Ban Office Gossip? IMPOSSIBLE!

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The BBC reporter on the other end of the line wanted to know if I thought you could ban office gossip. I told him it was impossible! Then he proceeded to tell me that Bridgewater Associates, a Wall Street hedge fund group, had issued a memo banning office gossip.

Staff would get two warnings and for the third offence anyone caught gossiping about their bosses or colleagues behind their backs would be fired.

And who is going to catch these people? Do they really want all of their managers policing gossip instead of growing the business? Or do they intend to hire a whole slew of security officers to wire tap telephones and install hidden cameras at desks?

There are two kinds of gossip:

1. Coffee Pot or Water Cooler Gossip. In this kind of gossip, employees can hardly wait to get to the office to gather around the coffee pot or water cooler to find out what happened in the “Nancy and Owen” saga. This kind of gossip is uncontrollable because employees will find some way to tell the next chapter even if it is passing notes under the bathroom stall wall.

2. Pointed Criticism and Denigration
. When gossip turns ugly and becomes hateful, management must address the issue. I recommend starting a dialog with the bitter person and getting the issue out in the open. Better to have open even though conflict-filled dialog than let this kind of gossip destroy the morale of the entire organization.

Transparency will work. Banning office gossip will not.

Visit Workplace Power Institute to read how leaders can reduce damaging gossip.

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