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What measures can an employer take to stop employees from gossiping?

Casual gossip is inherent in the culture of many companies and, for as long as people work together, employers will have to deal with gossip.

At its worst, gossip involves vicious rumors that create animosity among co-workers and disruptions in the workforce. Gossip rarely is a form of flattery, and in most circumstances lacks any real validity. It can cause irreparable damage. When individuals assume to know and talk about the private affairs of others, they display an unprofessional and unattractive personality trait of their own. Also, employees who spend their time standing around the water cooler catching up on the latest gossip are wasting valuable work time and affecting their ability to be productive.

Realistically speaking, an employer never can put a complete stop to workplace gossip. But what employees discuss on company time has a direct impact on what they produce and how they produce it. Therefore, employers can attempt to combat the problem by taking measures such as the following:

  • Educate your employees. If they understand how damaging gossip can be and what it costs them and the company, employees may be less inclined to spend time spreading gossip. Remind them that small talk is one thing, but whispering rumors about colleagues is another. Encourage employees to immediately correct any misinformation and squelch any harmful, untrue gossip with one-on-one conversations with the gossip spreaders.
  • Challenge employees through meaningful work. Individuals challenged by their jobs will have less time to participate in idle gossip.
  • Inform employees that malicious personal gossip will not be tolerated. Attacking other employees whether out of dislike for an individual or for personal gain can create animosity, tension and organizational dissension. Employees should be informed of how damaging it is to partake in such gossip.
  • Confront repeat offenders. Employees who spend considerable time gossiping should be made aware that their behavior is not acceptable and that they are wasting valuable company time and money. Managers should address problems during an offender's performance evaluation or by counseling him or her at the time the problem occurs or persists.  
  • Comply with the law. Ensure employees understand that employer expectations are not meant to limit employees' right to talk about wages, hours or working conditions protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).


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