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No matter your industry, business size, product or service, office gossip can become a pervasive problem among your staff. And unfortunately, the consequences of unchecked office gossip can be harmful and fast-spreading.
Gossip, the act of spreading rumors, discussing someone’s private life without their consent, or stirring up dissention, doesn’t need an office to grow in. This damaging talk can infect a Slack channel, Teams chat, or Zoom room just as quickly as a block of cubicles.
Whether it includes talking about another employee’s personal life, speculating about the reasons behind a business decision, or sharing negative opinions about another person’s performance, no team — or team member — is immune from its far-reaching grasp.
You may be wondering, is a little office gossip really that bad?
While some people may view a little office gossip here and there as harmless conversation, it can actually have a significantly negative impact on your workplace.
The thing about gossip is that it always ends up hurting someone’s feelings. If the gossip is about a particular employee and their personal life, they’re likely to feel judged, misunderstood, and betrayed by their fellow team members’ disrespect for their privacy. If the gossip is about a business decision, just a bit of conjecture can create dissension among team members, a distrust of the company, and a drop in productivity.
Unchecked gossip can even lead to legal trouble if it involves discrimination or harassment.
Even if your workplace gossip is not particularly inappropriate, over time, it can create an atmosphere of distrust and discomfort among your teams, which will ultimately harm the company’s reputation and bottom line.
As a business owner, how can you stop workplace gossip?
Whether you lead a team, a department, or the whole company, it’s important to address gossip quickly and effectively. Not only can this help prevent the long-term negative consequences of a spreading rumor, but it can also foster a more positive and productive workplace culture moving forward.
To make your workplace more harmonious for everyone involved, next time you encounter gossip, try these three rumor-silencing techniques:
1. Use a gossip-stopping phrase
When you hear gossip happening in your workplace, the sooner you address it, the better. But be careful when confronting the gossiper — you don’t want to create a tense and heated situation in the process.
One effective tactic you can use to silence office gossip is to interrupt the rumor and steer it in a more positive direction. Try using one of these key phrases:
“Let’s focus on the positive things happening in the office.”
“Have you talk to (name) about this? Before you share that story, I’m curious what they’d have to say about it.”
“(Name) isn’t here to defend themselves, but I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation.”
“I don’t think it’s productive to talk about people when they’re not here. Can we talk about something else?”
These phrases can help to stop the conversation before more damage is done. And if you use these key phrases often enough, you might just make the gossiper think twice about sharing other’s personal stories freely in the future.
Another effective tactic to stop office gossip is to ask your team for help halting the rumor mill. Consider hosting an open forum-style meeting where you ask employees to commit to keeping gossip to a minimum. You can share stories of times gossip has negatively affected you, and ask others to do the same. By giving the consequences of gossip a real, personalized example, you can show your team the real impact of sharing private and confidential information without permission.
When everyone is on the same page and equally committed to creating a positive workplace culture, it can be much easier to shut down gossip and create a more harmonious work environment.
3. If the business-related rumor is true, but confidential, acknowledge it
Sometimes the rumors you hear about business developments, like an upcoming layoff, business expansion, restructuring, or financial challenges are actually true. But in these sensitive situations, you may not yet be ready to make a formal announcement.
Rather than letting these rumors spread unaddressed, which is likely to create anxiety and uncertainty among your employees, you can acknowledge the rumor without revealing further information.
Use these example phrases as a jumping off point:
“I’m aware that there are rumors circulating about (situation). I don’t have more details to share at this time, but I assure you, I’ll share more when I can.”
“Rumors only make these situations more confusing. Let’s wait to talk about this until I know more.”
“I want to be transparent with you that (situation) is true. I don’t have more details to share yet, but I promise I’ll answer all your questions as soon as I can.”
“Our employees are always our top priority. I have a few more details to clear up before I can share more information, but rest assured, good things are coming.”
By acknowledging the situation without getting into specifics, you can help stop negative or fear-based gossip from spreading while still maintaining the confidentiality of the situation.
Gossip doesn’t have a place in growth-minded businesses
Healthy, safe workplaces are gossip-free workplaces. That’s why the sooner you stop rumors from spreading, and address the truth in them, if necessary, the stronger your teams will be.
Want more? Escalon provides comprehensive back-office solutions to businesses to help them focus on growth. Escalon’s services support businesses with outsourced finance, taxes, accounting, human resource, risk management and compliance. Talk to an expert today.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. Escalon and its affiliates are not providing tax, legal or accounting advice in this article. If you would like to engage with Escalon, please contact us here.
As a professional copywriter in the finance and B2B space, Grace Townsley offers small business leaders big insights—one precisely chosen word at a time. Let's connect!