Putting an End to a Subordinate’s Gossiping
Gossip in the work place is like an open jar of honey: Everyone enjoys a small taste, a big gulp can make you sick, and getting the lid back on is sticky business. Unrelenting, focused attacks on a single worker create fear, resentment, and apprehension in all workers. The gossip monger is rarely called to task by colleagues, protected by the silent shield of everyone’s penchant to gossip. The result is the undermining of the equilibrium and effectiveness of the workforce. This script’s goal is to put an end to the pronouncements of your office gossip. Your willingness to acknowledge the problem, consider it seriously, and confront the source are the secrets to success.
Attitude: Be firm and confident in your approach. No one will debate that gossip is a good thing. Stress that your intolerance and anger is for the activity, not the person.
Preparation: Try to get actual examples of the gossip’s badmouthing. The strength of your documentation will determine if you can, in fact, confront a gossip as the problem or must confront gossip itself as the problem. If subordinates come to you to complain, keep notes. Check with other supervisors, too. Your own experiences of negative behavior are a key. Because subordinates may clam up when a supervisor is around, and probably won’t snitch on a coworker for an activity they also have engaged in, getting solid documentation may be tough. Still, every work place has a body of common knowledge – everyone just knows – so don’t hesitate going with your feelings and instincts.
Timing: As soon as you feel satisfied that you’ve determined who is the primary problem, confront the person. The longer you allow the behaviour to continue, the more you send the message that the problem is unimportant. If you delay, you’ll have an office gossiping about your lack of concern for an effective, harmonious workplace.
Behaviour: Strongly state how professionally destructive and personally repulsive you find the activity. If you have firsthand examples and documentation, confront the person directly and tolerate no excuses. Anger, annoyance at the least, is appropriate. Without documentation, confront the behavior and not the person. Be concerned and solicitous, seeking help from the individual to solve a problem. You’ll ultimately win acceptance that the problem is a serious one that can’t be tolerated in the workplace. With documentation, you might even get a begrudging acknowledgment of guilt. In either case, be clear what future outcomes will be.
- Documentation may not be possible. Move on the problem based on your general knowledge and gut instincts.
- Move quickly as soon as you are aware of it. Do not let it linger.
- Focus on gossip as a harmful and destructive force in the workplace.
- If you’ve no evidence, ask if the suspect has any and then ask for his help in solving the problem.
- If you’ve some evidence, reveal it to the suspect and then ask for his help in solving the problem.
- Be clear there will be serious repercussions if the problem doesn’t stop.