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The water cooler dies: Office gossip spreads faster online

by on
in HR Management,Human Resources

Posted on home page oct. 9-16, not used in HR Weekly

Employees swapping gripes, gossip and good laughs at the water cooler … it’s a stereotypical American office scene. But more often these days, that gossip is traveling through the wires in the walls and flying through the air via e-mail, text messages, cell calls and more.

Gossip and nonwork chatter that spread via e-mail, instant messages (IMs) or texting can easily be captured and saved, possibly for a jury to see someday. 

Hot gossip can also chew up lots of productive workplace hours. A survey by Equisys, a communications firm, says the average employee spends 65 hours a year gossiping at work.

The solution: Don’t let workplace-related gossip spread unfettered. Establish a reputation as an open-door HR department, and become a “news creator” rather than constantly responding with damage control to squash rumors.

Why is that vital? In workplaces without a consistent way of communicating news, 31% of employees say that “off the record” conversations with bosses is their first source of news, with office gossip a close second at 28%, according to a survey of 700 office workers by Opinion Research Corp.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of survey respondents reported that people in their workplace gossip about company news all, most or some of the time.

The most likely to gossip? Young workers. Only 9% of workers age 18-24 say they keep office gossip quiet, compared with 19% of those age 25-34; 34% of those age 35-44; 39% of those age 45-54; and 48% of those age 55-64.

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