Gossip is good to have in the workplace.
This isn’t something you would hear from many bosses.
But Alexandra Tselios, a business coach and publisher of The Big Smoke, says “harmless gossip is a way of creating a competitive edge, igniting passion and prodding the stagnant along.”
Whether it is murmurs about upcoming reviews, or a new employee reward scheme, Tselios says: “This kind of gossip is not only harmless, but it can be a positive way of encouraging team chatter and creating a sense of excitement.”
While Tselios admits all gossip isn’t productive and it’s up to management to shut down anything destructive, she says “having a person that truly has your team’s back, but also allows snippets of information to become exposed isn’t necessarily an adverse thing for a business.
“The sharing of this information could be just enough to motivate an under-performing employee or bring to light a need for the company to change direction,” she said.
Sharing is caring
Protective gossip can also be a useful tool to aid employees who are experiencing personal struggles.
Tselios told Business Insider of a situation she had in her own workplace, where a colleague “whispered” to her that a team member, who has been acting distant and disengaged, was going through a divorce.
“Once I knew this, I was able to shift gears and change my approach to them, as well as adjust their workflow,” she says. “Managers tend to look negatively on staff who have no personal boundaries, a loose tongue or just don’t care about their colleague’s feelings, but it’s important to be able to understand the difference between gossip stemming from malice and a team member who can help steer the ship better by sharing a quiet word.”
Working out the right balance is “a journey of trial and error” says Tselios.
“There needs to be a clear delineation between what is acceptable and unacceptable workplace gossip, because let’s face it, unacceptable gossip is inevitable.
“Longer term indicators, such as a high staff turnover, lack of productivity and team conflict, suggest that there may be a negative gossiper in your midst,” she says.
“As a leader, it then becomes about utilising that person’s skill set in such a way that you are harnessing their better attributes, rather than allowing opportunities for negativity to shine through.”
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