Office settings attract a wide range of personalities with different skill sets, but the person to look out for is the one who can often cause the most harm to your workplace culture – the office gossip.
It’s important when you are trying to build an office culture that you stamp out any negative gossip fast.
Negative gossip can create issues relating to loss of productivity, low morale and lack of employee engagement. It can also contribute to high turnover rates. In extreme cases, gossip can escalate into something more malicious and create liability with workplace bullying.
How do we combat the “negative Nancy” in the workplace, maintain a great culture and most importantly build a strong team?
First of all, address the person at the source of the concern. This is best carried out privately in a place where the conversation cannot be overhead and in a neutral locations where all parties feel safe. It may mean going out and grabbing a quick coffee. The purpose of the meeting is to try and help the person to understand the impact of their behaviour and the repercussions should it continue.
It may be that they are not even aware that their behaviour is negative. Studies have shown that the more we conceptualise negative thoughts and behaviours, the more it materialises in the way we behave in everyday interactions.
It is also important to address the team on the ramifications of workplace gossip. This can take place during your weekly or monthly meetings. You should explain the differences between positive and negative gossip, and the consequences for the individual should the negative gossip continue. It is important to ensure this message is not sent via an email because the points you wish to get across may not be as well-received or become lost entirely.
Encourage positive gossip by sharing upbeat stories, achievements and successful outcomes as they can be great for building rapport among team members and establishing a culture where people want to work.
There is the old saying that the “fish rots from the head”. Teams will look to their leader as a model for behaviour. Ensure your leader is a strong and positive personality who has the ability to stamp out the first indication of negativity and get the positive thought train back on track.
Training is also an effective tool for your team leaders to learn the art of dealing with conflict and managing negative gossip. This will ensure the fire doesn't have a chance to spread and the team can get back to the important task of improving the growth and profitability of the business.