How to Deal with Rumors, Gossip and Conflict at Work

Rumors, gossip and conflict are the perfect organizational trifecta if you want to employ people to engage in unproductive, non-stewardship behavior that wastes time and spends profits. In order to deal with such problems arising in the workplace, it's important to understand what gives these negative behaviors fuel and how to cut off the supply to ensure a productive, mutually supportive and enjoyable workplace environment.


  1. 1
    Be aware of what motivates the unwanted behaviors:
    • Rumors: These tend to occur when individuals are in conflict with the organization and its direction. They get fueled when there is a lack of relevant, timely two-way communication. Rumors are a productivity killer.
    • Gossip: This happens when there is interpersonal conflict. Talking about others in their absence is a means of undermining another or causing harm to their reputation. Left unchecked, gossip is a culture destroyer.
    • Conflict: While this can be positive if it is approached with an opportunity to improve mindset, if it is perceived as a threat rather than an opportunity, then it only further erodes the already weak places.
  2. 2
    Respond to the potential for rumors, gossip and conflict in the workplace in a positive and proactive way. The following solutions are simple but effective:
    • Rumors: Communication combats rumors. Communicate quickly and effectively the things that the staff need to know.
    • Gossip: Honor the absent. Do not engage in conversations where the subject of discussion is not present. Have these requirements as part of the corporate culture.
    • Conflict: Provide conflict training for everyone. It is as simple as that yet many fear even the mention of the word. It is better that staff have the tools to manage conflict than that they pretend it's never going to be an issue.
  3. 3
    Do not look the other way. Whenever people come together the potential for dysfunctional interactions exist. Rather than take a proactive stance against these behaviors, which often fly in the face of espoused corporate values, some leaders look the other way, being reluctant to address these issues despite the impact on the organization’s functioning and the climate that is created for its members.
    • If you have a leadership role, realize that you are expected and often held accountable for doing quality work, fostering teamwork and valuing diversity. Honor this role and commit to reducing the chances for rumors, gossip and unhealthy conflict.
    • Be aware that if you don't work proactively at reducing these negative behaviors, you may be undermining your own credibility. If this happen, you become an ineffective role model because you mirror conflict avoidance behavior. That is not a good thing to show people in an organization, as it is the easy route for them to follow, and not the productive one.
  4. 4
    Address your own lack of skills in any area. These "soft areas" as important as the hard management skills. They are an important part of ensuring that you are a well-rounded leader of your team, group, or organization. Recognize that it is part of your role and get specific training to strengthen your skills in this area, if needed.
  5. 5
    Set expectations around honoring the absent, providing information about company decisions and direction and building skills in conflict navigation. These things are a leaders responsibility. Rumors, gossip and conflict are going to happen. How you allow it to change relationships and company cultures is up to you..

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Workplace Conflicts Coping and Issues