Many people view gossip as a bad thing. And as such, they make every attempt to ban anything remotely resembling gossip in the workplace. I agree that back-stabbing and undermining behavior are totally inappropriate and unacceptable and should be stopped. We can probably all agree on that.
But, thinking you can eliminate gossip is naïve. Again, I’m not talking about nasty comments here. If people make mean-spirited remarks about their co-workers, then you deal with it. By holding the employee accountable and coaching. You don’t write a policy banning gossip in the workplace . . because there’s no way you can effectively enforce it.
In thinking about it, I’m not sure you really want to completely eliminate gossip. I’d suggest that, instead of spending energy to eradicate gossip, learn how to leverage it. That’s right. Use it to your advantage. The informal channels of company communication (aka gossip, rumor mill, grapevine, whatever you want to call it) can be valuable every once in awhile.
For example, let’s say you have a message you want the masses to start hearing…but you’re not in an official position to write a memo or have a meeting. Letting gossip get the word out, can be a good thing. The rumor mill can start getting people comfortable with the idea. Then when you do make that official announcement, people say “I had a hunch it was coming.”
If it’s negative behavior you’re trying to eliminate – then that’s simple – do the right thing. People have little to talk about when everyone is doing what they’re supposed to. And, instead of declaring the grapevine your enemy, make it a friend and use it to your advantage.2