As you’re creating a company culture, you’ll find (and likely already know) some employees are prone to creating and spreading negative news about others within the workplace.
Harmless water cooler chatter or not, it is certainly hurtful. I don’t mean that it will always directly hurt the person who is being talked about (although that can happen too, of course). It also hurts your culture, employee morale and decreases productivity levels. Simply put, there’s no room for rampant negativity in the workplace.
As a founder and leader, it’s important to manage and mitigate malicious and disruptive workplace gossip; after all, it comes with the territory of managing people and a growing organization. That said, here’s a look at simple tips that can minimize and stop workplace gossip in its tracks:
Set employee expectations.
One of the best ways to influence employee behavior is by letting them know what you expect. This can be communicated in your company’s core values, employee handbook and during the onboarding process. On the subject of gossip, be very clear about why it is completely unacceptable. Communicate your company values in the form of posters or artwork. Also, don’t be afraid to remind employees via a memo, email and your company’s intranet when the issue is brought to your attention.
Be a good example.
A leader cannot influence a team without leading by example. If you actively take part in gossip you are not leading by example. Show your employees how to act and behave at the office by illustrating personal professionalism. Employees often look up to you as an example because they naturally think the traits you exhibit are the status quo. If you gossip with your team, they will think it is perfectly acceptable and normal for them to do the same.
Conduct employee surveys.
Quick employee surveys (using free online survey tools) are a great way for employees to share real-time information that they wouldn’t otherwise speak of openly. To improve feedback allow submissions to remain anonymous and encourage open dialogue. This is an effective way to stay apprised of workplace issues and eliminate them as soon as possible.
Promote an open door policy.
No one likes to babysit, but it’s important to be aware and cautious of workplace conflicts. Don’t ignore issues that are brought to your attention, as they can lead to a high employee turnover rate and possible legal infractions within your team. A demoralized company culture can do more harm than you realize.
Deal with employee misconduct swiftly.
Once the culprit has been identified, his or her actions should be addressed. Turning a blind eye to workplace issues breeds more problems and resentment. Giving a strict warning is fair the first time around. However, that could be followed with an even more stringent and formal response should they continue to do it in future.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Sharen Stuart is an expert dissertation writer sharing workplace tips on behalf of Dissertation Mall. She contributes to many online websites related to education and career development. Connect with @dissertationmal on Twitter.