You may have noticed more employees huddled in hushed conversations. That’s because economic fears are prompting more employees to gossip and even eavesdrop to find out what’s happening next at their workplaces.
More than half of HR professionals (54%) report that gossip and rumors have increased at their workplaces since the recession began, according to a Society for Human Resource (SHRM) study. And 23% say they’ve had to address more frequent “eavesdropping incidents.”
Plus, technology allows employees to e-mail, text, IM, tweet or spread their company gossip and fears to dozens of co-workers instantly.
Morale isn’t the only victim. A survey by the communication firm Equisys says employees spend an average of 65 hours per year gossiping at work.
The solution? The times call for stepped-up communication, says Steve Williams, director of research for SHRM. His suggestions:
1. Open the door. 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 company” conference call to bring everyone together so the information reaches everyone at once.
The more transparent you are, the less likely employees will need to gossip or resort to other means to get the scoop.
2. Stop the leaks. If possible, keep sensitive discussions away from e-mail or written communications. Leaks of information can be cancerous to an organization.
3. 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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