Reality and Rumors: A Simple Technique for Reducing Employee Gossip

by Mike O'Neill

Have your employees started spreading gossip and rumors? Are you frustrated and overwhelmed by the adverse effects, but you don't know how to make it stop? Are you beginning to wonder if there is a way to get it under control? You can take a breath. You’re not alone. 

Workplace gossip is a constant problem inside many companies. Left unchecked, it destroys morale, distracts people from their work, and ruins an organization's culture. COVID-19 swept in, leaving people scared and feeling more insecure, making it harder than ever to rein in rumors and gossip. 

As a leader, you try to be sensitive to employees' emotional states. Particularly during a stressful and chaotic time like the pandemic. Nevertheless, you can't allow gossip to run rampant. You may never have the ability to stop it entirely, but you can take proactive measures to control it.

Rhonda Beard

More Communication = Less Gossip

The more you communicate with your employees and give them facts and details, the less there will be gossip. For example, if an employee is gossiping about someone testing positive for COVID, it’s important to let them know that we have an obligation to keep all employee medical information confidential and that if employees have been exposed at work, we will give them that information, but you can’t share with them who has tested posted.

As Rhonda said, make sure that you’re being honest with employees about what’s really going on, but be careful not to overstep legal boundaries by sharing more information than you’re allowed to provide.

We’ve been helping business leaders for decades with the many problems they face day-to-day, and we have proven solutions for issues like gossip. Business leaders learn how to move past this problem and start focusing on other things with our help.

Why is Employee Gossip Detrimental?

For employees who indulge, gossip is a guilty pleasure. They like to pass on their "insider information," and they may believe nothing is wrong with it. Many people may think it is harmless. But in reality, it hurts those involved and damages the organization. Gossip wastes time, reduces employee productivity, and if the rumors are about the company, it can lower morale and raise anxiety.

Employees who fear becoming the next target of workplace gossip, or aren't confident in their leaders, tend to close up and stop speaking out. Problems go unnoticed and unsolved as a result, which hurts productivity, innovation, and morale. 

No one shares their unique perspectives or feels comfortable presenting new ideas when they're afraid of being criticized or ridiculed behind their backs. 

To avoid these situations, it's essential to tackle the problems sooner rather than later so you can mitigate the damage. There are a few ways we recommend you get started.

Launch an Employee Newsletter

Employee communication is vital for companies. Employees that feel connected will be more united, which helps the whole company to stay on track. The positive thing about a newsletter is that it's simple to execute and a powerful way to communicate with the entire company at once. Your newsletter can be an incredible tool if you use it right.

You can include many different topics of interest in a newsletter. Some of these might consist of current job postings, upcoming events relating to or involving the company, announcements for changes in the company, training opportunities, employee recognition, and much more.

You can turn your newsletter into an essential part of each employee's job. You can make it something they enjoy by providing the information they want, and they’ll always be looking forward to the next issue. 

Strive to write something positive and enjoyable. With some trial and error, you'll find out what works best in your newsletter. Avoid monotony. Humor can go a long way towards making your newsletter interesting.

Rumors vs. Reality

In a recent webinar we conducted, Rhonda shared how a company she’s worked with in the past squashed gossip in its tracks by hosting a weekly session called “Rumors and Reality.” 

During this session, leadership would answer employees' questions and give them honest answers — shedding light on reality vs. rumors. Here’s what Rhonda had to say about it during the webinar:

“One thing a company I worked with did when there were problems with gossiping was to have a session called Rumors and Reality. And, once a week, management would get the employees together, and address any questions that employees had and would clearly answer whether it was reality or a rumor. I know that’s tough to do now, but you could also do it in an email or a printed version ” - Rhonda Beard

When you’re sending out newsletters to help control the spread of gossip, consider including your own “Rumors and Reality” section and take a page from Rhonda’s playbook.

Don't Stop There

Problems don't solve themselves overnight. You need to be diligent and consistent. It may take several months before the newsletter has a significant impact and may not completely solve the problem. Get feedback from employees to see if the newsletter has the information they’re most interested in. You may have to adjust the format and topics to be sure it’s hitting the topics employees want to hear about.

However, It will initiate the call to action you need and open the door to get you moving in the right direction. Either way, this can set a positive tone and a call to action that suggests change is needed. Slowly, employees can start to take it to heart.

Learn More

To learn more techniques and tactical tips such as the ones in this article, join our Get Unstuck and On Target Workshop. We’ll be offering our expertise, suggestions, general advice, and much more. 

The workshop's goal is to get to the root of the problems plaguing your company and uncover the solutions you desperately need. We can help you find the right direction to resolve your company's issues — getting you unstuck and on target with your goals. 

Rumor mills are probably not the only problem. Unforeseen issues tend to bubble to the surface as rumors and gossip, disguising the gossip as the problem when truly you need to focus on the content. You need someone with the expertise to teach you how to dig deeper and uncover the root of your problems.

Sign up for our workshop today to get the solutions you need to make your business grow.

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