and why others may be receiving different benefits. When you publicize details, there is little room for speculation and damaging gossip. Keep employees informed when it comes to your store’s financial status, promotion expectations and raise potential. Open communication and transparency stops harmful gossip that tends to mushroom out of control.

Let Them Vent

When people get frustrated, they need to let it all out. Taking work issues home is not the best practice to continue, so provide a solution to allow frustrated or upset employees to vent. Meet one-on-one with them or in smaller groups where they can discuss challenges they are facing. Allowing employees a voice in the midst of disappointment will go a long way in rebuilding morale and squashing any backstabbing talk that may be circulating. Let your employees know you hear them.

No More Behind the Back Whispering

One way to resolve a great deal of bitterness or hurtful gossip is to promote peer-to-peer feedback. This concept promotes getting employees together to talk about the very issues that frustrate or anger them. Instead of talking behind each other’s backs or forming office alliances, employees confront issues head-on in a safe, healthy atmosphere with the intention to resolve problems.

Peer-to-peer feedback also encourages building-up other employees, rather than tearing them down. If Linda thinks Sarah took over one of her customers to snatch a hefty commission, Linda may tell that story to several of your new store employees looking for sympathy or support. Others may agree, join the bitterness bandwagon and before you know it, tempers are flaring toward Sarah.

When employers participate in peer-to-peer conflict resolution, it squashes the backstabbing and vicious gossip while allowing employees to spell out the problem without fear of retribution. It also provides intimate insight for employers that you might not otherwise find out.

When it comes to workplace distractions like office gossip, some believe they hinder performance while others firmly believe distractions actually enhance workplace performance by providing time away from routine tasks and time to revive motivation. Office gossip is a distraction that can prove to be productive or destructive depending on how you handle it. Set the example. Give employees a voice and be willing to mediate issues with productive conversation. Having a plan to tackle mushrooming office gossip will help eliminate any allegations and steamy stories that pop-up around the office water cooler which threaten to taint your opinion about Sarah and Linda.

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Scott Kuhn

About Scott Kuhn

Scott is CEO of Sheehy, a regional advertising, marketing and media agency. He has been helping companies plan and execute store grand openings and remodels for more than 20 years.

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