Gossip – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I know that usually when we think of gossip, “good” is not typically a word connected with it. But – gossip can be a good thing.

Why would I say this?

Gossip is a universal human behaviour that we all engage in and it can serve a functional purpose for employees and organizations. Since we often spend more time with our work mates than we do with our own families, idle gossip sometimes helps to cement the bonds of collegiality.

It’s a form of bonding…it can just mean, small talk. And that can be a good thing. In this sense, it’s a way for people to connect.

The “bad” thing is, that gossip often leads to rumor milling and talking about the affairs of others that are really none of our concern. It can be hurtful and ill intended, causing a lot of pain and suffering and that is most certainly not how we want our co-workers to bond.

Nor should we take part in that kind of gossip.

And…the “ugly”?

Malicious or excessive gossip disrupts production, lowers morale, and often targets individual employees. In fact, gossip can cross the line into harassment or mobbing behaviours, and can become a health and safety or human rights issue.

As HR professionals, we need to help our management team understand that gossip can open employers up to liability. Employees who are targets of office gossip may sue, claiming constructive dismissal for not being adequately protected, or they may launch human rights complaints if their race, gender, religion, or another immutable personal characteristic has made them the target of gossip.

The best prevention for the “bad” and “ugly”…open communnication and a culture that demonstrates support and cooperation.

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