How to deal with compulsive talker, spreading rumors, and gossip among employee in an organisation to improve productivity effectively?
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Where I work the boss called a compulsory meeting and talked candidly about different rumours circulating around. He then explained each situation, then said if there were any more questions, they were to be asked then and there (without reprisal) and not later on. His associate then sent the worst busybody a letter warning him not to foment any more trouble by making conjectures about colleagues, or he would justly be accused of slander.
Rumors can not be eliminated completely either from a society or from an organization. Any efforts stop rumors completely in an organization can make the management of organization appear too rigid and intolerant. This can actually work against the interest of the organization and impact productivity adversely. However, rumors of some types can be always harmful, and too much of rumor mongering in an organization is always bad. Senior management in an organization should be clear about the nature of rumors that are harmful and concentrate its efforts on controlling those type of rumors. The following measures can be adopted to prevent spread of rumors in an organization.
- Prevention is better than cure. Once a rumor starts it is difficult to contain its spread. It is better to reduce the incidence of start of rumors by keeping the people in the organization informed on all important matters of concern to them. Managers must develop a reputation of being frank and truthful with their subordinates.
- Ignore, harmless and frivolous rumors. In such cases, any excessive efforts by management counter or disprove the rumors may be taken as a sign of its importance, and encourage its spread.
- Identify in early stages any rumor that can cause problems, and take swift action to nip it in the bud. The best way to do this is to release a clear public statement countering the rumor and giving as much related information as can be given without compromising with confidentiality requirements.
- Do not indulge in any practices that the company will be ashamed to admit. Employees are usually able to sense shady ongoings like this in the organization, and rumors that follow are difficult to counter.
- Do not pass on any rumors to others. Do not even discuss the possibility of rumor being right or wrong. Just say that you do not wish to make guesses in such matters without sufficient information.
- If required, investigate the truth of a rumor you have heard. But do it discretely.
- Be careful in choosing people who work for the organization. Not employing compulsive talkers in the first place is best way to protect organization from their irresponsible talks.
Personal gossip will exist to some extent wherever people gather in any social or business situation, but rumors generally develop in the workplace when business conditions are unstable in some way and change is in the air. Rumors seem to develop as insecurity sets in among employees. The best way to deal with rumors that spread in regard to a business or any agency is to address them directly through clear communication, in-house certainly and in the media, if necessary (depending upon the nature of the rumor and its impact upon the community). For instance, rumors that a local plant is closing when it isn't need to be refuted publicly.
In regard to personal gossip, it should be ignored by management since it is personal between employees. They, as individuals, can deal with their own lives and relationships with others. However, if personal gossip impacts productivity and morale, it should be addressed privately by meeting with those who seem to be involved. Any employee who gossips compulsively to the detriment of a company should be put on notice and given the opportunity to change behavior. If change is not forthcoming, that employee should be terminated.
First, talk directly to the person you think is spreading rumors and tell them how awful it is to hear what people say. Tell them they are causing a lot of bad feelings at work, people are feeling demoralized, and it will eventually come back to everyone. If the rumors don't stop, then talk to the boss to call a a meeting for the boss to deal with the situation.
Having been an organizational leader (principal of a school), I have seen firsthand how difficult it is to squelch gossip and rumors. Rather than attempting to suppress and eliminate it, which is impossible, I recommend that the leader take appropriate measures to establish institutional values like honesty and consideration. Most employees will honor these values if they see the leader exemplify them in her own behavior. If a few employees do persist in gossiping, they will discredit themselves by violating the organizational norms. If the leader is confronted with specific, credible evidence of destructive rumor-mongering, I believe it is essential to take action, including disciplining the offender and perhaps even firing him or her, in order to demonstrate to the rest of the organization the leader's commitment to upholding the values.
If there is one individual who is particularly feeding this, follow Obama's strategy (not new with him) of bringing your enemies close to you. If you co-opt this person by bringing them into something that feels like an inner circle, they should be at least neutralized if not turned into an ally.
I like the #7th post's idea of coopting the enemy. Lincoln once said something similar with his idea of "Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?" I think that this is an undervalued, yet powerful approach to success in the workplace. Naturally, this strategy cannot work all the time, but the upside of it working is a stroke of pure genius, and the "stuff from which legends are made."
The key is to know who the person is. If you know who the person is, you can talk to him or her and put a stop to it. The person has to know that this behavior is unacceptable. Yes, it does damage productivity. Create a no-tolerance policy and write the person up for insubordination if it continues. This type of person is a poison that can kill your organization's productivity.
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