A client did an experiment. In their food processing plant they measured the time it took for a rumor to spread from the front office to the shipping dock. It took only 20 minutes. In the meantime managers get frustrated when their message takes weeks, months or years to spread throughout their organization.
Why People Gossip
One of the most effective motivators for employees is a feeling of being in on things. They crave this so much that they will take even the smallest bit of information and spread it quickly. The message gets distorted and exaggerated from person to person because each individual wants the recognition that comes with telling the story.
How Leaders Can Communicate at the Speed of Gossip
- Recognize that employees, in their desire to feel part of a team, want to know what’s going on so be sure to provide regular messaging. If you leave a void, it will be filled with inaccurate and exaggerated gossip. Many front line leaders use a stand-up shift start meeting to provide information and set expectations for the day ahead.
- Part of gossip is the recognition that people crave by passing along exaggerated stories. Provide regular (constant) recognition so that employees know they don’t need to tell tall tales to get attention.
- Build stronger relationships with employees. People gossip less about people they care about. If the grapevine is over active, look at whether you are building silos and fostering individualism by playing favorites. Make it a point to connect with team members regularly and personally. They will appreciate the attention and find it harder to talk negatively about the leader or their teammates.
Excessive gossip is an indicator of poor communication and possibly ineffective leadership. Take action to increase the effectiveness of your front line leaders and their managers with training, coaching or mentoring.