“Spilling the tea” is modern slang for gossip.  Much like tea, gossip can stain much of the fabric of the workplace environment if left to spread.  In fact, here are a few statistics to show just how much gossip impacts the organizations:

How Frequent is Gossip in the Workplace?

  • 86% of employees gossip during the workday1
  • Workers spend 40 minutes per week gossiping, which averages nearly 35 hours per year.2

Who are the Biggest Gossips?

  • Men spend more time gossiping than women. On average men gossip 1 hour per week compared to women who only gossip 30 minutes per week.2
  • Women gossip more frequently than men. 79% of women gossip compared to 55% of men.2
  • 81% of Millennials are most likely to gossip, compared to 70% of Gen Xers and 58% of Baby Boomers2

How is Gossip Used?  

  • 41% of Millennials said they use gossip as the source for workplace news.2
  • 30% of managers/bosses ask employees about gossip to learn about workplace issues2
  • 33% of employees who engage in job related gossip had negative feelings and behavior toward colleagues, superiors and the organization.3

Who are the Targets of Gossip?

  • 52% of gossip is job related while 45% is non-job related gossip3
  • 71% of gossip is directed at other employees while 44% is directed at upper management and 34% is specific to a reporting superior/boss.2
  • 86% of gossip concerns corporate issues and challenges.4

What is the Impact of Gossip?

  • 1 out of 5 employees have left a company due to gossip and workplace drama.1
  • 38% of employees (and 48% of Millennials) said they have been jealous or had animosity toward a co-worker because of gossip.2
  • Employees who engage in job related gossip were found to have higher levels of doubt, cynicism and were critical of a manager’s strategies. This correlated with lower levels of morale and productivity.3

If these statistics aren’t persuasive that gossip is a real problem in the workplace, additional studies by the University of Virginia and Indiana University5 also demonstrate:

  • Gossip damages productivity, trust and divides employees by diminishing morale.
  • Gossip can hurt the reputation of good workers, damaging advancement and promotion opportunities and ultimately forcing the worker to seek employment where he/she is valued.
  • Gossip can lead to legal liability for employees, managers and organization who allow malicious, false and slanderous gossip which impacts the career, life and health of the person who the gossip is directed at.

Mitigate the Damage

You can mitigate the damage of gossip, and prevent it from being inflicted again in the future, even if gossip has created issues at your company.  Here are a few ways to minimize the impact of gossip in your workplace:

  • Establish a No Gossip Culture
    If you want to minimize gossip, this starts with a culture that doesn’t embrace it. Part of a healthy work environment means avoiding watercooler conversations that aren’t productive such as gossip, negativity and any behaviors that hinder productivity or kill morale.  One way to do this is through a policy or code of conduct.  Another is by ensuring leaders model, as well as enforce, the behavior they want to see in the workplace.
  • Create a Positive Culture
    Communication is key to keep workers feeling that they aren’t out of touch. This means one-on-one meetings as well as group meetings that are productive and meaningful.  Additionally, providing morale boosters such as acts of appreciation and recognition are also critical.  Encourage workers to recognize each other for the “little things” each week.  As a leader/manager take time to appreciate your workers by understanding what’s important to each person so they feel valued.
  • Keep Workers Busy
    Evaluate who is doing the work (as well as who is not) and distribute the workload more evenly. Gossip often starts because there are conflicts about who is doing what.  Workers who are busy doing a good job don’t have time gossip.  However, workers who do the minimum, often resent the recognition of the “busy bee.”  It also means that if everyone is busy, no one has time to listen to gossip because they are working.
  • Encourage Workers to Act with Integrity
    While a juicy story may be hard to pass up, help workers grow character. If they listen, don’t speak up, don’t walk away they become part of the problem.  Remind them that no one is exempt from gossip and that when someone gossips, to remember that person is likely talking about you too.
  • Hold Everyone Accountable
    Having a gossip-free workplace only works when everyone is accountable for his or her actions. Get everyone involved in creating an environment that defines what gossip is (and isn’t) and how they will be accountable personally, as a group, and to each other.PRO-TIP:  Offer an incentive for improved morale or productivity as a result of less gossip!  Create a no-gossip challenge and see how many days a team can go without the temptation. 
  • Avoid Trouble
    Just like dieters who avoid sweets, if gossip is something that’s a habit, avoid troublemakers. Steer clear of conversations that become negative or veer in the direction of speaking about someone or about issues that aren’t uplifting or stir the pot of frustration.
  • Apply Newton’s Third Law
    Newton’s third law goes something like this: “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” When something negative is brought up, find something positive to say.  For example if the gossiper says, “Did you see that Susie got pulled into Kathy’s office again?  She’s probably getting another promotion and forgetting the work we do for her.”You can reply with something such as, “Susie is a really hard worker.  I know she works through lunch and is here before most of us come in. We should be proud of her if she does get a promotion.  She’s earned it and that means that one of us has an opportunity to do the same with the right attitude and hard work.”
  • Address Gossip Complaints Promptly
    If you are a manager, leader or supervisor, take complaints of gossip or a noticeable decline in morale seriously. Then work to correct the issue, which may include:

    1. Identifying what the gossip is about
    2. Is the gossip something that you can fix/rectify such as setting the record straight (e.g. a corporate issue such as mass layoffs, merger, etc.)
    3. Locating the source of the “story”
    4. Conveying to workers why gossip is bad for morale and productivity, as well as how it injures the company, them and their relationships with each other.
    5. Discouraging gossip in an official capacity such as reminding workers of company policy, code of conduct, etc.
  • Nip Gossip in the Bud
    If a gossiper doesn’t get the message that gossiping isn’t tolerated, its time be direct. Take action against offenders if the behavior persists (e.g. including in employee evaluation, write-up, suspension, termination, referral to HR or counseling, etc.)

While gossip can wreak havoc on morale, productivity and turn-over, there are powerful measures you can take to repair existing damage and prevent it from occurring in the future.

For more information about how Gavel International can help your organization through outsourced meeting planning, event and travel incentive programs, contact us. 


SOURCES:

1https://officepulse.captivate.com/office-gossip-runs-rampant
2https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/a-surprising-new-workplace-study-reveals-who-real-gossipers-are-men-or-women.html
3https://news-archive.salford.ac.uk/news/articles/2016/does-gossip-at-work-harm-performance.html
4teamworks-works.com/_literature_156097/Gossip_Dilemma
5https://smallbusiness.chron.com/damage-gossip-workplace-15218.html

Jeff Richards