IN THE WORKPLACE
Everyone has experienced it …
You are working away when the office gossip appears from nowhere, pulls out a chair (you meant to move it last week!),
sits down, and proceeds to tell you so and so isn’t pulling their share of the work, is taking way too
long on their lunch hour, or (god-forbid), flirting mercilessly with the new VP of Human Resources.
You swore the last time this happened you would stand your ground and say you couldn’t listen. But alas,
here they are, taking up your space, your time, and your good nature.
Office gossip is more than just these things though and left unchecked, can lead to the disintegration of a good
team. It causes employee fatigue and distraction, which in turn can lead to bullying, and even so much as resignation.
Studies show, however (Robbins, 2017), the person causing the disturbance is rarely the one who suffers.
Quite often the person (s) named in the gossip (and yes, it is always about other people) are the ones
targeted, causing stress and hurt. So, not only is this a personal issue, it becomes a company issue as well.
What can start out as a compliment to someone else can easily turn dark and accusing, if stirred in
the gossip’s caldron. The point here is not whether the action is right or wrong; quite often, the gossip in the workplace is based on
some action which has been seen or conversation heard.
Then, said conversation is interpreted or embellished with a flair for drama. As the conversation develops, someone
else overhears the words being said, comes to their own conclusion, and depending on their opinion or
integrity could further the string of misdeeds.
There are so many hurtful and cruel facets of office gossip. Never is it complementary. If an action or
a statement is heard in which a person is in good standing, then it is never a secret, never spoken about
behind closed doors, and usually is a way to offer a reward or recognition. This is not gossip, this is
Gossip is an ugly and disruptive occurrence and is born from the emotional side of humanity, making it
hard to disassemble in the workplace. When a person is called out on the occurrence, the office gossip is
recognized for being critical of someone else. True, this is their own personal opinion, but the responsibility
for actions and the hurtful issues need to be addressed. Rarely does the gossiper own the
conversation alone. Most often it is passed to another person (making it gossip) or has been misinterpreted,
complicating the healing process. In either case, the sooner the process is identified and action is taken, the
sooner the workplace can return to a thriving atmosphere.
Best practices suggest a personal conversation with the said opponent. Often this is the last thing any victim
wants to do, but it may disarm the perpetrator immediately. If not, supervisors and Human Resource
agents may be the next step to remedying the situation. As a supervisor who needs to dismantle the
practice, team-building and trust need to replace the damage, and built from the ground up, proving to keep the
advisors are included.
In short, communication and respect will keep all parties informed and confident of their own devices, creating a
safe workplace, instead of a harmful and combative arena. The sooner bullying is unacceptable in the work
environment, the sooner business will thrive and be successful for all employees.
Robbins, D.A. MD, Victorious Publications, CA 1990-2017; www.vistorious.org/pub/gossip-wrong-147