Information is a powerful possession. Powerful because it can do a lot for a person. Conversely, information can do a lot to social damage a person. Interestingly, that information about another person doesn't even necessarily need to be particularly accurate or even relevant to the audience. Seems unfair, but it's consistent - we humans are social animals and we trade the commodity of information freely - I say trade intentionally because for some reason, that tidbit of new info that degrades the reputation of the subject seems to elevate the standing of the person sharing it establishing them as an individual with access. Surely this is some kind of evolutionary artifact we can suppress or explain away.
While it's entirely natural to believe gossip is something we must all contend with because we've been doing it since middle school, the truth is gossip is incompatible with a functioning team and typically an active undermining effort of a relatively small percentage of those team members.
Like many offices worldwide, many collection agencies have outlawed gossip in the office because it does nothing more than undermine morale and detract from the culture that these agencies are promoting. There is one particular type of gossip that is particularly toxic, and it's the practice of complaining about personal conflicts with shared team members. In order to keep everyone on the same page, these agencies define gossip as one person sharing information about someone or something to another person when that other person is unable to do anything about it. In other words, an employee talking about issues he or she is having with a co-worker with anyone who can not do anything about it, is gossip. Talking about the issues with a supervisor or executive within the company who can do something about it is proactive.
Agencies are spending more of their time and resources on fostering strong cultures within their offices. The job market is a buyer’s market right now and finding and keeping employees is harder than it’s been in many years. Making sure employees feel like they are part of a team with valued opinions while also showing how much they are appreciated can be more effective than all the money in the world.
The best way for companies to keep gossip from becoming a problem is to show employees that when they have an issue, it is taken seriously and resolved to the best extent possible. A culture of indifference or an unwillingness to engage are the express lanes to conflicts where employees take matters into their own hands - rarely to the preferred outcome(s).
Gossip was the third-most common form of killing productivity in the workplace, according to a study conducted by CareerBuilder. More than one -third of the survey’s respondents said gossip was a workplace killer, behind employees using their smartphones and surfing the Internet. Because evidently there's very little we hate more than a coworker surfing the internet while we're hard at work. We're looking at you, John - this year, do your holiday internet shopping from home like the rest of us.
You should have seen what I saw him shopping for last week. So weird. But I won't say - that would be gossiping. (Incidentally, hinting that you know something about someone is also gossip. Obviously, gossip takes many forms and complaining about personal conflicts is just one example. Poor John, although I haven't revealed the leather item in question [oops], I've implied that I think he ain't right based on some action I witnessed. Sometimes the imagination can be more cruel than the facts, a distinction often lost lost on the worst offenders of office gossip.)
Culture is important. Tend to yours actively and lead by example. If you are the person who can affect change in your office, be the outlet your staff needs for difficult situations and conflicts. Take proactive actions to mitigate existing or potential issues and never assume something will work itself out. After all, you're the only person they are allowed to talk to about their problem, so it's on you now.