Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about forming a policy about gossip:
I recently started a new job, and as one of my first assignments, my superiors want to update company policy to include gossip. I read some of your articles on this and they were helpful, but I’m still unsure of how to word this. Could you give me some assistance with this, maybe some sites that could do so.
Signed, Gossip Advice
Dear Gossip Advice:
Did you supervisors give you any goals for adding new policies on gossip? That would provide a critical framework to help you to create the policy guidelines. If not, I can offer some common reasons why gossip is problematic in a workplace environment.
1. Gossip can be a significant time waster. People can start gossiping during a break and carry the gossip on for additional periods during the day, often involving others. When that’s happening, less work is being done.
2. Gossip is usually about other people and their problems. It’s is often based on rumors, partial information and assumptions rather than facts so it can hurt people’s reputations.
3. Gossip isn’t directed at solving problems. Rather, it tends to increase them. In that sense, gossip isn’t helpful but takes on a life of its own. If these are some of the reasons why your supervisors wanted a policy, then here are a few suggestions: Although it is difficult to stop all gossip, a company can state as a policy, they want to minimize gossip in the workplace and it’s negative impacts. For example, employees can be encouraged to limit gossip and other personal discussions to non-work time. Breaks or lunch could be okay but the policy can discourage gossip during other work time.
If gossip is about work-related situations (the administrative assistant had a shouting match with her boss), then the organization should have a conflict resolution policy and employees should be encouraged to work out problems within that structure. That should limit the gossip about it. If there is no structure in place, then the talk will be hard to manage. People will take sides and it will tend to escalate so having written guidelines and an HR person or someone to mediate is important for managing gossip about workplace situations.
The policy could also outline the damage gossip can do to others’ reputations and emphasize that the company prefers not to encourage that behavior, especially when the talk is behind others’ backs and isn’t directed at solving problems. You might also check with online HR (Human Resource) e-zines or articles on the subject. You might find some other guidelines to help create a policy. I hope these suggestions are helpful! WEGO is creating constructive policies that benefit everyone
Steven H. Carney, Guest Respondent