As a business owner, effective communication with clients and employees is pivotal to your success. With the shift in office attitudes to a more laid back work atmosphere, the lines of what is considered appropriate conversation are sometimes blurred.
Joking with employees, creating camaraderie and generally being pleasant to work with are all good things that contribute to a healthy company culture, but be careful. Office conversations can venture into dangerous territory.
Talking about an employee’s performance, pay, or personal matters with anyone other than that employee (or a supervisor who has a legitimate need to know that information) is downright unprofessional, can impact morale, and eventually hurt your company’s bottom line.
There’s A Fine ‘Communication’ Line
Starting a business, and then scaling it, can be isolating and lonely. But don’t make gossip buddies with your office staff. Partaking in seemingly harmless gossip about another employee may seem entertaining, but actions like this are unprofessional and work against you.
Though you may gain the immediate camaraderie of the employee you dished too, you also present yourself as someone who doesn’t value professionalism, and as a leader who is willing to get a quick laugh at the expense of someone else. Encouraging gossip in the workplace negatively impacts your business because it:
Is a morale buster.
Sharing other people’s personal details that you are privy to as the owner of a business hurts morale. Though your offhand mention of someone’s personal life boosted the office atmosphere for a moment, you ultimately contributed to breaking down the open lines of communication necessary to a high functioning workplace.
Breeds a culture of fear.
When no one feels they can safely make a mistake, ask questions or share something they are struggling with (personally or otherwise) due to fear they will be mocked, you have set up a poor company culture. In this type of workplace environment risk taking is discouraged, and that hurts your business.
Increases human error.
If employees know you will talk openly about their mistakes with other employees, they suddenly feel ashamed to ask for help, or to ask questions about how to best do their job. The result: employees who don’t ask questions make more mistakes.
Decreases leadership potential.
A lack of discretion is unprofessional. Talking about employees with their peers makes you look like a rookie. Employees want to work for a company that values their expertise, and provides them with a safe, professional environment. If your company culture thrives on gossip, that you regularly partake in, the chances of you being taken seriously when the need arises descends very quickly.
Leaders Set The Tone
Setting up a workplace that thrives on gossip can get out of hand. If you present yourself as a owner who talks about employees (with no regard for professional discretion) you encourage employees to treat each other, and you, with the same lack of respect.