Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about write-ups over talking about other people:
I am a manager of a call center, and there is one person who is always complaining and talking about other people. I just found out about all the things she has been saying about people, including me. I am going to write her up tomorrow, but I want to make sure to do it right. We are a small company, 8 employees.
Signed, On Call Gossip
Dear On Call Gossip:
Have you checked with your company’s discipline policy? I ask this because your question should include an “if” as well as “how” you “write up” this individual for gossip. An “if” is important because putting a reprimand in print is usually not the first step of discipline. The first step for a matter such as gossip is a face-to-face conversation about what is seen as inappropriate within the work setting. I say conversation because a first stage reprimand is not just a statement of what is wrong.
Rather than “telling” it entails clarification of what is seen as wrong and the harm that wrong does. Also it includes an exchange about the facts of what is seen as wrong.Your note states, “I just found out about all the things she has been saying about people, including me.” Therefore, the individual you will reprimand might dispute that she gossiped and you will need to have ample evidence that she did, if you are to be firm in stating, “Brittany, you might argue you didn’t say what was reported you said and I am not here to debate. Rather, I’m here to make you aware that gossip is not acceptable and to ask that you will cooperate in seeing to that it stops.
If others come to you with gossip, from now on please simply say, “I don’t think it is wise to talk about so and so. Let’s talk about how to do our jobs more effectively or about something like the weather. If I an again informed that you say negative things about coworkers or me, the next step I must do is to write you up. Do you understand what I mean and why I want to stop bad talk within our call center?” Inviting response in a first step reprimand does not mean it isn’t firm. Learning of gossip should make a leader aware that opportunity for coworker/leader skull sessions likely are absent or inadequate. Weekly sessions to talk about what went well and what might be improved is likened to a sports team reviewing a game played and discussing what might be done to play better in the next.
Our site archive has dozens of Q&As on team building as well as on gossip. Scan them and feel free to let me know if my advice makes sense for your situation. My signature “Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS” is not an idle thought. Its meaning suggests that attaining a concern for good will and good sense within a work group does not just happen. It requires talking about talk; talking about the dos and don’t that avoid put downs and that cheer each other on, talking about what makes each other’s work easier and more productive, and taking about what delights customers/clients.