Tips to address workplace rumors
The conversation is an essential part of human interaction and the best way to grab another individual’s attention is to share something interesting but then you have no idea about how a certain “piece of interesting news” can be twisted out of shape. Most workplace rumors start from harmless gossip about a colleague’s posts on social media or comments about other co-worker’s private life that can quickly make its way around the office grapevine depending on how “juicy” that information, which can have far-reaching detrimental effects.
But sometimes these office grapevines can become vicious gossip machines that are used by influential people in the office as a form of “verbal harassment” to make get rid of employees that do not “toe the line” by spreading falsehoods and malicious falsehoods. Office gossip that does not have any truth in it can ruin lives and wreck careers that may sometimes urge the affected employees to even sue the employer for workplace harassment. But rumors and gossip are sometimes like wildfire that is hard to stamp out once it begins, so the best want to control it by setting up strong checks and balances within the organization through a positive human resource policy that nip rumors in the bud as and when they start.
- Have a “zero-tolerance” rule for office gossip – Have a built-in policy in the employee handbook that discourages “office gossip” and displays strong punitive against rule-breakers irrespective of their position and years of service. Once employees are clear that no one is an exception to the rule then discipline is restored automatically.
- Set a reporting procedure – Encourage people to report any inappropriate gossip and falsehoods to senior bosses or the human resources department either directly or anonymously to neutralize it. While there are chances of this privilege being misused to harass juniors the chances are minimal as then it can lead to departmental inquiries. Have a strong system in place for people to report unwarranted workplace gossip without fear of vigilantism within the organization; otherwise, this can cause unnecessary antagonism between colleagues that could affect output.
- Get to the bottom of the matter – The best way forward for a leader under these circumstances is to call both the perpetrator and victim at different times into an office cabin or some other room where you are not likely to be disturbed and talk to them about how the workplace rumor is negatively affecting the office atmosphere. If possible ask both of them to tactfully make peace without causing a scene and request them to keep it private.
- Maintain transparency in procedures – Gossip and rumors in the office generally thrive when there is no transparency or ambiguity in procedural issues related to all types of harassment and how they are redressed. Share information with subordinates and listen to them about workplace issues or else they will discuss it among peers and speculate unnecessarily. All employees in modern workplaces prefer transparency and open communication instead of “cloak and dagger” policies that are considered ancient.
- Deal with it maturely – If you as a leader feel that workplace rumor has affected far too many people to handle it individually then handle it in a professional manner by focusing on the issue and directing a strong message towards the entire office. Send out an email to the entire office or call a general meeting and address everyone with a clear solution to end the matter and stop the gossip. As an employee avoid being drawn into office rumors by either brushing it off as a joke or changing the subject in an unobtrusive manner. If the workplace gossip irks you then ask the gossipmonger to verify it with specific details so if in case the person falters you know the amount of truth it.
As owners, human resource managers and leaders, remember that workplace rumors cost billions in wasted man-hours and also damage morale that can sometimes become irreversible. Maintain a healthy work atmosphere by regular team outings and interactive sessions for employees to know each other well and grow together.