Monday, January 10, 2011

Creating The No-Gossip Zone

One of the most important topics in domestic service success is household confidentiality.  The non-disclosure agreement is ubiquitous, extending beyond employment agreements and now a requirement for any contact with many estates.

Despite setting clear guidelines for communication outside the household, staff internal communication is often left unaddressed. This creates weakened collaboration between team members, at best, and misinterpretation of intentions and in-fighting, at worst, with the fallout manifesting as the bane of organizations everywhere: workplace gossip.

Are staff members like these
destroying your estate?
Sam Chapman is the first author to propose a "No-Gossip Zone," facilitating what is known as authentic communication,  systemically eliminating the underlying need for gossip.  Like the attack of all problems at their root, it takes hard work, yet in the long run is much easier than trying to constantly control the problem at the other end -- after the damage is already being done. Where workplaces of authentic and healthy communication exist, morale soars, productivity thrives, and most employees are actually quite relieved that they no longer feel pressure to be a part of the gossip circuit in order to be a part of the team. Humans have a strong need to communicate - yet how they do so in the workplace is greatly influenced by how the manager sets up and provides for it.   Additionally, the navigation of which information stays inside the box and which may emerge is much better understood - and manageable.

I realized that my office, like most offices in America, was programmed to accept and encourage gossip. Employers keep secrets from employees; employees keep secrets from one another, and in the end the entire office becomes riddled with 'did you hear' and 'listen to this' types of conversations, with very few individuals ever fully knowing the initial source or truth of the matter.  The only way to stop this trend is to turn the workplace into a complete and total No-Gossip Zone....

By creating an environment where employees and employers can share their open, honest, and authentic feelings with one another, the need for gossip will be eradicated.  Although authentic communication in the workplace is not easy, it is possible and the results are undeniably positive.  Instituting authentic communication as the means of interoffice communication will take some work and does present its challenges.  But when people feel safe sharing their feelings and are content in knowing their needs are being cared for, the malice and sadness that create gossip will cease to exist.

- From The No-Gossip Zone, by Sam Chapman with Bridget Sharkey (Sourcebooks, 2009)