There’s no getting around it: The grapevine exists. Regardless of whether you work for a large corporation, midsize company or small business, workplace gossip is just a fact of office life. But as a manager, it’s critical to know when it moves from harmless water cooler chatter into something more corrosive.
Following are six tips to help managers effectively deal with the workplace gossip grapevine.
1. Maintain an open-door policy
If you want to be kept in the loop, your employees need to know you want them to come to you with their concerns. Some employees will still hesitate to speak up first, so be proactive and catch up with them regularly to keep your finger on the pulse of the office. If your company has a workplace gossip policy, be sure to share it with your team.
2. Provide clear and candid information quickly
This is particularly important during times of change when workplace gossip tends to spread at a faster pace. Nothing gets the rumor mill churning faster than silence from management on an issue, so avoid withholding information and create an environment of transparency and trust.
3. Address workplace gossip swiftly
Whether it’s a rumor about the company or about a particular employee, don’t wait to see if it fizzles out on its own. The negative feelings created by the rumor will only fester and lower morale. Taking action immediately to address the issue at the source of the gossip will help employees feel safe in their work environment and stay focused on their jobs.
4. Share praise
When management displays a tendency to favor one staff member over the others, hurtful rumors are likely to follow. Show your staff you value collaboration by praising everyone for the roles they play in helping the team meet its goals. Workplace gossip about individual employees is less likely to occur when everyone feels that their work is appreciated.
5. Clarify individual roles
Disagreements and “turf wars” often result from team members not fully understanding the parts their colleagues play during a project. Be explicit when you assign duties, and make sure everyone is aware of the chain of command. This will help avoid territorial squabbles while also enhancing productivity.
6. Lead by example
One of the best ways to deal with gossip as a manager is by being a positive role model. Never spread rumors and avoid criticizing your superiors in front of staff members. Managers who consistently demonstrate integrity will inspire the same from their employees.
Even seemingly harmless office gossip can hurt employee morale, leading to a decrease in productivity and problems with retention. A savvy manager stays ahead of the game by communicating with employees, addressing rumors head-on and setting an example with a leadership style built on openness and trust.