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Gossip at Work: A Toxic Danger

In a workplace, co-workers are speaking about their life, the company, other colleagues and so on. These kinds of little chitchat can turn into a gossip and be potentially harmful. Indeed, gossipers take a partial truth and transform it into a speculative one. In short, gossips are seen generally as a negative process which can introduce fake rumours and harmful statements into the ecosystem of work and create tensions between co-workers.

Which are consequences?

We all know people are paying much attention to their reputation because they don’t want to be seen negatively or project a bleak character which can harm a career. By spreading fake rumours in a work department, people can see their co-workers in an apathetic and a misleading way than if chitchat were fully true.

Consequently, trust and moral will gradually decline. Without trust in a department, the company can suffer. For example, an employee doesn’t trust his manager and when he lacks information, he will make up information to fill in the blanks in order to avoid facing his manager. Then, decision makers will base their judgement on fake information.

The work productivity is decreasing too because they are caught in drama stories and are thinking about their reputation rather than the outcome of their business endeavour. Then the anxiety will increase because rumours circulate without clear information of making difficult to spare the fact from fiction.

Thus, the department’s morale is low, and the atmosphere has been becoming toxic. The result can be very serious, employees may start looking for new jobs and unexpectedly resign even if they thought or they were good fits. The turnover is unexpected and expensive.

When and how to manage gossips?

To know when managing gossips can be very tricky. Indeed, every topic can be matter of gossip. Managers need to act if the gossip is:

  • Hurting employees’ feeling and values
  • Decreasing the moral and trust between colleagues
  • Endangering the workplace atmosphere

As a manager, you have to inform your team about gossip’s consequences and dealing with gossips is starting by coaching your team. For example, as a team, you can simulate a gossip and imagine consequences on their work environment. What to do in front of a real gossiper? Start a face to face discussion with an employee in order to know which fact is true and why he has spread gossip. The employee should understand why and how his gossip can be harmful for his colleagues, the department or the company. Then warn him with an oral talk or a formal written. In an extreme case, a replacement of   an employee could be the best solution before he creates a toxic environment workplace for everyone.