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You may have noticed more people than usual lurking outside your executive’s door. That’s because economic fears are prompting more employees to eavesdrop and gossip about what might happen next at their workplaces.

In a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 54% of HR professionals report an increase in gossip and rumors among their employees since the recession began. Twenty-three percent say they’ve had to address more frequent “eavesdropping incidents.”

The solution? The times call for stepped-up communication, says Steve Williams, director of research for SHRM. His suggestions:

Aim for transparency. That means if you have information to share, plan to do it as soon as possible. Hold a brown-bag lunch meeting or “state of the state” conference call to bring everyone together so the information reaches them all at once.

“The more transparent you are, the less likely you’ll get gossip about the recession” and people lingering around other people’s desks and offices, trying to hear something, Williams tells Human Resource Executive.

Stop the leaks. If possible, keep sensitive discussions away from e-mail or written communications. Leaks of information could be “cancerous in an organization,” says one consultant.

Give ’em nothing to talk about.
When private meetings must be held, go off-site if you can. That stops people from lingering outside conference rooms. Caveat: Too many off-site meetings will send the gossip mill into overdrive.

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