Workplace Gossip definition

Workplace gossip is a form of informal communication among colleagues focused on the private, personal and sensitive affairs of others. Gossip is seen almost universally as a negative process because it can introduce falsehoods, rumours and slanderous statements into the ecosystem of work and cause conflict in interpersonal relationships.

Human development expert Peter Vajda identifies workplace gossip as a form of workplace violence because it is an ‘attack’ on another, albeit a passive-aggressive one. This view is contested because some of the gossip spread around workplaces is positive i.e. paints others in a positive light.

Negative consequences of workplace gossip can include loss of productivity and effectiveness, loss of trust as feelings get hurt and breakdown of unity as workers develop personal opinions on information spread by gossip and change their perceptions of individuals. Attrition of talent may also occur if the workplace develops a ‘gossip culture.’

Human resources expert Mary Gormandy White identified signs that suggest acute or chronic gossiping is prevalent in the workplace, including animated people becoming silent, inappropriate topics of conversion and staring.

Many organisations have policies, often codified in the employee handbook, against gossiping. Businesses that can’t show proactive policies were in place to combat gossiping may find themselves in a weaker position should an associated case come to tribunal.