No Gossip Policies

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Gossip has a funny way of turning a perfectly friendly workplace into a hostile one. In line with harassment and bullying, gossip can covertly take hold and merely become part of the culture. In an overly digital world, the days of chatting at the water cooler are over, but that has done nothing to stop the gossip mill from running wild. In fact, the digital age has heralded in an entirely new form of gossip and has kicked the gossip mill up a notch. Some companies, have begun instating no gossip policies to stem the flow of malicious information and to keep the workplace culture on track.

While a no-gossip policy can be a good idea, it is also a tricky road to navigate. It is vital to ensure that employees are not prevented from speaking freely amongst themselves, as this can work to create a more hostile environment, not a less hostile one.

No Gossip Policies

A no gossip policy should carefully outline what is considered gossip, and what is considered workplace discussion. The policy should note that gossip is defined as any unfavorable commentary about an individual when the individual is not present. The policy should also outline that any discussion about the personal life of an employee is not present during the time of the conversation is considered gossip.

No gossip policies must begin by defining the gossip policy and outline the disciplinary policy regarding gossip. In most cases, a company can opt to offer a written warning for the first incident and further discipline for subsequent cases, up to and including termination.

Proceed with Caution

No gossip policies can include information pertaining when and what can be discussed between co-workers as it relates to the workplace environment, but including full-on orders to prevent conversation can get employers in hot water.

In 2013, Laurus Technical Institute found themselves in front of the National Labor Relations Board for their no gossip policy. A judge ruled that the non-union workplace could not prevent individuals from discussing the terms of their employment with other employees if they are interested in disclosing such information. It was found that the policy, which explicitly stated employees were not to speak of the terms of employment. This blanket statement violated a protected right.

Because of this, it is important to note that no gossip policies, if they are utilized should focus on behaviors or gossip that may be harmful to the workplace or individual employees. The policy should avoid preventing employees from discussing terms of employment and should most certainly avoid utilizing the policy to prevent employees from working together for mutual aid or benefit.

As long as no gossip policies are written with the protected rights of employees in mind, and are drafted to clearly state what the policy is aiming to enforce, they can be used to help maintain a friendly work environment. Such a policy may even help to prevent instances of harassment and bullying. 

Cite this article: Lynch, N. (2017). No Gossip Policies. Available: https://www.lynchlf.com/blog/no-gossip-policies/

Twitter: @LynchServiceCo


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