In the last couple of years, I've had a lot of conversations about gossip at the work place and, almost every time, I received a lot of answers accepting, justifying or encouraging this type of behaviour, across all levels of an organization.
A study realized by CPP Global in US, during 2008, shows that an employee spends almost 2,8 hours per week in a form of conflict, which translates financially in a loss of almost 359 billion dollars each year. Doing the math for Romania, considering the international average of 2,5 hours and the latest statistics about employees at a national level, we're talking about an average of 3 billion euros each year, money lost in conflict management.
So what is gossip and what stands behind it?
Gossip, actually, represents an activity through which people seek allies, who support their convictions and behaviours, or enemies against whom they need to justify their actions.
The most frequent situations where gossip appears are:
- People looking for others to resonate with their complaints against a certain someone, without actually considering a confrontation with that certain someone and solving the problem.
- People don't openly communicate during meetings, work sessions etc., but spend a lot of time and energy to complain afterwards.
- People spend a lot of time in drawing others on their "side", sustaining conflict.
There are also people who consider these types of behaviour as a form of trust building, but what happens in the meantime and how does gossip actually affect relationships and organizations?
- First of all, people spend time justifying their actions instead of solving the problem
- These type of behaviours lead to resentment and breaking relationships, over time.
- The work place becomes an upleasant space
- Personal productivity drops
- Sustaining gossips actually leads to even more conflict, as it supports a negative behaviour across the company
- The financial loss becomes considerable.
This scenario which a lot of companies have to deal with creates major costs on middle and long term. If we consider the following formula: each employee spends at least 30 minutes per week supporting gossip. What does that mean for you as an employer?
What can you do?
If we let go of our emotions and analyze these behaviours in a detached way, we will see that behind gossip there are actually many issues: the difference between expectations and work realities, the need for respect, understanding, recognition etc. And the problem remains then - our choice regarding these matters. Our behaviour makes the difference. Do we give in to gossip or solve the issue?
One way to transform this negative energy of a conflict into a good working energy is using Leading out of Drama tools, becoming compassionate and assertive in our communication and relationships.