Gossip is that informal chain of communication that gets around the office faster than even the best intentioned corporate memo. The worse the news, the quicker the gossip spreads. And the further it spreads from the source, the more the truth, or tinge of truth, metamorphosizes into a monster of a story. This oh-so-delicious form of workplace entertainment is detrimental to employee morale and productivity.
Gossip tends to be the juiciest when it is about upper management because the higher up the employee, the further they can fall. At the same time, when the gossip becomes harassing or detrimental to a supervisor's character or capabilities, it affects more than just the supervisor. The gossip can turn into a campaign of hatred that tears apart a department as people put more stock into rumor than truth.
While gossip is as common to many workplaces as copy machines and paper clips, it can interfere with productivity as employees spend more time clumped together chatting than completing tasks. Employees may interpret management's lack of interference as permission to continue slacking off or to continue yapping about their favorite gossip targets. Productivity is also related to morale. If the gossip is about layoffs, poor management practices or possible takeovers, employee morale may suffer.
Talk is Cheap
If you love to dish gossip with your best buds, make sure you do it where you cannot be overheard – and avoid talking about management. If you are gossiping about others, you can be sure someone is gossiping about you, and you do not want word to get back to those who control your career that you were criticizing them behind their backs. You may find yourself stuck in the same job with no promotions until your hair is gray.
Not all gossip is bad, of course. Managers in the know can use gossip as a tool to measure employee happiness. They can also use it to eliminate problems by addressing concerns as they surface. A manager can also covertly plant rumors of possible company changes, such as a new benefit plan, with the right sources, then gauge employee reactions.