Can a Negative Work Environment Make Employees Become Gossipy?

Gossip often results from poor communication in the workplace.

Gossip often results from poor communication in the workplace.

A negative work environment makes workers feel irritable, anxious and defensive, which can lead to gossip in the workplace. However, employees must decide whether they're going to participate in gossip about clients, co-workers and supervisors, amid the unfavorable conditions. As frustrating as work can be, gossip doesn't make troublesome situations any better, but increases tension and makes things worse.

Lack of Open Communication

If your negative work environment is due to a lack of effective communication, gossip could raise its ugly head. Possibly there's a communication gap between workers and management, or co-workers beat around the bush rather than address concerns head on. Gossip has harmful effects, so many bosses try to replace sneaky whispers with open, honest communication, according to the Disney Family website. Talk to your boss about communication concerns and resulting gossip, so she can actively address root issues. If you're in management, host meetings for honest discussion and allow workers to voice their opinions. Getting issues out in the open will likely reduce gossip.

Insecurity

Employees who feel insecure about their jobs, work responsibilities and co-worker relationships add to a negative work environment by gossiping. Belittling others makes them feel better about themselves. According to "Forbes" magazine, people who participate in gossip often view their activity as politically savvy, when it's actually a tool of insecure people who are not in the know. As a manager or supervisor, it's your responsibility to try to nip gossip in the bud. Gossip creates an atmosphere of distrust and leads to hurt feelings and embarrassment. If you know the source of gossip, meet with that person one-on-one to discuss the negative effect it's having on the workplace. Let your employees know that you're aware of gossiping issues and encourage them to address concerns openly. Offer to act as a liaison if two employees need to discuss a matter and want an unbiased third party to moderate the discussion.

Loss of Productivity

A negative work environment leads to gossip that results in a loss of productivity, which leads right back to a negative work environment, thereby creating a harmful and destructive cycle. Employees who gossip waste their time chatting, texting and emailing hurtful comments. Recipients spend their time worrying about how the nasty gossip could affect their work relationships, reputation and job security. The emotional distress and political discord associated with gossip undermines workplace performance, reports "Forbes." The end result of loss productivity damages the company as a whole.

It's a Choice

Gossiping can occur in any work environment. A critical employee might gossip in a healthy, productive workplace just to play devil's advocate. A courteous employee will refuse to gossip in a tension-filled workplace because she genuinely cares about her co-workers and has the company's best interests in mind. A negative workplace atmosphere provides a breeding ground for gossip, but each employee chooses whether to participate in destructive banter or to avoid idle chatter. As a manager or supervisor, modeling positive workplace interactions and avoiding gossip demonstrates professional behavior.

 

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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