Virginia At Work: The cost of gossip at work

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Lynda McNutt Foster wrote the article below to discuss the cost of gossip at work.

You can put a dollar figure on gossip and rumors in the workplace because it takes time for people to do them. It is proven that our brains can’t multi-task on multiple complex thoughts at a time and trust me, gossip, for some people, can become quite complex. Piecing together information that they have with one’s they have to creatively develop to keep other people’s attention can be quite the mental aerobic session.

People don’t gossip to themselves. They pull at least one other person into the discussion and then it spreads like a virus. Gossip can cost your organization by:

  • Lost productivity
  • Eroded trust
  • Increased anxiety as rumors circulate without any clear information
  • Divisiveness tends to grow as people “take sides”
  • Reputations suffer and feelings are hurt
  • Gossipers jeopardize their own advancement chances
  • Good employees may leave the organization due to an unhealthy work atmosphere.

So, why do we gossip? My friend and author Tom Asacker’s recent article might give you some insights on it.

Here’s an article about the danger of gossip in the workplace – what’s the difference between gossip and idle chit-chat, what you can do as an employer about it and what if the gossip is about you?

Why do rumors start? How you can prevent and manage them can be found in this article.

5 ways to stop negative office gossip:

  1. Address the specific perpetrators
  2. Meet with your team (not whole organization and DON’T send out a mass email to address the issue.)
  3. Encourage the spreading of positive stories
  4. Model the behavior you want to see
  5. Provide managers with training on dealing with conflict

Some good questions to ask yourself when you are tempted to participate in rumors or gossip:

  • Is what I am about to say true?
  • Is it harmless?
  • Is it necessary?
  • How would I feel if someone said something similar about me?
  • How would I feel if I saw my words quoted on-line tomorrow?
  • How am I going to feel later if I say this? (or listen to this)
  • Does gossiping honor my own personal values?

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