It’s Reputational Warfare: 7 Tips to Managing Gossip

In a new study by Tim Hallet gossip is found to be dangerous. Gossip can hamper someone’s ability to manage people, obliterate camaraderie and promote turnover.  Tim Hallet is a sociologist and published the finding of his study in the Journal of Contemporary EthnographyHe says gossip is “reputational warfare” and it exists everywhere in an organization. 

 Hallett’s insights come from a year observing teachers and administrators in a public elementary school and then recording meetings. By analyzing the videos, he saw that even in formal meetings gossip occurred.  Most of the gossip was negative, and directed at the school’s new leader. Whether direct or indirect the trash talk was damaging and was meant to weaken the principal.

The lesson…manage gossip before it manages you!

7 Tips on managing gossip:

  1. Develop informal relationships to understand the pulse of the organization.   
  2. Utilize gossip to learn about problems in the workplace. Gossip can be a type of teacher.
  3. Don’t become defensive that will only serve to fuel the trash talk.
  4. Do not support the negative comments with other negative; that only legitimizes the gossip and lowers your own standing.    
  5. Try switching topics.  Go back to the main goal or the agenda if in a meeting. 
  6. Productively confront an individual to understand why they are behaving that way.
  7. Worst case scenario let the worst offender go.  Gossip and bad behavior is like a cancer in an organization.  It will only spread if gone unchecked.
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4 thoughts on “It’s Reputational Warfare: 7 Tips to Managing Gossip

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention It’s Reputational Warfare: 7 Tips to Managing Gossip « The Engagement Factor Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Gossip is not warfare. It is communications incompetence that creates gossip.

    In the absence of clear information, gossip inevitably springs and can destroy morale and productivity.

    “Oh but we have a Twitter Account and Facebook and we’re got an employee Intranet”, you say.

    All well and good, but here’s what you are missing. You have managers whose job it is well, to manage.

    Let’s say there is gossip about a new layoff. Who do employees go to for their information? Sure, they can check the Intranet and Twitter and such, and you know what they will find. Syrup or nothing. Back to the gossip machine.

    So, since you have managers whose job it is to manage, you ensure your managers have the information their subordinates need to answer any question that is important to the health of your organization. You pay them to manage and communicate. Any message, whether good or ‘bad’ will have greater import face-to-face than through a company email that caught the manager by as much surprise as his/her subordinates.

  3. So, since you have managers whose job it is to manage, you ensure your managers have the information their subordinates need to answer any question that is important to the health of your organization. You pay them to manage and communicate. Any message, whether good or ‘bad’ will have greater import face-to-face than through a company email that caught the manager by as much surprise as his/her subordinates.

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