Home > Uncategorized > Psst…Do You Know This? Let’s gossip about gossips

Psst…Do You Know This? Let’s gossip about gossips

Reading Time: 7 minutes (1077 words)

Conversations at workplace typically consist of confidential and non-confidential matters. Ranging from personal to official issues, most often they are caustic and harmful.

Slow poison
Gossip can be harmless but at the workplace it’s like slow poison. It mars workplace relationships and invariably has serious repercussions. Owing to the uncertainty in the economy, employees nurture fears and apprehensions. To allay these fears and pry into confidential matters they resort to gossip.

The TMP Worldwide survey revealed some really shocking facts. Nearly 12% of the women respondents had quit their jobs due to gossip. The problem is more prevalent in the advertising and sales and marketing areas where 44% have been victims of gossip. HR departments follow suit with 43%. GM’s and the CEO’s are most subject to false gossip.

Did you know this?
Arky Ciancutti, a HR Consultant and author of the book, Built on Trust: Gaining Competitive Advantage in Any Organisation, says an organisation’s culture determines the prevalence of gossip. Employees in organisations that do not have an open climate and are secretive are generally frustrated. Such employees tend to gossip more.

An open and friendly climate always yields employee trust. Employees learn to respect each other and the organisation.


  • Eliminates trust among employees
  • Lowers staff morale
  • Creates a toxic work place
  • Lowers productivity

Organisations might also face lawsuits and defamation cases involving unnecessary expenses. Eventually, employees lose confidence in their organisation and the organisation loses top performers.

The healing touch

Gossip exists so what next? What can HR professionals do to remedy the situation?

The employees should be explained the downside of workplace gossip. HR should play a proactive role by arranging short term training sessions to this end. Another option would be that organisations should form a committee that can listen and handle work related issues of employees. Gossip breeds only when there is miscommunication or no communication at all. A talk with the employees who gossip about its serious repercussions might do the needful. Also they need to be counselled individually and in private.

Jim Nunan is the senior vice president, HR of Nonstop Solutions. An expert in dealing with workplace gossips he handled innumerable cases in five other companies where he was a vice president HR. Nunan narrates how he dealt with the problem.

In the late 80’s Nunan was working with a company that had 3 regional offices as a result of a merger. Each of these offices varied in culture, products, and staff. Owing to differences employees saw each other as a threat and resorted to gossiping. The company soon experienced a high turnover with some of the high performers quitting. When the situation seemed to be going out of control Nunan consulted Arky Ciancutti.

They decided to have a two-day training session for the employees. Only 12 employees attended the session. The session lucidly explained the ills of gossiping and established that constructive feedback is what is warranted.

Thenceforth, the company encouraged open communication and helped employees build trust in each other. Even today, years after the session happened employees of the company still tackle their work related problems in the same way. But Nunan says that he had to struggle hard to persuade his CEO to understand the relevance of the training session. Unless HR professionals have the resilience to convince the top management, such programmes will not be valued.

HR’s reaction
HR stands at a strategic and crucial point when it comes to gossip. This is because whether the gossip starts from the top executives or the shop floor employees, the responsibility of handling such issues falls on HR. Generally, employees approach HR with all kinds of gossips mostly rumours about co-workers and immediate superiors. It’s HR’s duty to counsel them and teach them constructive criticism.

Recognising gossip
There exists a thin line of differentiation between gossip and work related conversations. Recognising this difference and tackling it is the real challenge.

HR can expect the rise of gossip when management fails to keep its promises. Employees begin speculating and this can be very damaging for the company. Another warning sign could be when managers aren’t supportive. Managers, of course try to avoid any involvement in any squabbles.

Communication is important
Communication is an effective tool but should be routed through proper channels lest the purpose should be defeated. According to Joe Colosimo, Senior VP, Organisational Resources Counsellors Inc. accuracy of information should be ensured.

Similarly, the mode of communication also matters. Some companies convey negative feedback through e-mails. This could be damaging because employees save these messages and forward them to others thereby betraying TRUST.

Donelly Corp has successfully built trust among its employees. An automotive supplier in Holland has about 2600 employees who work from home. Six different committees inform about any issue concerning them or the company. These committees handle work related problems in their monthly meetings.

US Vision, a manufacturing company, used a similar gossip handling mechanism twice. It was rumoured that the company was closing down because of financial constraints and that the employees would be laid off. A news item in the local newspaper that talked about the failing optical market along with a photograph of their stocks had triggered these rumours.

The company had to do something before it affected the employees’ trust. They conducted a training session for all the 500 employees. The financial status of the company and the industry as a whole were discussed threadbare. Though the meeting lasted only for 15 minutes it worked.

An eye opener
Last year US filed a suit against Phaneesh Murthy of Infosys for sexual harassment. The company was rife with gossip. Anybody’s guess how damaging such gossip could be for the company’s image.

Gossip can be good too
People naturally talk about others and the more one gossips the more he finds himself in the midst of the social group. Therefore, it’s not possible to completely eliminate it. In fact psychologists opine that some amount of gossiping is good. However, there is a difference between casual gossip and gossip that aim at maligning others.

According to Sarah Al Doori, people gossip for power or to attract attention or because they think they are helping others. Gossip could be a powerful source of information if utilised for constructive purposes. Managers can identify problems persisting in a department, which would otherwise remain unknown. Care should be taken that it does not result in an act of spying.


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