Gossip in the Workplace
Gossip is normally an informal way of communication experienced in every situation in the workplace. According to Hallett, Brent, and Donna (27), gossip is often groundless and sensational talk about others. In addition, this language causes harm and confusion to others. It pains others when used in their absence. Mostly, it is all about other people. Subconscious or conscious, passive or active, everybody at some point finds himself or herself gossiping. Indeed, people read gossip in magazines and newspapers; engage in gossip during their professional as well as their private lives, and watch news that has gossip. Nevertheless, gossiping affects the way work is done in the society. Indeed, in the work environment, gossip can be an influential facet. The current paper will focus on gossip in the work environment.
Apparently, all organizations have heightened sensitivity on gossip and have a different view of the phenomenon. Indeed, organizational managements have realized that gossip when manifested to its worst can be tantamount to workplace violence. In fact, in a bid to react to the latter, some organizations go an extra mile to create formal policies that hinder gossip in the workplace. However, the drawback is getting at the grassroots of the issue. The issue that arises is why people in the workplace gossip or why they are involved in idle talk about people.
According to Hallett, Brent, and Donna (34), gossip is power. They argue that if someone shared negative information of another person to another individual, there is a high likelihood that they will spread negative talk about the other person to others. Therefore, the gossiper’s coercive power is increased by the latter belief. Conversely, if an individual shares positive information about an individual to another person, then the same person can share positive information about that particular person to others. The latter belief increases the reward power of the gossiper. Similarly, if someone appears to have particular knowledge concerning others in the work place or the organization, the latter raises their expert power. Nevertheless, there is what is referred to as referent power. In a case whereby the co-workers perceive themselves as part of inner part of the organization simply because information has been shared to them, the gossiper is most likely to gain reputation and power.
According to Hallett, Brent, and Donna (38), gossiping has a boomerang effect. They argue that at times referent power backfires. Indeed, they contend that gossip that is mean-spirited, harmful and spiteful has a boomerang effect. The latter type of gossip leads to negative reputation in the organization. Nonetheless, the gossip is more serious and may make other workers refute an employee who has the behaviour of gossiping about others. It makes them cautious and may even limit one’s career as well.
The question that may arise is if gossip is about power, then why do gossipers seek the power? Hallett, Brent, and Donna (37) assert that underneath the gossip, desire to fit in or self-actualize and low self-esteem are mostly the main reason why workers resort to idle gossips. They argue that people who gossip do so simply because they cannot be authentic or original in life. Indeed, they use gossiping as a defence mechanism and put the focus on other people rather than themselves to evade disclosing their own emotions and feelings or being vulnerable. In other words, they fear revealing their own self. To them putting on a mask that focuses on other individuals is better rather than revealing themselves, which would be threatening and frightening.
Nevertheless, gossip in the workplace is a habit that can be done away with. According to Daher, Michael, and Vincent (47), the best way of eliminating the habit of gossiping in an individual is coaching one how to avoid destructive, negative, or harmful gossiping. If one has genuine commitment of ending the gossip habit, he or she can be assisted by self-coaching. Despite one having self-esteem issues, it is possible for one to emerge from the behaviour of gossiping. Daher, Michael and Vincent (47) came up with various reflective questions that support and shift both behaviour and mind-set. They argued that one should ask themselves why they are supporting or engaging other people who gossip, what they get out of the gossip and if they would want themselves to be quoted in the TV, company newsletters or in the papers. They should query themselves whether gossiping aligns with their organizational values of honouring and respecting people. In addition, would they repeat the same words directly to the person being talked about or are they expressing their integrity, sincerity, or authenticity when they gossip?
Therefore, it should be accepted that gossip is a potential harm and a real hazard in the workplace. The best thing to do is to always choose words wisely and be intentional. The latter does not imply that employees should go around with their lips sealed completely for them to be on the safe end. They only need to make sure that the intended talk is not harmful, but it is helpful and not at the expense of anyone.
Daher, Ali, Michael G. Rabbat, and Vincent K. Lau. “Local silencing rules for randomized gossip.” (2011): Print.
Hallett, Tim, Brent Harger, and Donna Eder. “Gossip at Work: Unsanctioned Evaluative Talk in Formal School Meetings.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography (2009): n.p. Print.