Office gossip is one of the quickest ways to lower employee morale and decrease productivity. According to stats from the Huffington Post, if a company has 200 employees and each employee spent one hour a day trading gossip, that would result in $160,000 of lost productivity each month. That’s a loss of $1.92 million a year (based on $40 p/hr, salary & benefits).
But the problem isn’t as simple as telling gossipers to stop. It’s not an effective strategy and most times the trash talk resumes when you’re out of earshot. Experts say it is a situation that must be dealt with immediately. Do not ignore it, because the gossip will continue and grow out of proportion. In some cases the damage may become irreparable.
Managers should have an open door policy and create an environment of openness and trust. Provide employees an opportunity to confide in you and talk about their concerns without the threat of reprimand or disciplinary action. More importantly though, as a manager, do not engage in the gossip. Taking sides or sharing employee information with your subordinates is another sure fire way to engage mistrust and resentment among workers. This does not build a team environment.
When an employee comes to you with concerns about office gossip, do not undermine them. Telling the employee to “man up” or “put on their big girl pants” will not help the situation. Also, do not put the blame on the alleged victim. Listen carefully to both sides and depending on the severity of the problem, HR may need to become involved in the process.
When rumors are flying and you know who the source is, confront them. Come up with a solution to stop the office gossip. If the problem persists, take the appropriate action against the offender.
These experiences could be used as a teaching opportunity. It may be time to hold a special training session dealing with office etiquette and office gossip. The expense of bringing in an expert could end up saving a lot of money, time and trouble in the long run.
Be proactive in taking out the trash talkers on your team.
Kandi Chapman is an entrepreneur and a blogger on topics related to employment background checks and human resources. Kandi is President and Founder of MBI Worldwide, a global employment screening company. She has been nationally recognized by The National Women Business Owners Corporation for implementing positive company culture within her organization, and was honored as one of St. Louisans Top 100 People To Know To Succeed In Business in 2015.