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How to Deal With Workplace Gossip Syndrome for Better Efficiency?


Humans share a few universal traits that traverse borders, cultures, and races. We make weird faces to express our emotions, sigh when we’re disappointed, and gossip; we gossip a lot! We are loud when we express our emotions; we jump with extreme happiness, cry with sadness, and fight with our anger.

Literally, gossip means to discuss something, either good or bad, in someone’s absence. Gossip usually means something spicy. It is the ultimate forbidden fruit of conversations.

The Causes of Gossip Syndrome

It is imperative to study the psychology of gossiping before we jump to villainizing it. Gossiping, like most human vices, is a natural tendency. Whether you participate in gossip or not, you have felt the urge to do it at one point in life. The reason all of us gossip is simple.

People gossip because it’s fun, addictive, and quite rewarding. In a peculiar sense, gossiping gives people a sense of power. It provides us with the agency to pass judgment on someone’s life or character or act as the sole outlet for breaking news. Knowledge is power and people with power cannot help but flex.

Psychological Impact of Gossip Syndrome

Experiments on human sociology have pointed out that gossip, especially the negative and spicier kind, stimulates the brain’s reward center. Therefore, not only does gossip expose us to a potential habit of talking badly about someone, but we are also wired to enjoy and get addicted to it.

It is highly problematic because you are modeling your brain to be rewarded by someone’s falls and flaws instead of your success and growth. If left unopposed, this habit can develop a sense of superiority in you based on the flaws you know about everyone around you. You will measure your professional growth by how bad everyone else is rather than how good you have done. It’s the perfect way to convince yourself to be okay with being a figure among ciphers.

Major Effects on Efficiency

All addictions have one common enemy: time. Gossiping, despite the moral lacking, can be a very engaging activity and people engaged in gossiping can easily lose their sense of time. In a professional environment, this time slippage on the company clock can add up to a significant number. If you could draw a graph between the prevalence of gossiping in a company and employees’ efficiency, it would be a downward slope.

On top of that, gossiping isn’t just harmless casual chitchat. It is a culture of back-talk that has the potential to create and ignite inter-employee hostility. If an employee hears about the bad things said by fellow employees behind his or her back, it obviously will not be a merry hearing. Instead, it will and very often does give rise to intra-office grudges. This also negatively impacts efficiency as employees who do not want to work with each other will work against each other.

The Counter intuition Of Workplace and Gossiping

In a workplace where gossiping is rampant, workers lose morale toward company objectives. If a worker is convinced that he needs to protect his image instead of his performance at all costs, his motivations will understandably not align with the company’s direction.

Overcoming the Enemy – Winning a Lost Battle

To overcome gossiping and the toxic culture that ensues, the prior discussion must be kept in mind. It is absolutely critical to hate the sin, not the sinner. It should be noted that most of the time, gossiping isn’t intentionally harmful. Understanding that it is an impulse we all carry, we can empathize with the people involved and overcome the toxicity simultaneously.

Ways to Overcome the Gossip Syndrome in the Workplace

1. Analyze and Identify

If you’re aiming to work against the gossiping culture, you will likely end up restricting essential employee interactions altogether. To avoid creating a harsh office environment, you need to first be able to distinguish between chitchat and gossip.

Chitchat is a natural consequence of a sociable environment. Expect it, let it bring the people together, and supervise it.

The key difference between office chitchat and gossip is the subject. Recognizing gossip precedes eradicating gossip. If people are having a go at each other’s choices of automobiles, it’s probably harmless. Instead, if the topic being discussed is someone’s character and lifestyle, it makes up for gossip.

Once you are confident that you are dealing with an acute case of gossiping among your employees, grade it. If it is just budding, consider an easy approach. If it has plagued the workspace, assertive action is warranted.

2. Call it out

One certified way of getting rid of a problem is to face it head-on. Gossip can start off as an innocuous activity. Your employees might not even realize that they are becoming a part of the gossiping culture. In this case, it is ideal for making people realize and nip it in the bud. However, If the title tattle has crossed the threshold and the people are getting accustomed to it, a stricter, face-to-face approach is required.

People who gossip are often low in self-esteem and do not expect scrutiny. They also fail to fully realize the extent of the consequences of their actions. If such people are confronted regarding their actions, they will likely fold and admit their wrongdoing.

However, insulting or degrading the gossiper is a sure way to escalate the conflict as this will only make him or her defensive. Your mission is to make someone realize that they’re doing harm; try not to harm them instead. Try to remain calm, confident, and careful with your words.

3. Don’t be a part of it

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to do nothing. A certain level of gossiping, as might be expected, is unavoidable. Yet, all toxic cultures start out this way. If you find the gossip to be harmless and under control, trying to control your involvement in it is preferable.

This method is usually overlooked as we underestimate our involvement in passing on hearsay. Simply laughing or high-fiving at someone’s gossip is a way to validate their behavior. If you find yourself in the company of gossip, announce your departure. Make it clear to everyone involved that you are not fond of or comfortable discussing such subjects. This reduces the number of gossip lovers and plants a flag of resistance against inappropriate conversations.

4. Encourage Positive Gossip

The worst flipside of negative gossip is simply creating a culture where people share positive stories about work, culture, and customers. Think of positive examples where the peers and the bosses can easily communicate what they feel proud about at work.

Such an example would be an employee going simply above and beyond in serving a customer, then the management sharing relevant stories companywide through social media to enhance the brand value. Start by monitoring the huddles with positive gossip and then reinforce the cultural values and key behaviors you want through storytelling.

5. Model the behavior you want to see

As a new manager, if you have previously gossiped in the break room with others, you must stop that behavior yourself. Employees will always look to you for what behaviors you are displaying and rank them as acceptable or unacceptable. You must ensure that you are walking the talk at all times and leading an example for others.

Changing your own and others’ bad habits is not the easiest task, but once you make that change, you will realize that your department becomes an example for others throughout the company.

6. Report it

Some gossip can get out of hand. When all else fails, involving the administration is a viable option. Such methods of dealing with gossip should come after trying softer ways to deal with it. Nevertheless, if expected results are not achieved and employees continue to spread rumors, report them to Human Resources.

HR is meant to be at the forefront of dealing with issues among employees. If gossips are refractory to civil courses, HR taking notice will definitely have a positive effect.

7. Meet with your entire team

Once you address the people causing the issue, the next step is to discuss the situation closely with the entire team. This can be easily done by including gossip as a major topic for discussion in a staff meeting and helping the team understand the differences between negative and positive gossip.

Then work with your team to change the overall department culture to one that encourages positive gossip and sets an example for others to see and follow up.

Wrapping it up

Gossiping can be a nuisance. Classically, it starts off as silly, innoxious conversations. If left unchecked, it can take over the office space in several ways. It can destroy someone’s reputation and sow the seeds of interpersonal conflict. It can replace and challenge authentic news and become the source of misleading information and chaos. It can also cause a group of people to slack in their objectives and mar their progress.

Despite all this, it is vital to keep a positive attitude towards this phenomenon. Keeping a levelheaded approach to solving behavioral issues, especially in the workspace, is essential to solving modern problems. Allowing negative workplace gossip to flourish can lead to a culture of distrust and negatively impact productivity, engagement, turnover, and morale – not to mention increase the company’s legal liability. New managers should act quickly, unless stopped, the pervasive negative gossip can be like a disease that quickly spreads, wreaking havoc throughout a department.

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