Gossip is one of the most common erosions of a healthy work culture. What may start out as a genuine concern for another co-worker becomes twisted into false rumors.

To change your culture for good and stop the spread of gossip, leaders need to take a proactive stance. In today’s blog, we’ll address a “both/and” approach to stop gossip with both kindness and re-direction.

Set the Tone to Stop Gossip

The way you intervene impacts receptivity. When addressing any unacceptable behavior, be sure to have a kind tone and a calm, non-reactive demeanor. When you are intentional about how you say what you say, the employee is less likely to be defensive when you implement the second step, re-direction.

(Note, no matter how kind and calm you are, the employee may still be defensive. If you speak with a matter of fact tone, the employee is less  likely to perceive you as a threat and more likely to look at themselves. .

Second, re-direct from gossip to self-responsibility. Re-direction is consciously shifting the employee’s focus from others back to themselves. Show the employee that you’re not going to take the bait and engage in conversation to learn juicy details. Instead, re-direct them to address the person they are talking about. Better yet, stop gossiping!

Script Ideas to Stop Gossip

 “Mary has problems at home. That’s why she’s always late” – It sounds like you’re concerned about Mary, how have you let her know that?

“Joe is behind in finishing his part of the project and it’s delaying everyone else’s work” – What happened when you spoke to Joe about the delays? Did you ask how the team could help him?

“You know with the merger all of our jobs could be in jeopardy” – We don’t know what’s going to happen with the merger. There might be job changes and there might not be. What we know for sure is to do our best day to day until we know. We can support each other to stay positive as we deal with the unknown.

Script Ideas to Diffuse Employee Defensiveness

“You’re taking their side” – As a team, we need to speak directly to one another so issues are addressed with those involved.

“You’re my manager, you’re not being supportive when I come to you with a problem with one of my co-workers” – It sounds like you haven’t spoken to your co-worker about your perception of what’s happening. Part of my responsibility is to help you work out differences directly with one another. Let’s talk about ways I can help you do that.

No Magic Formula

When you address employee gossip with the “both/and” approach, it’s like you are holding up a mirror for them to see what they’re doing. When done in a kind, non-reactive manner, you’re simply letting them know you’re not going to participate and gossip is not acceptable behavior.

We recognize employees present many behavior challenges and not every scenario  has a magic formula that works in all situations. If you’d like help to stop gossip in its tracks with your specific situation, give us a call or send us an email.

Bonnie Artman Fox works with smart, committed leaders who want to create work cultures that bring out the best in their employees. From over 25 years in the healthcare and psychology fields, she specializes in addressing and resolving workplace conflict so teams get along, work gets done, and people have fun along the way! Click here to learn more or bring Bonnie to your company.

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