There are many factors that can affect work productivity. One of the biggest culprits is office gossip.
Discussions about office operations, projects, policies and procedures, and personnel can lead to crossed boundaries. Especially when emotions are running strong or a perceived offense has been registered.
Etiquette requires that everyone in a workplace act as individuals to show up recognizably respectful to others and themselves. In other words, it’s up to each individual to do something about office gossip.
Nearly any conversation has the potential to lapse into gossip. This is especially true when there is room for speculation.
The biggest problem with speculation is its margin for error. You don’t know the whole story, you’re discussing it with others, and there is a high probability that it concerns none of you who are talking about it.
Why would you chance talking about something that may be untrue?
However, it is important to remember that your actions have consequences. Spreading speculations or untruths can easily come back to haunt you.
Informal chit-chat occurs in any given workplace every day. Whether at the water cooler, coffee station, or company cafeteria line, people who see each other a minimum of five days a week are going to become familiar.
There is nothing wrong with this. Familiarity means more cooperation between coworkers and, therefore, more productivity. This is a good thing.
The problem occurs when the boundaries of small talk are not clear. And any negative comment or piece of information is bound to be passed forward.
When does informal chit-chat become office gossip?
My one tried and true test for realizing and stopping gossiping requires a mindful question:
Would I say this in front of the person being referenced?
And, if I am hearing something about someone else that is hurtful:
What am I going to do about this?
A choice of action is required, especially if you intend not to participate in the gossip.
In every work environment, there is ample opportunity to lead by example. Rather than engage in gossip, maintain a professional image:
Office gossip has the potential to hurt people personally and professionally. It also damages morale, causing a multitude of issues for managers and human resources personnel. The only way to avoid the chaos gossip will leave in its wake is to avoid it completely.