There’s no getting around it: The grapevine exists. Regardless of whether you work for a large corporation, midsize company or small business, office gossip is just a fact of workplace life. But as a manager, it’s critical to know when it moves from harmless water cooler chatter into something more corrosive.
More than half of workers polled for a Robert Half report said gossip is the most common form of office politics. Following are six tips to help managers effectively deal with the office 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.
2. Provide clear and candid information quickly. This is particularly important during times of change when office 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 office 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. Office 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 office 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 lower employee morale, leading to a decrease in productivity and issues 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.