A rumour is a piece of information or a story circulating among people but has yet to be verified or confirmed as authentic. Rumours can spread quickly through word of mouth, social media, or other means of communication. They are often based on speculation, hearsay, or unverified sources, and can range from harmless gossip to harmful misinformation.
Gossip also refers to casual or unconstrained conversations or information that has not been accurately verified in reports regarding other people and might be personal, sensational, or intimate. Gossip often spreads through a community and may be based on rumours, speculation, and hearsay rather than factual information.
Gossip and rumour can be harmful and damaging to the reputation of the people being discussed and can lead to the spread of false information. Because they have not been substantiated, rumours and gossip should be approached with caution and evaluated critically to determine their validity.
Overview of why rumours can be damaging in the workplace
Gossip or rumour in the workplace can damage careers and reputations, as well as team cohesion, morale, and productivity. Gossip/rumour is an unprofessional and unattractive personality trait that can cause irreparable damage and waste valuable work time. Employers can combat workplace gossip by taking measures such as reducing employee communication on company time. Office gossip should be avoided, as workplaces must be professional environments. Gossip at work can be handled strategically by checking your organization’s code of conduct and taking steps to stay on track.
How to Address Rumors and minimize workplace gossip
As an Employer:
- Establish a clear policy on rumours: Establishing a clear policy on rumours is important for the healthy functioning of an organization. To do this, define what constitutes a rumour, and have a straightforward process for addressing it.
- Create a safe space for employees to talk openly: Encourage employees to speak with a trusted manager or HR representative, promote open communication, foster a culture of trust, and create a healthy and productive workplace.
- Address it immediately: Address gossip of any kind immediately, as it can lead to a decline in morale and camaraderie among coworkers, resulting in decreased productivity. Unaddressed gossip can also lead to harassment complaints, so it is vital to take action immediately.
- Locate the source: Gossiping should be addressed directly to the source and discussed with the person responsible, keeping conversations private to avoid disruption and understanding their reason. Gossip can have a negative impact on a company, so it is important to investigate and have a private conversation with the person who started the rumour to ensure they do not spread it.
- Empower managers to address rumours: Train managers on how to effectively address rumours, so they can take steps to manage water cooler conversations to prevent negative gossip from disrupting the workplace.
- Involve HR: Gossip can ruin careers and reputations, so it is crucial to involve human resources to determine if it is legitimate and violates company policies.
As an Employee:
It can be challenging to deal with rumours and gossip at work, but there are several steps you take to minimize their impact:
- Address the situation directly
If you hear a rumour or gossip about someone, it’s best to approach the person directly and ask for clarification. This can help dispel the rumour and prevent it from spreading. Gossip can be a form of verbal harassment, so it is important to address the instigator in a non-confrontational way and politely ask them not to talk about the target. Make it clear that you are uncomfortable talking about a coworker to avoid upsetting them, which will help them find someone else to complain to.
- Keep your reactions in check.
Avoid responding to rumours or gossip with anger or frustration. This can escalate the situation and make the rumours seem more credible. Instead, respond calmly and objectively.
- Stay professional:
Gossip and rumours can be personal and hurtful, but it’s essential to remain professional and not engage in gossip yourself.
- Encourage open communication:
Encouraging open and honest communication in the workplace can help reduce the spread of rumours and gossip. People who feel they can talk to each other directly are less likely to rely on rumours and hearsay.
- Establish clear expectations:
Ensure that your workplace has clear expectations and policies around behaviour and communication. This can help set the tone and discourage gossip and rumours.
- Lead by example
As a leader, you can set the tone for how rumours and gossip are handled in your workplace. Lead by example by avoiding gossip and rumours and addressing them when they arise calmly and professionally.
- Proffer solution
Gossiping is often out of frustration, but it can also be a legitimate issue, so it is important to acknowledge your colleague’s frustration and help create a solution.
- Have an exit strategy.
Vacate the premises, and don’t be a bystander. If someone is gossiping, have an exit strategy such as saying “I’m sorry” or going to the restroom.
- Change the subject
Change the conversation topic to a safe, innocuous topic, compliment the gossiper, ask about their pets, or find out their weekend plans.
- Report It
Gossip can be considered a distraction and harassment if it crosses the lines, and employers prohibit harassment, so report it and bring in HR if necessary.
- Search for a New Job and change your work environment.
Nobody doing their job to the best of their abilities should have time for gossip in the workplace. If the gossips persist and you cannot cope, find a new company to work for.
Gossip in the workplace can be identified by looking out for certain behaviours, such as idle chit-chat and weekend activities. Some gossip can be helpful in the workplace, as it can alert you to a perception that can spread and multiply if not addressed.
It can help gain insight into how people view you, as perception is a lens through which others view reality. However, negative workplace gossip can have negative consequences, such as low morale and productivity, and can lead to a hostile environment. Employees should participate in positive gossip by highlighting accomplishments and encouraging others to do the same.
Remember, it’s important to address rumours and gossip as they can create a toxic work environment and harm relationships and morale among colleagues. Leaders must create a culture that promotes transparent communication and self-accountability to prevent office drama, including gossiping.