Since my earliest days in the workforce, gossip in the workplace has never been dealt with all that well by companies I have worked for. It always gets treated like the Elephant in the Room, everyone knows it exists but it just gets accepted as the norm and inevitable.
Left unchecked, gossip in the workplace can have a seriously damaging effect on both staff morale and efficiency. This isn’t ‘who had lunch with who’ type gossip we’re talking about. This is gossip about workplace related issues that are far easier to complain to the wrong person about, than sit down and resolve with the appropriate people.
In a small business, negative gossip about the company or people can be damaging to staff morale and can spiral out of control very quickly. Lower staff numbers mean less people need to talk to one another to pass around a story or opinion. On the upside, it also means the situation is quicker and simpler to deal with than in larger organisations, and the solution starts with you!
A decision to deal with workplace gossip head-on must from the leader(s) in the form of honest, open communication and confrontation of issues when they arise. Work with your direct reports on creating a culture where it is OK to call out people when they are gossiping and encourage them to deal with the issue rather than just talking about it.
To do this you can’t ‘be a chicken’. You need to be able to have the difficult (but extremely important) conversations and open up a path of clear communication between yourself and your team. Although it is sometimes a difficult step to take, the outcome is incredibly rewarding and it will also help establish you a reputation as an honest and trusted leader.