From the first day the humble water cooler was invented, it has been a gathering spot for office gossips to dish the dirt. While a little chitchat might not seem like a big deal, gossip can quickly get out of control — especially in a small business environment. When rumors run rampant, it’s hard to discern official company communication from speculation. Gossip can reach your customer as well. Understand first how it affects your bottom line so you can put policies in place to prevent it.
Not all gossip is meant to be malicious, slanderous or negative. Some people just can’t help it: they love talking about other peoples’ lives. As trivial as some information might be, sharing it in the workplace can be considered gossip. If your words are not something you would say in front of the person, or if they are unsubstantiated, it’s probably gossip.
Gossip in the workplace is frequently about a particular person or persons. It can be defamatory, negative and embarrassing for the co-worker who is the subject of the rumor. But it doesn’t just create conflict for individuals. Gossip can cause rifts within the organization, as people side with one another or lose confidence in their associates. This can affect productivity. For example, if an office administrator feels slighted by gossip from a salesman, the administrator might lose trust in the salesman. This in turn might prevent her from approaching the salesman about ideas that could help increase sales. Lower sales can have a direct impact on the bottom line.
Harms Client Relations
If customers are exposed to rumors or sense dissatisfaction in the company, it can chip away at the client relationship. A customer who has his accounting done at a CPA firm, for example, doesn’t want to hear that office gossip might cause his lead accountant to leave the firm. If the customer decides to take his business elsewhere, the lost account will hurt the CPA firm’s bottom line. Gossip can also harm a small business if a decline in morale causes employees to lose focus on the customer.
Poor Communication Breeds Gossip
When employees hear rumors about co-workers, principals or the company, it’s hard to know what is true and what is false. If they don’t have access to the truth, they usually fill in the blanks with hearsay or gossip. It’s important for employers to communicate openly with employees to keep everyone up-to-speed on workplace events. This step can minimize the influence of and need for gossip.
According to Fox Business Analyst Dave Ramsey, every small business should implement a no-gossip policy as part of its standard operating procedures, and then enforce the policy as often as is needed. Read the policy to your workforce and give it a written copy. Ask employees to direct gripes to upper-level leaders — and pass compliments down.