Gossip has a sinking impact on employee morale and destroys business productivity. 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).
Years ago, I worked as an executive director for a community center in a small town where everyone knew everything about everybody. Managing a staff of over 40 people where gossip ran rampant was nearly impossible. I constantly had people in my office in tears because someone was telling lies on them and other people were spreading rumors that were heard in town. It became a miserable place to work and it reached a boiling point when I finally said, "Enough is enough." But it wasn't just enough to put my foot down and tell staff to stop gossiping, I had to develop a formal training program to educate my staff on how gossip affected others and how it damages them.
Now I travel the United States talking and coaching businesses on how to rid gossip from the workplace. Sometimes I feel like an exterminator arriving at their place of business, sort of a Gossip-Buster.
People really don't think about the destruction they're creating while gossiping. In my seminars, I ask attendees, "What if you were born with a finite amount of words that you could speak, then once you reached that number, you drop dead. How wisely would you use your words? Would you waste your precious words talking about others?" Their reactions are priceless. People so often don't think about their words, they just come out like a faucet on full blast.
How gossip hurts everything and everybody
Gossip hurts businesses reputations, other employees' reputations, people's feelings, and your bottom line. Understanding the gossiper is the first step. The gossiper usually has a large ego and wants to be liked by everyone but usually the opposite happens. Gossip flourishes when employees just aren't busy enough. Unchecked gossip is a time bomb waiting to happen. Management must be proactive in an environment where gossip is out of control.
- Deal with the problem right away. Ignoring that there's a problem creates a gossip monster. Gossip will get out of hand quickly if it's not extinguished immediately.
- Create an environment of communication and trust. Having an open door policy is always the best practice, eliminate the hierarchy system of reporting a problem.
- If someone comes to management about a rumor that is being spread, refer that person back to the person they are speaking about to first confront the situation and then follow up to see if they actually did.
- If the problem persists, confront the gossip monger directly and if necessary, take disciplinary action.
- Conduct training sessions for your staff to give them the tools they need to stop gossip in the workplace
Janice Celeste travels and conducts seminars to stop gossip in the workplace. You can find out more information at WeSpeakWorldwide.com.