I Heard it Through the Grapevine: Preventing Workplace Gossip
I Heard it Through
Preventing Workplace Gossip
Alicia Stadtlander, Ben Jackson, Brigham Van Auken,
Curtis Coatman, Joshua Kaan, Kelsey Ferris, & Nate Sullivan
Casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically
involving details that are not confirmed as being true.
Why does it matter?
Erosion of trust and morale
Increased anxiety among employees as rumors circulate without any clear information as to
what is fact and what isn’t,
Growing divisiveness among employees as people “take sides,"
Hurt feelings and reputations,
Jeopardized chances for the gossipers' advancement as they are perceived as unprofessional
Attrition as good employees leave the company due to the unhealthy work atmosphere.
The 20:20 Shift
In a recent study, gossip had a direct correlation to
When compliments present: 20% increase in willingness to
help other participant (over baseline)
When gossip present: 20% decrease in willingness to help as
compared to baseline
We maintain company information
private, so why not information about
Not all information should pass
through the grapevine.
"The wise professional respects
-Cynthia Kazalia, New
Directions Career Center
If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.
o Compliments increase cooperation.
o Gossip decreases cooperation.
Turn it around: Counter the negativity with positivity.
How to counter gossip with positivity:
1. “[M]ake a ‘pre-emptive positive evaluation.’ A quick ‘Isn’t she doing
a great job?’ might be enough to stop the attack.”
2. If the response is sarcasm (“Oh, real great job”), ask the person to
clarify the statement while using a pleasant tone.
3. If the person persists, ask “Don’t we have some work to do here?”
-Dr. Tim Hallett, Sociologist at Indiana University
The New York Times Test
Would you want your CEO to read what you
said on the cover of The New York Times?
An extension to this test:
o Do not gossip to or about superiors.
o "You may not like a decision your boss or
company higher-ups make, but gossiping
[about it] will not get you points."
Author of "Working in the Smart
Do you want your brand to be as a gossip?
Spread Information Which Helps, Not Hurts
Is the information shared helping your fellow
Will the information help increase
Is the information helping the organization?
Stamp out sour grapes behavior.
Focus on being a good GRAPE:
o G – Gentle
o R – Realistic
o A – Affective
o P – Punctual
o E – Exact
Don’t be a statistic to gossip inefficiency:
o 61% of the workforce engages in gossip.
o An individual averages 65 hours per year
Gossips want attention- being busy with work means
you won’t be available to participate in gossip.
The Triple Advantage of Being Busy:
More time in your day.
Not available to participate in gossip.
Oh, did you also hear the one about...
Practical Application 2
How Gossip Drains Your Productivity and How to Decrease Gossip
1. Measure Your Participation in Gossip
Keep a count for 5 days of how often you engaged in gossip.
Is gossipping helping you increase your productivity?
2. Decrease Your Participation in Gossip
Once you have the number of times you engaged in gossip, work on reducing your gossip count for each 5 day period going
forward until the count reaches 0.
Do you want to be gossiped about as the company gossip?
Do you want your productivity hindered because of engagement in gossip?
Assess the change in productivity before and after the above test.
Case Study 1
Hey, did you hear what Betty did?
She keeps putting cases back into the General queue.
Oh I love Betty!
I wonder why she would do that.
I don't know, but I'm sure it's because she didn't want to work the cases.
There's probably a good reason. She may not have known not to do that.
Let's talk with her and make sure she knows where she can find resources or that she can ask us for help.
Case Study 2
So Chris was with us at happy hour on Friday and he got WASTED!
Oh that's awful, I feel bad for him.
Yea, it was pretty scandalous!
In my experience, that can happen when people are trying to blow off steam. I hope he's ok.
Has anyone asked if he's alright?
Um, I don't know.
Let's go ask if there's anything troubling him. We want him to at least know he's got people here he can lean on if somethings the matter
outside of work.
Case Study 3
Have you noticed how Sally always leaves early?
I don't think she works all of her hours.
Really? I'm surprised that you've picked up on that.
Well, it's not hard to notice.
She probably has something going on in the evenings.
Have you asked her about it?
She might be coming in early too.
Either way, it could be an issue between Sally and her manager.
Let's give her the benefit of the doubt, but if it concerns you it wouldn't hurt to ask her about it in a tactful way.