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Workplace gossip is the best way to destroy a company’s culture. As an advocate against working in toxic workplaces, I advise professionals to avoid getting sucked into office gossip. If you want to know the effects of rumors and gossip in the workplace, keep reading.
Rumors and office gossip have unfortunately become a regular part of the modern-day workplace. This widely accepted dog-eat-dog culture has turned many good employees into nightmarish coworkers.
Spreading false information can have a negative impact on the reputation of the victim and the people contributing to the gossip. It ends up being a lose-lose situation for both parties.
One of my favorite quotes stems from a common childhood phrase, “Treat others the way that you would want to be treated.” Paired with another personal favorite, “Be careful how you treat people on your way up because you may need them on your way down.” Simply put, we need to get back into the habit of taking care of each other.
The first thing that you need to remember is, being respectful, kind, honest, considerate, and professional never goes out of style. If you willingly and openly choose to participate in negative gossip and spreading rumors, it’s hard to claim that you are embodying any of the character traits above.
If you are a new manager and are struggling with how to deal with workplace gossip, check out the following article, How to handle workplace gossip as a manager.
Also, if you are brand new to management, check out my course, Skills for your first 90 days as a Manager you’ll also receive free 30-day access to LinkedIn Learning!
If you’re wondering, here’s the short answer, there’s nothing positive about spreading rumors in the workplace. In fact, there are only negative effects. Now let’s jump into the effects of rumors in the workplace.
Damaged employee morale is one of the main effects of rumors in the workplace. When employee morale begins to drop so does trust. If employees can’t trust each other, there is no teamwork or team spirit present. When regular communications involve gossip, employees will spend a good deal of time participating in other destructive activities. The worst cases include sabotaging others, lying, and taking actions with malicious intent.
Coworker relationships are similar to romantic relationships. Once trust has been broken, it’s hard to recover. For example, if you discovered that your partner spread a false rumor about you, would you be able to trust them again? You may try, but the truth is, you will constantly look over your shoulder and question their true intentions.
This happens with coworkers as well. If you can’t trust your coworker, it makes working together even harder.
One of the main effects of rumors in the workplace is the damage they can cause to morale. Rumors can create a culture of distrust and uncertainty among employees, which can lead to a decline in motivation and productivity. When employees feel that they cannot trust their colleagues or management, they are less likely to feel valued and respected. This can result in increased absenteeism, low staff retention rates, and poor performance.
Spreading rumors is the fastest way to destroy the company’s culture. A toxic company culture is often the result of staff members participating in water cooler discussions that include malicious gossip and sharing personal information about others. Once these lies begin to spread and there is no disciplinary action for those participating, it quickly becomes the norm.
When spreading rumors is the norm, everyone participates in it. As mentioned above, trust begins to fade and the environment becomes a dog-eat-dog, the culture quickly becomes toxic for those who stay and join the company. Toxic company cultures have negative long-term effects on those who endure them.
If you want to learn more about toxic environments, Toxic Workplace Checklist and Signs of a Toxic Workplace.
Another effect of rumors in the workplace is spreading false and incorrect information. Have you ever heard of the game “telephone?” Imagine playing telephone at a company level with 500+ people with different backgrounds, languages, and beliefs.
What started off as a simple statement, can quickly become harmful gossip that can negatively impact the individual. This type of gossip can have consequences for staff and the company. It could even ultimately result in a lawsuit due to defamation of character.
Rumors and gossip in the workplace are often one of the root causes of the shift in office politics. Employees can use rumors to manipulate their supervisors and coworkers. They can spread rumors to gain influence, promote fear, and attain a level of favor with certain people in the organization.
When the office is run by negative office politics, it can lead to a toxic work environment. How? Because office silos, cliques, and alliances are created to bully and ice out others.
This is one of the worst effects of rumors in the workplace, especially for the individual who is being gossiped about. Your reputation is tied to who you are as an individual. Your reputation is often made up from how others perceive you based on your beliefs, background, and actions.
Rumors have the power to destroy a professional’s reputation inside and outside of the company. It can also decrease someone’s chance for promotions and opportunities. If leaked, it can even cause an individual to lose business deals, customers, and vendor relationships.
As mentioned earlier, if you don’t have trust, you don’t have anything. The bottom line is, if employees feel like they can’t trust each other or management, this can have a damaging impact on the overall health of the company.
