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Make office gossip work for you

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Office gossipAlthough virtually every chief executive doesn't like office gossip, it can be very useful - if you put it under control.


Company culture is one of the most important things that make a company recognizable. Just a brief look at few well-known companies will reveal that workers' and managers' attitude make them stand apart from others. Company culture has many levels and you, as the new senior manager, must learn all of them as soon as possible in order to do your job well and bring the profit to shareholders.

We will write here about just one segment which looks very down-to-earth, but this is the segment that can make or break the whole company. That segment is gossip.

By gossip we here mean "all communications outside official communication channels", so we won't talk about gossip about someone's private life, but all small talks about someone's business achievements and capabilities. Every manager, and especially C suite, knows that communication is the single most important factor in achieving success.

Every manager also knows that it is important to have a good communication with all levels, from workers to the board of directors. Unofficial channels are very good way to get the information nobody wants to say in public but they can be very dangerous.

"He can't do anything on time", "She is a good worker but awful person", "OK, he's fine but he's late to work every day", those are good examples of office gossip. Sooner or later, it will reach the top manager - you. So, how to deal with such information?

First you need to know that gossip is a universal human behaviour. Every one of us are engaged in because we spend more time at work that at any other activity and we know our colleague well. Gossip, or small talk if you like, can be a bond that connects colleagues and make the team stronger and more efficient.

However, if gossip become malicious it can lower morale and seriously hurt productivity. So, you must pay attention is the information you heard just a description or attack on someone's personality. For example, "OK, he's fine but he's late to work every day", clearly is not a reason to fired that person.

There are so called "stars", very efficient and capable employees who bring tremendous profit to company but don't play by the rules. Should you ask them to come to work exactly on time? Of course not, they need to be leaved alone and they will do more work than a whole department.

A completely different example is "He can't do anything on time". Now you are on dangerous grounds. You must find is that true or is that just a malicious gossip of a jelous coworker. This is one of the hardest task you can get as a chief executive. If you believe in this description you risk firing the employee without evidence, and if you don't check the facts you may end up with an employee who doesn't do his job. So, here we speak about soft skills and experience plays a great role here.

Those two examples are enough to see how complicated personal relations can be and if you take into account that you are new in the company, you can see that all business strategies and product-market relationship are a joke comparing to inter-office relationships.

You should set a simple rules which will make your life easier and in turn make gossip works for you. The first rule: malicious gossip is not tolerated. Make a clear statement that "She is good worker but she is ugly" leads the statement maker straight to the exit. The second rule: make a list of things that won't be tolerated. Any mention of race, religion, gender or sex attitude should not be tolerated. "He's OK but he's gay" lead to the exit.

The third rule: be more open to conversation with lower levels. Set a day in week when anyone can talk to you, in private and confident way. This is the best possible way to stop malicious gossip and at the same time to get valuable information. Make sure, and stick to it, that a private conversation between you and a worker won't never became public. That way you will earn respect and that in turn means that you will have loyal employees.

And the most important rule: if someone break the rule, act immediately. You should not talk for days about that, if the rules is broken someone needs to feel the consequences. At the end of the day, no one likes a weak chief.

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