Gossip is a destructive force in the workplace. It ruins relationships, harms reputations and interferes with productivity. Most importantly, it damages employee morale and makes the office a place where people dread coming each morning.
After dealing with a particularly rampant case of gossip in my public relations firm, I decided it was time to stop the rumor-mongering once and for all. I created a “no-gossip zone” in which my employees and I agreed that we would not gossip—either with each other or about each other.
More than a year and a half later, my firm is flourishing, my employees are happy and gossip is nonexistent. In fact, it went so well that I was even asked to write a book about it, to show other companies how to implement this system in their offices. Here are some guidelines for creating an emotionally healthy work environment.
1. Define gossip. Quite simply, gossip is anything negative that’s said out of the hearing range of the person being discussed. If you have negative feedback about someone’s work performance, you should discuss it with him or her—not with anyone else. Positive comments are not considered gossip, and celebrity gossip is still safe territory.
2. Agree on a “no-gossip” policy. After you define gossip, everyone in your organization should agree to a “no-gossip zone” policy. To create such a zone, everyone on your team must be on board, because gossip is a contagious and easily transmittable social malady. If some team members refuse to agree to a no-gossip policy, you might have to consider letting them go. People who aren’t willing to work together as a team to create a better work environment are not the best employees, and they may cause morale and productivity problems with other staff members.