Handling Gossip at Workplace
Even with the maturity, the burden of employment and the experience or intellect that come with the increased age and time, there are a few primal instincts of human beings that just don’t die, but are simply repressed for the time being, depending upon the environment. However, scientific data confirms that human beings are more prone to being vulnerable to their instincts in a group than alone. One such example exhibits itself inside the workplace, but in order to understand it, we have to take a little peak backwards in time.
We’ve all been through a High School phase. We were young, immature and relatively inexperienced, comparable to what we are today. The things we did back in the high school days, one would never imagine themselves repeating the same things in a work environment. But, some habits are hard to kill. A habit of gossip, for instance. A small rumor – baseless or not – rises from one point and ultimately reaches the entire school, going from one student to another like a disease and tarnishing the reputation of that, standing on the other end of those rumors. We’ve seen these in our High School and this horde mentality comes with us in our workplace, however in contrast to High Schools, a workplace is a serious and professional environment and such small fires here are required to be put down before they transform into a wildfire, for here, it doesn’t only damage the reputation of an individual, but the image of company as well.
Once a gossip begins in a workplace, employees respond in two ways: they either overreact to it or they consider it a foreign problem to consider; both of which are wrong choices. The first and most logical strategy is to confront the instigator head on. However, in doing so, it is also advised to keep an air of humor around you. At occasions, the motivation behind the spread of gossip can be good intentions hidden behind an immature decision; a misunderstanding on behalf of the instigator in regards to your character etc. Such issues can be easily resolved through a mutual conversation. If the gossip has moved online, consult your organization’s digital code of conduct to see whether online gossip violates it.
A gossip should never be answered with a gossip. A gossip, once it spreads, although hurts the image of the person it’s targeted against, however once proven wrong, returns with twice the force against the instigator. A light-hearted confrontation with the instigator is the best strategy against such a situation. Provide the instigator with a safe space; come to a mutual agreement where both the parties walk out freely, with their characters intact because a conflict will result in no product but more destruction.
The last solution, where no other solution either seems applicable or competent, is to directly report the gossip. There should be no hesitation in involving HR if the argument refuses to reach a resolution. Many workplaces prohibit harassment and if the instigator refuses to come to a resolution even after confrontation, then their repeated spread of gossip can be termed as harassment.