Leaders often have to deal with rumor and gossip in the workplace. It’s important to understand the difference so the response is appropriate.
Is it a rumor or is it gossip?
Rumors are usually based in fact. However, when the facts are incomplete or are poorly communicated, gaps are filled in by best guesses. That speculation is how rumors are born, grow and spread. Typically, rumors are about circumstances or events that people don’t fully understand.
Gossip is generally related to people and relationships and are often malicious in nature. The spread of gossip must be directly addressed or it can lead to bullying or harassment.
Both gossip and rumors have a negative affect on the work environment. They can lead to declining morale and trust across the team, reduced productivity due to distraction, increased anxiety and tension and, ultimately, increased turnover as people choose to flee a toxic environment.
As a leader, you can absolutely minimize both.
To prevent or minimize rumors, keep employees informed with open, frequent, honest communication. Be as transparent as possible, while also protecting confidential information; it is OK to say, “This is all I can share now.” Build trusting relationships with your team members. Welcome questions and answer them honestly. Work toward a culture of cooperation, not competition.
To reduce gossip, adopt a no-tolerance policy. Set an example by your own behavior. Don’t start or share information about others that is not true or that is inflammatory. Directly address the perpetrator and explain the impact of gossip on the team. Encourage positive communication among your team members, deflect and redirect.
The Bottom Line:
Rumors and gossip aren’t going away but leaders can reduce the opportunity for them. Engage in open, honest and regular communication. Build a culture of respect and integrity, harmony and trust. Discuss the negative impact of rumors and gossip and set appropriate expectations for behavior. Invite, welcome and share questions. Live the behavior you expect from your team.
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Contact me here if you are interested in a leadership development training activity on the topic of Rumors and Gossip in The Workplace. I’m also excited to share my new website, elbiddulph.com. Click the Resources link for more tips and tools to help you effectively lead with love.
Photo credit: Duck Gossip by Lucky Lynda, used with Creative Commons license.