The fact that employees have a predilection for gossip is such a staple of life, it’s become a trope. The phrase “water cooler moment” entered our lexicon in the 90s; an Americanism designed to point an event that everyone is talking about.
Behind the phrase is the known reality: people talk at work, and they don’t always speak of business, sales or lead gathering. Every office has a gossip girl; a group of friends who socialise together outside of work and retell stories; the bro club who talk about sports between spreadsheets. It happens, and it’s fine… unless you’re the employer.
If you’re the employer, you don’t see it as friendly office banter. You see it as wasted time. Your staff earning money for not focusing on the business you have created – it’s an entrepreneur’s nightmare.
On the other side of your mind, you know you don’t want to be the big, bad boss. It’s going to kill your staff’s happiness if you try it, and miserable staff means a miserable business.
The alternative to the stick is always the carrot. There are ways and means of keeping employees on track without falling into the trap of indulging them to the point of uselessness. Curious as to how it’s done? Read on.
Your Office Floor Plan Needs To Be Genius
With people working in a confined space, your office needs to be perfect. What you want to avoid are small areas where people can congregate in groups, where they can stand and talk without being seen by a supervisor.
If necessary, talk to experts like Image Interior Systems Ltd who know exactly what you need from your office space. It’s worth investing in as a smart office design can keep your staff where they should be – and they don’t even know you’ve done it.
Give Them An Outlet
If there has been some kind of national event – an amazing TV show, a royal wedding, a football controversy – then don’t try and contain it. People are going to want to talk; it’s in our nature and to try and suppress it won’t work.
Instead, open up the day after with a meeting. Have a few basic points to bring up at said meeting so it doesn’t look like a cover – which of course it is. Then bring up the event and allow people to discuss it for around fifteen minutes. They’ll get it out of their system and can return to work soon after.
Bend But Don’t Break On Discipline
If you have constant issues with the same individuals and their distracted attention, then you may have to begin disciplinary proceedings. However, this should always be a last resort.
You can let some things go. If they had an issue at home and were venting to a colleague, be a considerate boss and let them off with a warning. Only when the problem becomes persistent – with at least three occurrences – should you concern yourself with discipline. And if you do have to do it, keep it quiet – you don’t want to broadcast the embarrassment of the employee. It’s all about staff morale at the end of the day, walking a fine line between being good for staff and being a pushover. Three separate events of misbehaviour can be considered that line.