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workplace gossip

3 Hidden Ways Workplace Gossip Is Influencing Your Team

Workplaces can be a very positive environment if team dynamics are healthy. However, if gossiping is taking place, it can have negative effects on team morale and collaboration. In this blog post, we’ll be discussing the three ways workplace gossip is influencing your team and how you can counteract these effects. We’ll also be outlining the importance of setting up a policy to regulate gossiping and sharing the upside of gossiping – which can help build trust and camaraderie within a team. So whether you’re looking to promote teamwork or prevent it from deteriorating, read on to learn more!

What is workplace gossip?

In very simple terms, workplace gossip refers to informal communication among the various people present. In tune with its informal nature, this communication is not bound by rules or hierarchy. It is usually not concerned about professional matters. Instead, workplace gossip relates to interpersonal relationships and matters that are outside the scope of professional discussions. It can also include personal and private conversations targeted at a particular individual or group.

Generally, workplace gossip is termed negative. It happens because it often leads to harmful office politics. Bullies in the workplace and toxic people also resort to gossip as a tool. However, the influence of workplace gossip need not be unidirectional. Moreover, managers need to begin by recognizing the impact of workplace gossip on their teams and shape policies accordingly.

3 hidden ways workplace gossip is influencing your team

Gossiping among colleagues is not surprising. Gossiping serves many purposes in groups. It may or may not start intentionally, but gossiping can turn into harmful behavior too. Therefore, managing gossip is crucial for the health of teams. Gossip in the workplace can have many impacts. It can influence teams in good as well as bad ways. Here, let us unpack three major impacts of workplace gossip that a manager must be aware of –

Impacting employee satisfaction and increasing stress

Workplace gossip can drastically hurt employee satisfaction when it takes a negative turn. The regularity of toxic conversations that cross the lines of professionalism and barge into personal lives can make employees unsatisfied with their environment. You might find employees withdrawing from conversations and get-togethers when they do not get a friendly team environment.

Similarly, employees are prone to more stress in the workplace in such a psychologically unsafe environment. Managers are more likely to see distress and burnout in their teams if negative gossip prevails. Identifying gossip as the cause can be hard for managers as these symptoms can relate to multiple causes.

Hurting mutual trust and team morale

Another aspect of workplace gossip is that it disrupts the harmony of workplace relationships. It is not surprising to find people curious about their colleagues’ personal lives. However, the line can be easily breached. Additionally, indulging in workplace gossip means that people often breach the privacy and consent of other people. Sharing information without permission for petty and harmful reasons breaks the mutual trust present among the team members.

As a consequence, team members also begin to get distant from work. Interpersonal relationships and emotional connections are crucial to maintaining sufficient motivation levels in teams. When these suffer, employees lose touch with their jobs and end up acting like mere cogs in the machine. Workplace gossip can break your team’s camaraderie if allowed to grow unchecked.

Harms employee engagement and productivity

The previously mentioned things can lead to the third and the most dangerous impact – high turnover. When employees fail to bond in their teams and are welcomed by a hostile environment, they will be less engaged at work. Resultantly, productivity will also suffer. Employees who cannot find peace of mind in the workplace will fail to achieve better results. Innovation and creativity will fall, too, as the employees focus on doing the bare minimum and distancing themselves from their workplace.

In the end, the team loses in multiple ways. First, their employees lack engagement and motivation, key drivers of growth. In the face of stagnancy, productivity does not witness a rise either. In totality, turnover rates run higher when employees’ emotional and social needs are neglected.

The Upside of Workplace Gossip

Workplace gossip can be a negative and destructive force in the office. However, it’s important to be aware of the other face of every activity too! Although we have noted that there is a significant sinister impact on team gossip, it also serves some important functions. First, gossip in the workplace is a great way for employees to get together and discuss things lying outside the scope of professional conversations. Employees would like to know about the happenings in the workplace. Secondly, workplace gossip forms an essential part of informal communication. Informal communication is vital for many reasons, including building team cohesion and relationships. Lastly, managers can use it to set and strengthen aspects of their organizational culture. Therefore, workplace gossip should not be discarded in its totality. But instead, it should be regulated to minimize the harmful impact.

Check out the 6 tips to ensure healthy employee relations too!

Setting up a workplace gossip policy

Workplace gossip can have negative consequences for the gossipers and the people they gossip about. It can cause trust issues and create a hostile work environment. To avoid these negative consequences, make sure that you have a workplace gossip policy.

What is a workplace gossip policy?

A workplace gossip policy is a set of rules that govern the way employees communicate with each other. It establishes guidelines on what is and isn’t allowed in the workplace and sets clear consequences for breaking the rules. The goal of a policy is to create an environment where employees feel comfortable talking to each other without fear of retribution, so they can share information and collaborate productively.

There are many different types of policies, but some common features include:

  • A prohibition on gossiping about personal matters
  • A ban on spreading rumors or making false accusations
  • Guidelines for reporting incidents of gossiping
  • A system for punishing offenders

Why do you need a workplace gossip policy?

While a policy isn’t always necessary, it can be very helpful in supporting an employee’s sense of workplace community and fostering productive communication. Policies should be adopted as the organization changes and grows but are typically designed with the following goals in mind:

  • To ensure employees feel safe discussing work issues
  • To create standards for appropriate behavior and discourage inappropriate communications
  • To establish systems for reporting violations and enforcing punishments

How to design a workplace gossip policy?

To design an effective and fair policy, you’ll first need to identify the type of communication you want to prohibit. Generally speaking, gossiping about personal matters (e.g., coworkers’ marital status and family problems) is prohibited, while discussing work issues is allowed. Some organizations prohibit gossip in toto, but, understandably, colleagues will communicate and be curious too. Therefore, hold strong to the mantra of pragmatism and do not adopt a rigid approach.

Next, establish guidelines for acceptable communication types and determine which behaviors will be considered violations. You can also provide examples of workplace gossip, which are absolutely off-limits for everyone. Drawing a clear line between bullying and healthy chit-chat is necessary here.

Finally, set up systems for reporting incidents and punishing offenders. The systems need to be visible and accessible to all equally. You can include a section about these in work guidelines and highlight them during the onboarding process as well. Further, you will need to understand that employees from diverse backgrounds are more likely to be the targets of hurtful behavior, and the policies need to be sensitive to their needs. Providing a sense of familiarity with ease of access will be wonderful!

Conclusion

Workplace gossip can be negative for your team, but it doesn’t have to be. By setting up a policy and understanding the different ways gossip can influence your team, you can work to reverse the negative effects of gossiping. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that gossiping is not always good and should be used sparingly. Check out more Risely blogs to navigate your managerial responsibilities better!

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