Put an end to harmful gossip with these tips, and watch morale and productivity improve.
A recent survey conducted by the American Society for Training and Development found that 21 percent of workers admitted to "frequently" participating in gossip, while an additional 64 percent said they gossip "sometimes."
When the subject is last night's TV plot, gossip can be relatively harmless. But if it revolves around someone within the organization - or if it involves rumors about major company events-gossip can be highly destructive, damaging the reputation of its targets and leading to a caustic work environment, high turnover and even lawsuits.
Malicious gossip is not inevitable, and it needn't be tolerated in any workplace. Here are a few tips to make the rumor mill grind to a halt.
Communicate clearly. Be sure your performance evaluation and advancement policies are transparent and adhered to strictly. A lack of clarity in these areas can breed resentment, which often leads to backbiting. By the same token, address organization-wide directives and initiatives - not to mention mergers or sales - forthrightly to avoid provoking anxiety and speculation.
Draw the line. It's perfectly legitimate to formally prohibit gossiping, but because gossip is secretive by definition, it may be difficult to enforce such a policy. Instead of taking a punitive approach, communicate the policy to the group and reinforce the message that careers move forward through positive performance, not by denigrating others. If you have a chronic offender in your midst, arrange a one-on-one meeting to emphasize the same message.
Deal with rumors immediately. When rumors come to your attention, address them directly - and right away. Not only does this help dispel their negative impact, but it communicates your awareness of what's going on within your team.
Lead by example. Avoid saying something about an employee, manager or any other individual that you wouldn't say to him or her in person. That makes it even easier to let others know you expect the same from them.
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