This is the first of a two-part series on office gossip. Today, I focus on the dangers of office gossip and my next column will share my top tips on how to deal with it.
I’ve talked about my nickname, Monty Hall, because I engage in “Let’s Make a Deal” on a daily basis in my career as a turnaround authority. Sometimes, I also feel like a contestant on the game show “To Tell the Truth.”
When I take over the management of a business and speak with employees at all levels of an organization, I sometimes hear wildly varied stories of situations in the company, which may or may not be true. It becomes my job to separate fact from fiction.
I often determine that a lot of what I’m hearing is not based on reality, but is actually office gossip. If you think that employees hanging around the proverbial water cooler is a harmless break in their day, you may be shocked to learn just how much that chatter is costing you.
BusinessInsider.com compiled a list of surprising ways that employees cost companies billions in the workplace. The article cites that “smartphones, time-wasting websites and gossip can cost U.S. companies an estimated $650 billion a year.”
In addition to the time wasted, office gossip is also dangerous to the health of your company in these ways:
• It reduces productivity
It’s common sense. If employees are spending their time spreading, listening to and trying to verify gossip, they are not focused on their jobs and are not working.
• It undermines morale
If employees hear rumors about trouble with the company, they may start to feel anxious about their jobs. Instead of focusing their attention on excelling at their jobs, they may instead start looking for another one.
• It creates a toxic work environment
Gossip can create cliques in the workplace and can be destructive to the teamwork necessary to complete projects, as employees take sides and begin to distrust each other. Employees who don’t want to work in that toxic environment may leave to find a more positive workplace.
• Reputations can be destroyed
Let’s say an unfounded rumor started that one of your employees has been missing deadlines on an important project. Managers may be reluctant to work with that employee in the future, damaging her reputation and limiting her career opportunities.
• It can cost you customers
It’s happened to me several times. I’m waiting for service at a store or have a meeting at an office and I hear the employees gossiping, apparently oblivious to the fact that I can hear every word. They complain about their long hours or that a fellow employee was taking off early that day. Gossiping employees can make dealing with your business an unpleasant task and people may be tempted to take their business elsewhere.
There is no doubt about it. Office gossip is detrimental to your company and to your employees. Read my next post for my top tips on how you can cut down on the gossip and its destructive effects.