Leadership Approaches to Managing Workplace Gossip


Gossip can be harmful, distorting new employees' perceptions of company culture and impeding positive organizational change if driven by negativity.
Encouraging positive engagements and celebrating team achievements can reduce the space where harmful gossip thrives.
By focusing on constructive aspects of gossip and reducing harmful noise, leaders can help cultivate a culture of respect, openness, and collective advancement.
managing office gossip
Genesis Fisher Lead Facilitator and Trainer

Gossip has always been a part of the workplace. It's a double-edged sword. On one side, it's easy to dismiss as chatter babble that can bring down the team spirit; but on the other hand, it can be an informal way of sharing critical information within the company.

Surprisingly, the whisper network can act like a canary in the coal mine, uncovering problems like bullying, sexual harassment, and other kinds of bad behavior before they blow up into big issues. For anyone leading a team, this side of gossip can provide clues that something's awry, which might warrant a closer look.

In places where the pressure's high, gossip can become an unofficial mood meter, reflecting what people are thinking and feeling behind the scenes. When it's not overdone, it can be an emotional pressure release, helping to ease tension. Sure, it might not be the most productive approach, but it can bring people closer together, kind of like watching your own version of reality TV during those endless nights at work.

But there's a catch to the informality of gossip—it's like a wild vine of information, where motivations mix with facts. Gossip can be detrimental, especially if it's fueled by folks who aren't feeling great about their jobs. For new employees, it can warp their view of the company's atmosphere, leaving a less-than-stellar impression of their teammates, the bosses, and what the company stands for. All of this can get in the way of positive organizational change.

Tackling gossip doesn't mean you have to slam the brakes on it. In fact, that can make things worse. What really helps is working on building a positive work culture. When the atmosphere is good, gossip doesn't have the same chance to take root and spread.

When it comes to creating such a workplace environment, transparency is our friend. An environment where everyone feels like they're heard and valued means there's less room for behind-the-back chatter. Think about having regular open meetings, suggestion boxes, and always being approachable. These are solid ways for folks to share what's on their mind without whispering in corners.

Furthermore, creating opportunities for positive interactions can crowd out the negative space where harmful gossip thrives. Whether it's cheering for each other's wins, marking special moments, or just getting together as a team, it all builds a feeling of togetherness and a shared goal.

Inevitably, gossip's going to pop up now and then. But when it does, leaders need to be savvy enough to sift through the chit-chat to find the bits that actually matter, to whom, and why. This means really getting to know the team and staying connected with everyone, no matter their role.

By focusing on the bits of gossip that can tell us something useful, and working on decreasing the negative noise, leaders can turn what's often seen as a workplace hassle into something that helps build a culture that's all about respect, openness, and moving forward together.

Genesis Fisher is a lead facilitator and trainer at JAMS Pathways. She has nearly 10 years as a certified mediator and is adept at facilitating positive change. Her trainings and workshops have helped over 2,500 people in six countries communicate better in the workplace. A sought-after teacher, writer and speaker, she serves on the Advisory Committee for the Center for Creative Conflict Resolution, which provides conflict resolution services for over 70 New York City agencies. She can be reached at gfisher@jamsadr.com.

This page is for general information purposes. JAMS makes no representations or warranties regarding its accuracy or completeness. Interested persons should conduct their own research regarding information on this website before deciding to use JAMS, including investigation and research of JAMS neutrals.
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