Question to Ask the Workplace Doctor about gossip:

You actually defend gossiping and nosiness in the workplace? An employee keeps to herself, goes in and does her work, minds her own business, and objects to gossiping, and you condemn her and put the blame on her? Time for a reality check. Signed, Don’t Like Gossip

Signed, Don’t Like Gossip

Dear┬áDon’t Like Gossip:

Dear Don’t Like Gossip: Thank you for suggesting the Workplace Doctors take time for a reality check. You are correct to some degree saying we defend gossip if you take excerpts out of context from some answers. For example, in this Q&A Gossip In Our Gang Of Nine , you can find such advice as: “Your workgroup of nine needs small talk and they enjoy passing on the good and especially the misdeeds of others. It is a way to feel connected. Gossip also passes on information about schedules and who is or is not doing what, when, where and why. It is difficult to separate personal from job-related information. Gossip helps pass the day when work is not all consuming or boring.”

Yet if you review the whole answer you wouldn’t come up with the opinion that I condone gossip or condemn one who minds her own business. Rather I suggested in that answer then and now: “So possibly, what is needed is some candid talk about talk; not reprimanding talk by a supervisor, but collaborative talk about workplace communication. Not a one-time fix-it session, but an ongoing conversation about what makes for dysfunctional and effective working relationships. “What might an agenda be for such an on-going conversation? Think of it as skull sessions led by a coach before and after a game. Think of it as what went well and what do we need to do to play more effectively together? The first step is to make skull sessions an expected part of the workweek. The primary focus, of course, is to get the job done and done effectively; to satisfy internal and external customers.

The secondary focus is harmony of those doing the job. So here is a possible agenda for one session a week, week after week:

— What have we accomplished this past week that deserves applause? _ Have there been problems or things that could have gone better?

–Are there ways we might make anyone’s job easier? Things we might do to cut wasted supplies, time, energy? Ways to innovate?

–What has been our weather this week? Cool, cloudy, stormy, partially sunny, invigorating? _ What in our communicating has been going well?

— What do and don’t rules of communication can make for more harmonious working relationships?

— Are there things we might do to make our workplace more efficient, effective, and pleasant that are worth our time and energy?

— What might we do to be real partners in this organization? ”

A manager or facilitator can propose such an agenda and invite a work group to prioritize and modify it or openly engage a work group in creating its own agenda. Obviously, a half to one-hour skull session cannot address all the above items. Even one such item as What do and don’t rules of communication can make for more harmonious working relationships might require two or three sessions. And follow up sessions to review how well the rules are being followed.

Helping a work group learn how to function effectively in such an on-going conversation also requires making and engaging in rules of effective communication; turn-taking, respecting, soliciting one another’s opinions, brainstorming, evaluating rigorously, cheering each other on, etc.” Probably this reply is a longer response than you want. I will spare you more examples of advice I and my associate workplace doctors have provided in the dozens of Q&As on gossip.

In short, what I mean to say talk about talk is needed-what hurts productivity and/or interpersonal goodwill within a work environment; should be addressed by a supervisor and collaboratively determined by a work group to be ruled off limits. That is best accomplished by replacing destructive and idle talk with talk about the purpose and operations of a workplace. That won’t completely eliminate gossip but it will make for a more professional, efficient, effective and harmonious environment. Does this make sense? Please again share other opinions and lessons from your work experience? I don’t know everything about gossip nor can I know the circumstance that prompts you to suggest we need a reality check. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

You likely can find other Q&As on gossip with which you can take issue, but hopefully they will provide some advice you find makes sense: Boss Criticizes Me Based On Gossip Gossip Of A Coworker About Me Accused of Spreading Rumors Falsely Accused of Making A Racial Comment Being Accused Slandered By My Boss! Workplace Policy About Gossip?

William Gorden