With the New Year quickly approaching I thought I would cover some topics that are opportunities in retail as professional resolutions for 2016. The first topics I have written about are Retail Career Obstacle: Defensiveness; Retail Career Obstacle: Unwilling To Self-Develop; Retail Career Obstacle: Excessively Ambitious and Arrogant; Retail Career Obstacle: Inabiity To Think Strategically; and Retail Career Obstacle: Cannot Build An Effective Team. Now I want to cover another growth hurdle I have seen during my career in retail: Gossiping.
Retail has lots of “yentas”…and in retail gossiping is an equal opportunity sport. According to Susan Ricker, “Nearly half of employers say they would think twice before moving an employee who participates in office gossip up the ranks”.
Gossip is a dangerous disease to a retail organization. Workplace gossip fuels workplace conflict, disruption, under-performance, and negatively impacts employee retention. Unaddressed, it can easily turn into workplace bullying.
There has never been a retail organization I have worked with where gossip was not an issue. Seriously. As a matter of fact, it has always been, at least, in the Top 5 challenges a company was facing and one of the biggest, once stopped, to have an immediate positive impact on the company culture.
This is one of those employee behaviors that there needs to be a zero-tolerance policy around. According to WorkDoctor, “the estimated potential annual cost to an average Fortune 500 company in lost productivity (more than $8,000,000), turnover (more than $16,000,000), litigation (minimum legal expenses $104,000 per case with settlements ranging from $225,000 to $1.4 million), and disability (more than $114,000 with an estimated 18 percent of cases involving bullying) means bullies are too expensive to keep on the payroll”. Even scaled down to a smaller retailer – the cost associated with keeping these toxic and, frankly, offensiveemployees on the payroll is too high.
In an Huffington Post article by Janice Celeste, MBA , author, professor, and CEO of WeSpeakWorldwide.com, she states, “If a company has 200 employees and each employee spent one hour a day trading gossip, that would result in $160,000 of lost productivity each month. That’s a loss of $1.92 million a year (based on $40 p/hr, salary & benefits).” Let’s face it, managers are, likely, the ones who are perpetuating or tolerating a culture of gossip in their area of responsibility – be it a store, district, region, or department.
Here are some common qualities you will find in your retail gossip:
What Can Senior Leadership Do To Stop The Gossip?
(1) Address the issue immediately!
In a previous post, titled, To Document or Not To Document – #Retail Performance I speak to the fact that when we don’t document performance issues and, in order to avoid confrontation, allow employees to think they are meeting the requirements of the workplace it is very detrimental to the business. Gossiping and rumor spreading is absolutely behavior that needs to be documented.
According to Allison West, Esq., SPHR Employment Practices here are the steps you need to Create Bulletproof Documentation:
1. Document Expectations
*I, typcially, have employees who have earned negative performance documentation sign off and date that specific company policy and include in the Action Plan/Goals a review of the “Employee Handbook” by the follow-up date
What Can Employees Do To Stop The Gossip?
(1) Don’t listen to it
I always hope that retail team members will allow for an 100% respectful and inclusive workplace. Unfortunately, we are not there yet as an industry. I absolutely include speaking to the zero-tolerance policy of workplace gossip when I interview candidates. This sets the tone that we don’t want (and will not allow) this toxic behavior into our culture and supports a engaging and civil workplace and encourages more emotionally mature candidates to continue the interviewing process.
There will never be a workplace free of gossip or conflict but once the employees understand that these issues won’t be tolerated, it will help to minimize the negative influences and the team will support positive, open, transparent, and considerate communication. The team can focus more of their effort on work resolutions, overcoming challenges, team work, delivering results, and customer experience that support productivity and profitability.