Gossip in the Workplace

  • Employee Conduct
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

Is gossip allowed in the workplace? In this expert guide, we explain how to establish anti-gossip rules, which can help to prevent harassment in the workplace.

It's always preferred for your employees to get along, often forming strong friendships. Most of the time, this is great news for your business. However, the closer your employees get the more chance of workplace gossip becoming a problem.

As a business owner, it's your responsibility to ensure gossip doesn't become an issue in your company. It can have a range of impacts, on both an employee and your business. Workplace stress, conflict and absenteeism can all rise following gossip, so it's important you deal with it correctly.

In this guide we'll discuss what workplace gossip is, ways to avoid it happening, and how to manage the situation when it does.

What is gossip in the workplace?

Workplace gossip is when one or a group of people talk about someone behind their back. There are two types of gossip that occur in your company, positive gossip and negative.

Positive gossip is when someone shares information intending to support or praise a colleague. Whereas negative gossip is talking negatively about others. For example:

  • Speaking half-truths or lies about a colleague.
  • Spreading rumours regarding someone's legal affairs, sex life, medical status, or other personal matters.
  • Sharing other information without the consent of the person.
  • Spreading rumours or misinformation on digital channels, such as social media.

Workplace gossip can also relate to business matters. This can include news of potential layoffs, which may cause unwanted stress and anxiety for your employees.

What are the consequences of negative gossip?

Although it's human nature to talk about others, there are negative consequences that come with doing so. This can have negative impacts on an entire team or the company as a whole.

Common negatives include:

  • Other employees' feelings getting hurt.
  • Employees feeling demotivated.
  • A decade in morale and productivity.
  • An increase in absenteeism.
  • An increase in workplace conflict between co-workers.
  • An increase in workplace drama.
  • Trust can become eroded, damaging workplace relationships.

If workplace gossip is ignored and spread, it may lead to bullying or harassment of an employee. So identifying it as quickly as possible should be your main priority.

How to identify office gossip

It's important you can spot when an innocent conversation or idle chit-chat between staff members turns into workplace gossip. Gossiping scenarios can quickly escalate into dramatic confrontations with potential aggression.

One way to spot office gossip is by the tone of the conversation. If two people are gossiping, their tones will typically be hushed. Whereas non-gossip conversations will take place at normal voice levels.

Another way to identify this behaviour is if an employee has suddenly become withdrawn or isolated whilst at work. If someone is the subject of malicious gossip, they may not feel like interacting with their colleagues.

Ways to avoid gossip in the workplace

As an employer, it's your responsibility to ensure your workplace is free of any harmful gossip. There are a range of things you can do to ensure this is the case.

Avoiding gossip in the workplace plays a big factor in building strong working relationships and employee happiness. So, let's discuss ways to prevent gossip in your company:

Be wary of workplace interactions

When managers are speaking with employees, ensure they try not to speak about personal matters For gossip to successfully inbreed itself within your company, it needs participation.

If one of your senior employees or management makes a negative comment about your business or a colleague, this may allow gossip to start. The more information they disclose, the more likely it'll be spread to others.

Separate professional and personal lives

Encourage your employees to keep their working and private life separate. If any employee discloses too much information regarding their personal life, it may be told to someone else without their consent.

Make your employees aware of the type of information they're giving to others and whether they consent to it being passed on. By keeping conversations professional, the chances of this significantly reduce.

Promote teamwork

Another way to avoid gossip in the workplace is to encourage teamwork between your employees. This can include working on new projects together or partnering up with people who have previously never worked together.

Doing so can help to build positive relationships and lower the chances of gossiping taking place.

Be honest and transparent

To avoid gossip taking place in your business it's important you're honest and transparent with your staff. For example if layoffs may be required, then communicate this with your employees.

Not doing so can mean rumours and gossip can be started throughout. This can cause further stress and worry for everyone.

When does workplace gossip need addressing?

To successfully manage company or office gossip, it's important to know when you need to address the issue. If the gossip starts to cross a professional boundary, it can become harmful and hurtful.

As well as this, your employees should know when gossip needs addressing. If the following questions need answering, then it needs to be addressed:

  • Is the gossip unfair, malicious, or make the victims of the comments look bad?
  • Are the comments discriminatory, intimidating, or a form of personal attack?
  • Does the topic of conversation talk about subjects that are deemed unsuitable for the workplace?

How to manage gossip in your company

If it's taking place in your company, it's important you know how to stop gossip from happening. Doing so means you handle it efficiently and correctly.

There are different ways to manage malicious gossip, let's discuss them in more detail:

Create a strong company culture

A good way to handle gossip in your company is to create a strong company culture. It's everyone's responsibility in the business to contribute in creating a work environment that's both healthy and inclusive.

Create open communication where all your employees feel comfortable talking and discussing any concerns they have with each other or their line manager.

Outline discipline for gossip

If gossip is taking place in your company, don't be afraid to act directly to combat it. This can include taking disciplinary actions against the employee or employees in question.

The disciplinary actions can stem from an informal chat, to an investigation hearing and potential for a formal warning. Dealing swiftly with gossiping will increase employees' confidence in you.

Get expert advice on gossip in the workplace from Peninsula

When your employees get along and build friendships, it's usually good news for your company. However, the stronger their friendships - workplace gossip can begin to become a problem.

But as an employer, it's on your shoulders to make sure it doesn't become an unmanageable problem. Not doing so can lead to a range of impacts, such as workplace stress and an increase in absenteeism. So it's vitally important you deal with it efficiently and correctly.

Peninsula offers expert advice on workplace gossip. Our teams offer 24/7 HR advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our HR experts.

Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 028 2420 and book a free consultation with an HR consultant today.


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