How to Stop Backbiting & Gossip in the Workplace in 3 Steps

Discover the proven 3-step approach to curbing workplace gossip effectivelyand foster a positive, gossip-free environment, boosting team morale.



Gossiping, insults, backbiting, and other forms of workplace conflict can be silent disruptors in the workplace, leading to decreased morale, productivity, and even potential legal issues.

As a manager, it's crucial to address and curb this behavior effectively. But how do you tactfully confront the employees who are regularly attacking each other, get them to work out their differences peacefully, and finally get back to work?

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to handle workplace gossip.

How to Handle Backbiting & Gossiping in the Workplace as a Manager

1. Set a zero-tolerance policy against gossiping, bullying, or offensive language

Although some forms of conflict are healthy for an organization, any type of disrespectful conflict is unacceptable. Employees should never be allowed to attack a coworker (or vendor, customer, or any other person for that matter) with derogatory comments, blatantly mean behavior, or any other form of bullying.

That is why it's essential to set clear boundaries:

  • Draft a clear policy: If you don’t already have a zero-tolerance policy against gossip and bullying, it's time to implement one. This policy should clearly define what constitutes office gossip and the negative consequences of indulging in it.

  • Communicate the policy: Hold a dedicated meeting to discuss this policy. Ensure every employee, not just the managerial staff, is aware of it and understands its importance.

However, it's worth noting that not all gossip is harmful. Positive gossip, where employees share positive stories, praise colleagues, or spread good news, can boost morale and foster a sense of community. The challenge lies in distinguishing between the two and promoting the positive while curbing the negative.

2. Enforce your zero-tolerance policy

Don’t ignore violations of your zero-tolerance policy. When you (or a manager) catch wind of any inappropriate language or behaviors, stop it immediately and meet with all involved. Ignoring any such behavior will give misperceptions of what is and isn’t acceptable or positive behavior at work, which may potentially lead to a discrimination claim in the future.

Although it sounds time-intensive to jump on every infraction, the intensity will decrease once you’ve set the standard. You’ll also be saving the company thousands of dollars in absenteeism, employee turnover, and other workplace problems in the long run.

Consistency is key. Addressing negative workplace gossip isn't a one-time action but a continuous effort:

  • Immediate action: The moment you or any team leader identifies a breach of the policy, address it immediately. This sends a clear message about what behaviors are unacceptable.

  • Consistent enforcement: While it might seem demanding initially, consistent enforcement will set a clear standard, reducing infractions over time. This proactive approach not only curbs negative office gossip but also saves the company from potential losses due to decreased productivity or legal issues.

3. Allow employees (not just managers) to resolve conflict respectfully

When two (or more) employees are obviously at odds with each other, meet with them individually to hear all sides of the story. If they aren’t comfortable speaking verbally about it, have them write down their feelings and experiences of what has happened.

Listen and/or read through the grievances and validate each one. Then bring all involved together and, as the manager, facilitate the discussion.

Have them brainstorm solutions and allow them to act upon the solutions that are mutually agreed upon, then schedule a follow-up discussion to see how the solution is working. Warn them that any conflict that arises at any future point must be handled respectfully or be subject to discipline.

Conflict is natural, but how it's handled makes all the difference:

  • Open channels of communication: Meet with conflicting parties individually to understand their perspectives. If they're hesitant to speak, encourage them to write down their feelings.

  • Facilitate constructive dialogue: Once you've understood the root of the conflict, bring the parties together. As a manager, guide the conversation towards a solution, ensuring it remains respectful.

  • Follow-up: Solutions aren't always perfect. Schedule a follow-up to assess the effectiveness of the resolution and make adjustments if necessary.

Your Role as an Employer in Creating a Positive Work Environment

As a manager, you play a pivotal role in shaping a positive workplace culture. Ensuring a negative gossip-free environment isn't just about rules; it's about fostering a culture of respect, open communication, and mutual understanding.

Expert tip: Consider organizing regular team-building activities or workshops on effective communication. This not only addresses the issue of gossip but also strengthens team bonds.

We Can Help You Create a Work Culture of Respect

Gossip, when left unchecked, can erode trust, decrease productivity, and create divisiveness. However, with the right strategies in place, managers can turn the tide, promoting a culture of respect and understanding.

For tailored solutions and expert advice on handling workplace gossip, reach out to our certified HR experts. If you're not yet a part of the Stratus HR family, book a free consultation, and let's work together to create a harmonious workplace. Book a free consultation and our team will contact you shortly.

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