The Management of Gossip in the Workplace Gossip is a very negative form of communication, especially personal gossip about co-workers. It builds anenvironment of mistrust in the workplace causing productivity and team building to decline, thereby increasing emotional and environmental tension. Rarely does gossip stop by itself, neither does it decrease over time but usually crescendos to involve more and more people until it becomes uncomfortable to continue working and creates a crisis for management. Recently, one of my co-workers came to me, the manager of a group of school teachers, K-12, informing me that certain teachers were talking negatively about other certain teachers, even to the point that it had become the constant topic of conversation for casual meetings outside the workplace.
She didn’t want to be identified in any way, but thought that I should know what was occurring because the workplace tension had increased recently and was beginning to affect the classes at school. There was less productivity in the classroom and at staff meetings, the students were more restless and some of them even knew about the situation.
There was also talk of some of the teachers looking for work elsewhere. I knew I had to act quickly. I put together a staff policy regarding negativity and rumors, giving it a place of value on the employee performance evaluations. The school drafted a Teamwork and Accountability contract for all employees to sign. They also provided an anonymous communications box where suggestions, confidential information, and feedback could be turned in by the teachers without the hassle of being identified. Departments were addressed independently of each other and given teamwork assignments for the school improvement plan; with each department being required to come up with five new goals for improvement over the school year.
Incentives were posted rewarding a prize for the team who successfully reached their monthly improvement goals as well as their overall annual goals. A newsletter for the staff called “Teacher Talk” was developed by the teachers for the teachers, advising them of upcoming professional development events and progress towards their departmental improvement goals. In addition, there was a new employee incentive program started called “Teamwork Personified”, giving employees the chance to nominate people they thought had done the most to further the teamwork goals for the month.
The prize for the winner was a dinner out for their family, and a chance to park in the best parking spot on campus for the whole month. The results were fantastic! Teamwork soared and gossip dwindled, though it didn’t stop. Finally, after three warnings, one verbal and two written, I had to let one employee, who consistently made herself the leader of the gossip ring, find somewhere else to work.
She was an unhappy person with many personal issues who needed the negative attention that gossip creates. The staff was very happy with the new perks and incentives, and, seemed to be much happier working toward goals instead of working on each other. Opening the lines of communication anonymously as well as providing teamwork incentives went a long way towards building trust and job satisfaction in the workplace. References Corbin, J., May J. “What to Do About Gossip in the Workplace? ”.
HR Advisor. Municipal Research & Services Center. May 2005. Web. 23 Nov. 2010. www. mrsc. org/focus/hradvisor/hra0505.aspx