An overwhelming majority (84%) of US advertising and marketing executives say it’s common for their employees to engage in office gossip, and nearly two-thirds (63%) say it has a negative effect on the workplace, according to a national survey by The Creative Group.
On the other hand, more than a quarter of respondents (27%) say that gossip has neither a positive nor negative effect on their workplace, and a full 10% say gossip actually has a beneficial effect.
The financial crisis and fear of job losses may intensify pernicious gossip in coming months, The Creative Group said.
“Gossip occurs in every workplace, but in times of economic uncertainty rumors can become more prevalent and negative in tone,” said Megan Slabinski, executive director of The Creative Group. “Employees may speculate about changes within their firms, and staff members who question their job security might spread rumors about coworkers with whom they feel competitive.”
Slabinski said that open communication is the best defense for an overactive rumor mill. “Sharing information quickly and candidly can prevent employees from speculating”” said Slabinski. “It’s especially important during times of change to address concerns directly.”
For those who find it troublesome, The Creative Group offers the following tips to help nip office gossip:
- Check in with staffers: Visit one-on-one with staff members. Professionals may be more inclined to share concerns in an informal setting.
- Keep doors open: Workers become anxious when managers speak behind closed doors and in hushed tones. Try to maintain as much accessibility as possible. Consider discussing sensitive issues in less visible locations.
- Pick out bad apples: If there’s a single employee who continually spreads negative rumors or gossip, quickly address the issue with that person.
- Lead by example: Avoid saying anything about others that you wouldn;t say to them personally, and let employees know that you expect the same of them.
About the survey: The study was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on 250 telephone interviews – 125 with advertising executives randomly selected from the nation’s 2,000 largest advertising agencies and 125 with senior marketing executives randomly selected from the nation’s 2,000 largest companies