You know there’s a ton of workplace gossip and those whispers around the water cooler. They’re getting louder and louder. Your first instinct might be to shut it down. However, today I’m going to give you four ironclad reasons why you would shut down workplace gossip at your peril. And how listening in could be your ticket to the top.
If you want anything like my clients, when you find out there’s workplace gossip, you want to shut it down. In other words, you want to get everyone back to work however that is a really bad idea.
Reason #1 to Listen to Workplace Gossip
Above all, the number one reason why you shouldn’t shut it down is because gossip tells you what’s going on.
I know that it could feel sort of awkward for you to hang around at the water-cooler. People aren’t going to talk a lot when you first arrive. However, as my father who’s a Yorkshire-man used to say, you’ve got two ears, one mouth use proportionately.
That’s exactly what we need to do. If we listen we find out that we begin to understand the things that people are talking about. We can also see how passionately they feel about that particular issue.
A Real Example
For instance, let me give you a real example from one of my clients. The internal auditor’s from head office were due to arrive the following week. However, there was a backlog of the filing that needed to be done. The admin manager had suggested to the team that they worked at the weekend. When she started listening she realized that she had made this decision in isolation. Everyone already had plans for that weekend.
She used that opportunity as a chance to ask the team what ideas they had. After that, They came to a compromise. The team agreed that they would work late all during the week. That way they could take the weekend off and still meet the auditor’s requirements. It’s such a simple technique. It can take a team from nah, nah, nah all the time to having high morale and high engagement.
Reason #2 to Listen to Workplace Gossip
The number two reason why you really want to listen to workplace gossip is because of our brains. We as human beings are hardwired to be looking for risk in any situation. We can’t help it. It’s just the way our brains work. Listen into workplace gossip when there is change going on and you will be able to hear the concerns of the team. Your team can often see the potential pitfalls and risks.
That allows you to do two things. First:it allows you to address concerns directly. You could do it through a meeting or through your communications. Second, their concerns may well be legitimate. You might need to make a change to whatever it was you were going to implement.
Reason #3 to Listen to Workplace Gossip
The third reason why you would want to tune in to office gossip is similar to number two, and it’s going to require a little more emotional intelligence. We want to know how emotional people are feeling about the issues.
Items one and two told us what people were concerned about. Number three is about how many people are talking about this and how loudly are they expressing their opinion.
A Real Example
Let me give you an example. Again this comes from one of my clients There was one person at the water-cooler talking loudly about what was wrong with the organization. When I listened, I noticed the other people were sort were trying to leave of making that, okay, time to go now noises. The savvy manager go, okay, I’ve got one individual who feels really strongly about this, but it’s not an issue that’s shared by everybody. And then gives you information on whether this is something you really need to attend to en-masse, or whether you’ve just got one person who’s got an axe to grind.
Reason #3 to Listen to Workplace Gossip
The fourth reason for paying attention to workplace gossip is possibly the most important. If you ban office gossip, it will go underground. What do I mean by that? Underground is when people still have workplace gossip and they still have things that are upsetting them. Remember our brains are hard wired to find the issues that could be risky or upsetting. If you try and ban workplace gossip, people are going to drift off in groups of ones and two or it’s going to go onto a Whatsapp group or email and you lose the opportunity to listen in and understand what’s going on in your organization.
Remember that if you can’t hear it:
- You don’t know what people are talking about.
- You don’t know have important and urgent this is for your team.
- You also don’t know what are the things that people are really concerned about.
- You’re not able to modify your approach to deal with that.
Number four is the real biggie.
Don’t. Ban. Office. Gossip.
It will go underground. If you click on this link, I have created a download, especially for you. It’s called the Gossip Grader. Using it will allow you to write down a list of all the work place gossip that you are hearing. Then use the tool to grade it in terms of importance. That will help you know, which is the work place gossip that you should be attending to first.
I really hope after finding these four iron clad reasons why you shouldn’t ignore workplace gossip, that you are onto it:
- You’re remembering, you’ve got two ears and one mouth and you’re using them proportionately.
- You’re going to download the Gossip Grader so that you know where you should start in terms of attending to issues in the workplace.
Here’s a video I made of this material.
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Where is the place in your office where everyone hangs out when they want to have a chat about what’s going on? Is it the water cooler or the coffee station, for instance? The smoking area? Write it in the comments below.