Managing Team Rumours and Gossip
Team productivity can suffer greatly if your team is invested in spending significant portions of each workday engaged in speculative rumour mongering and the spread of interpersonal gossip. Rumours are comprised of unsubstantiated organisational news, while gossip is usually about personal issues. Although rumours and gossip can never be fully eliminated from an environment where people interact on a daily basis, there are a number of strategies that can be used to limit the destructive and non-productive impact of rumours and gossip on team performance.
Teams need to set limits on mean-spirited gossip first. By refusing to listen to catty, judgmental information about others, the potential for hurt feelings and retaliatory action is significantly reduced. When confronted with such information team members will agree to either change the subject, or walk away without contributing to the conversation.
Confronting gossip is another effective strategy to reduce the amount of gossip circulating through the team. Making neutralising statements such as "I don't want to believe that, " or "Why are you telling me this?" will reduce the fun involved in spreading gossip, and the people doing the gossiping will not receive the needed reinforcement to fuel the retelling of the gossip to others.
When organisational rumours are circulating through the team they can be put to rest by attempting to confirm the rumour through official channels. A team representative needs to ask a member of the leadership team to either confirm or deny the rumour. Once a clear response is issued the news should be disseminated via email or in a group meeting where everyone can get the correct information simultaneously.
Managing rumours and gossip in your team can reduce interpersonal dissention, relieve team stress, and eliminate worry about speculative issues that may never come to fruition. Investing time in curtailing the rumour mill and trimming the office grapevine will pay off in terms of increased team unity and productivity.