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Is workplace gossip affecting your business?

Having the right culture in an organisation is vital to ensure overall high-performance and buy-in from your employees. But when the culture is being compromised by workplace gossip is it appropriate to implement bans and heavily police this negative behaviour or are there more effective ways to encourage the right office culture?

There’s been a lot of talk recently regarding the participation in negative conversations about other employees in the workplace and whether serious measures need to be taken to prohibit this kind of behaviour. Times are changing, and companies are starting to follow the trend of implementing codes of conduct and clauses in contracts that are specifically designed to prohibit workplace whispering and discipline those that are caught.

If implementing these sorts of bans to prohibit ‘gossip’ or outlaw ‘talking about colleagues behind their back’ is what organisations believe will solve the culture issue, it will be future fodder for lawyers to try and precisely define what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour such as:

  • is it gossip if it’s true, but none-the-less embarrassing?
  • Is it ok to talk about people who are not present for the conversation if what is said is neutral or flattering?
  • Is the problem what is said or more how it is said?

The list of questions and uncertainties could be endless.

Workplace bullying and harassment should not be tolerated, and employers should take reasonable steps to ensure their workplaces are free from bullying and harassment, but is seeking to codify what is and isn’t acceptable workplace behaviour more restrictively the answer?

Our HR professionals take the approach that a code of conduct which embraces accepted behavioural norms, such as respect for others, along with a culture of acceptance, support, resilience and diversity will trump a punitive and restrictive approach.

As important as it is to have rules to encourage the right behaviour, when you have negative behaviour present in the workplace that is a problem which takes more than just rules to fix. If employers truly want to protect their employees; investment in a positive culture, demonstrating and modelling respect for diversity, encouraging and facilitating enhanced workplace resilience and genuinely effective early identification, reporting and management strategies are more likely to deliver sustainable and genuine workplace change. Empowering employees, building resilience and workplace education is a more positive approach than just implementing harsh rules.

If you require assistance to enhance your organisational culture and address negative behaviours please contact your usual Hanrick Curran Advisor or alternatively our HR division on 07 3218 3900.

Please note that this publication is intended to provide a general summary and should not be relied upon as a substitute for personal advice.