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August 4, 2014 at 1:00 AM

5 steps to stopping office gossip

You’ve just become a manager, and it’s your job to ensure that the department achieves its goals and objectives. This can be difficult to do if you’re stepping into a situation where workplace gossip has been allowed to run rampant.

Negative gossip can create productivity issues, because employees feel the need to engage in “CYA” behavior; morale issues, because employees come to distrust each other and the management team; employee engagement and turnover issues, because high-performing employees will look for jobs elsewhere; and even liability issues, when pervasive gossip is deemed harassment.

The good news: Being new to your managerial role is the best time to get to the bottom of what’s going on and then put a stop to it. Here’s how.

1. Address the perpetrators. Stop negative gossip on a personal level by directly addressing the gossipers one-on-one. Do this in a location behind closed doors, such as a conference room. Help them understand the impact of their behavior and the consequences of what will happen if their bad behavior continues, such as a written warning that will go into their personnel file.

2. Meet with your team. The next step is to discuss the situation with your entire team. This can be done by including it as a topic for discussion in a staff meeting. Help the team understand the differences between negative gossip and positive gossip, and the ramifications of each.

3. Encourage positive gossip. Positive gossip can be good for companies and employees. This is when managers and employees share positive stories; for example, a medical company communicating the story of a life that was saved by one of the company’s defibrillators, or one employee mentioning another who went out of his way to help a customer.

4. Model the behavior you want to see. Have you been known to gossip in the break room with others? If so, that behavior must stop now that you’re a manager. Employees will look to you for what behaviors are acceptable, and you need to lead by example.

5. Don’t try to stop negative gossip at a company-wide level. Sending out an email blast to all employees that “office gossip won’t be tolerated” or addressing the issue during an all-company meeting is not effective. Not only does this fail to address the specific offenders, it also makes management look conflict-averse. Instead, managers should be trained on how to deal with conflict and encouraged to address negative gossipers immediately and directly.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.

More in Work Life Blog | Topics: career advancement, communication, conflict, morale

Blog contributors

Randy Woods Writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Former contributors

Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

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