A lack of trust can cause employees to leave the organization or worse, stay and not put their all into their job.
True story: I once had a boss tell me about all the negative traits of my coworkers during my very first week on the job. From that point on, I didn’t trust him and kept him at an arm’s length distance. Even when he tried to build a relationship with me, I rejected it due to his previous actions. Remember, if someone will talk about others to you, they will talk about you!)
Rumors can easily cause anxiety and stress for all staff members in the workplace. This can later lead to more mental health issues, including depression.
Going to work every day, feeling like you’re walking on eggshells and anticipating what is coming next is draining and distracting. This is a poor use of energy and can ultimately lead to burnout, affecting productivity and your level of job satisfaction.
Have you ever had a conflict with a friend, family member, or coworker? Did you think about it a lot during the day? Did it keep you up at night?
For most people, being the subject of gossip can cause you to lose sleep at night and focus. If you’re constantly replaying an issue in your mind or are upset about a situation, it’s hard to focus on the task at hand. Spreading rumors at work and being the victim of them can decrease the amount of time you get to spend focusing on the job and doing activities you enjoy.
Everyone is not going to participate in the workplace gossip. For those who don’t they are already likely planning their exit strategy. On top of planning for their departure, they are also telling family, friends, and potential employees not to work for the company.
Why? If spreading rumors is considered casual conversation, the workplace is toxic, and no one wants to work in a toxic environment.
Another effect of rumors in the workplace is potential discrimination. Discrimination can and will turn into a case of workplace harassment. When coworkers’ perception change of an individual due to a false rumor, they begin to treat that employee differently.
Whether it’s sabotaging projects, excluding them from opportunities, or flat-out treating them poorly, this is a case of discrimination that can quickly lead to an individual or company lawsuit (or perhaps both!).
Spreading rumors can also create a hostile work environment as a result of bullying. Workplace bullying is often a tough subject to address, but it happens every day in companies all over the world. Lies and gossip can fuel hate towards the individual causing others to treat them poorly.
Employees spend most of their time at work. Being the victim of workplace bullying, a toxic work environment, and chaos daily, can quickly impact mental health. Depression and anxiety are direct symptom of being treated poorly on a regular basis. These feelings can also lead to burnout and feeling hopeless.
I always advise anyone working in a toxic environment to seek professional help if needed. No one deserves to feel “low” or “down” every day. For more tips on surviving a toxic environment, check out my article here, How to survive a toxic work environment.
In the world we live in today, workplace violence is happening more often than not. As mentioned earlier, an effect of rumors in the workplace is the emotional and mental damage they can cause. If left unaddressed, it can quickly take a turn for the worse. The victim of workplace gossip and bullying can become vengeful and take matters into their own hands.
The moral of the story, be careful how you treat others, you never know what someone is going through or how close to the edge they may be.
Simply put, no one wants to build their career at a company fueled by gossip. No one enjoys being the subject of gossip. The ones who choose to stay are often the ones who are starting the rumors which means they are toxic individuals. The ones who leave will go on to greener pastures, creating a revolving door for the company. In today’s world, a positive workplace is at the top of most professional’s lists.
Similar to low retention is increased absenteeism. Whether it’s due to becoming ill from stress, depression, and anxiety or being fed up with the atmosphere, absenteeism becomes an option for victims of rumors in the workplace.
Absenteeism can result in missed deadlines and decreased productivity. This ends up being a lose-lose for all parties involved.
I hope you know have a better understanding of the effects of rumors and gossip in the workplace.
The good thing about knowing the terrible effects of rumors is knowing why you should prevent them. There are no good effects of rumors in the workplace. Such behavior is not tolerated by great leaders or great companies.
Rumors and gossip in the workplace have the power to destroy an organization from the inside out. As a manager, one of the most effective ways to handle employees who spread gossip is to address it right away. For more advice on how to deal with gossip in the workplace as a manager, check out this article, How to handle gossip in the workplace as a manager.
You have a personal responsibility to contribute to a healthy work environment. As an employee, the best way to handle gossip is to stay away from it and avoid idle chitchat. Remember that your reputation and integrity will follow you for the rest of your career. Make it your goal to maintain a high level of professionalism, I promise it will pay off in the long run.
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