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Gossip in the workplace serves a purpose, researcher says

BY PAULA BURKES pburkes@opubco.com Modified: October 5, 2012 at 9:01 pm •  Published: October 7, 2012
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“Without realizing it, they'll wind up with action plans,” said Flaxington, author of the new book “Make Your SHIFT: The Five Most Powerful Moves You Can Make to Get Where YOU Want to Go.”

“Too many leaders don't want to hear problems, but people gossip for a reason,” she said.

“Rather than being punitive — and shutting down gossip, managers should view it as an indicator of difficulty, help people explain what's wrong and give them tools to manage it.”

Oklahoma City human resources expert Gayla Sherry advises employers have written policies banning malicious or hateful gossip, and that supervisors talk to violators about how their gossip affects company teamwork, morale and customer service.

Sherry recommends managers use gossip as a way to “feed the grapevine,” when they hear whispered news such as pending layoffs, management changes and the sale of the company.

“Managers tend to not tell employees anything about upcoming changes, until they have all the facts,” Sherry said. “But in most cases, they, while being sensitive of confidential regulatory information, can share at least some facts with employees and actually influence the messages that are being conveyed through gossip.”