Causes and Effects of Workplace Gossip

February 10, 2021

Gossiping seems inevitable at any workplace; in reality, gossip is quite avoidable. Executives who manage to combat the scourge of workplace gossip can significantly benefit a business’s bottom line.

Harmful Gossip

Although there are advocates for gossip as a means for an employee to understand the ins and outs of the workplace, there is a clear distinction between informative discussion and harmful gossip. 

Harmful gossip is mean-spirited, avoidable, and conducive to many unwanted side effects. According to Forbes, harmful gossip can lower morale, motivation, and productivity, as well as increase turnover, ruin trust amongst workers, and create a pervasive culture of negativity.

Bestselling author and leadership expert Joshua Miller explains that long-term gossipers should be addressed because of the damage they inflict behind the scenes. Though addressing the worst gossipers may appear to be straightforward, Miller asserts that up to 86 percent of workers gossip about their job. 

Helpful Feedback

Addressing particular individuals may not be the solution. However, broadly addressing the problem could be key to creating a healthier workplace environment. For instance, encouraging employees to convert their problems into solutions to improve the workplace can serve to benefit a business. There must, however, exist a way for employees to communicate those ideas and solutions to management.

One of the primary causes of gossip is lack of proper communication channels between worker and manager. Deborah Riegel, a writer for Harvard Business Review, explains that gossip is the language of those who do not have a way to comfortably give direct feedback to their company. 

According to Riegel, it is also possible that employees are not trained to effectively communicate their grievances. Instead, they may use casual conversation to vent about their problems, which in turn becomes harmful gossip. Well-developed negative opinions may leave the workplace and damage a company’s reputation within a particular geography or industry, harming the company’s ability to attract qualified applicants.  

Riegel asserts that normalizing continual feedback will lower gossip by removing the need for alternate avenues to unload grievances. An annual performance review is not enough. 

Gossip is constant; therefore, feedback should be equally constant.

Implementing healthier ways to communicate with employees is key to preserving a business’s reputation and bottom line. Qlicket aids companies in this process by enabling real-time communication between worker and manager, making employees feel heard, and providing a place to comfortably and anonymously express their feedback. 

Written by Qlicket team member Ethan Forde.

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