Most of it doesn’t take place by the water cooler anymore, but there’s no shortage of workplace gossip out there.
To keep from getting sucked in – or becoming a target of it – you need the tools to defuse it.
Check out these four facts about office gossip — and how you can use that info to your advantage:
Workplace Gossip Fact #1: Employees spend an average of 54 minutes during the typical workday gossiping. That’s the finding of a British survey from the early 2000s. Talk about a productivity drain!
Solution: State the obvious. You can redirect gossipy co-workers with “Don’t we have some work to do here?”
Workplace Gossip Fact #2: Once someone makes a negative comment about a person who isn’t there, the conversation will get meaner unless someone immediately defended the target. That holds especially true in workplace settings.
Solution: You can stop the cycle by simply making a positive comment about the person being talked about. “Allie sure gave a good presentation last week,” takes the focus off of whether she spends too much time taking to married Pete in Marketing.
Workplace Gossip Fact #3: Gossip is an equal opportunity job. Women may get the rep for the bulk of water cooler chatter, but it turns out men gossip at least as much as women.
Solution: Look for the signs. Gossip is equally destructive no matter whom it comes from. Women tend to be more animated when spreading titillating tidbits. Men may be a bit more subdued, but they’re still passing info along.
Workplace Gossip Fact #4: Technology has only made workplace gossip worse. It’s easier than ever to fire off an email about how Jim has been leaving earlier and taking longer lunches … and what juicy reason is supposedly behind it.
Solution: Gossip spread in e-mail is a legal minefield. If an employee spreads malicious gossip via e-mail and the target of the gossip finds out, he or she could claim either harassment or a hostile work environment. While creating policies against gossiping as a whole is nearly impossible to enforce, you can clearly specify that company systems cannot be used to spread such info. It may at least minimize this destructive force.