Should employers muzzle employees who gossip at the workplace as a way to maintain sanity in the workplace? What is the moral soundness of implementing a policy that bans gossip at work? Gossip in the workplace is a serious issue of concern to both employers and employees. Companies tend to see it as a potent tool that few employees can use to create disharmony and misunderstanding at the workplace, translating into poor performance by the employees targeted with negative gossip.
Back in 2007, there were several separate cases where employees were fired for engaging in office gossip. Some employees were working for the Municipal Council of New Hampshire. The Municipal Council workers were interdicted for engaging in gossip insinuating that their council boss was in an intimate relationship with a junior employee who had secured a recent promotion. The manager proceeded to dismiss the four gossiping female employees. What followed is that the employees took steps to sue their former boss by filing cases in federal and state courts. They also engaged in widely publicized interviews to seek public sympathy and shape public opinion in their case. The Town of Hookset proceeded to defend its administration through a public statement and later entered a settlement with the complainant plaintiffs that had pursued legal action against it in the federal court.
The issues that arise out of the employment dismissals mentioned above include concerns for wrongful termination, whether the decision amounts to censorship of workplace speech, and the ethical soundness of implementing a policy that bans gossip at work (Kuo & Kuo 2013). The moral issues, in this case, are whether gossiping is immoral or not, and the ethical implications that would arise when gossiping are restrained at the workplace. Gossip defines a moral judgment on an event or issue, without any real neutrality attached to it.
When one decides to follow the above approach in solving such an ethical dilemma concerning the acceptability of workplace gossip, the first question to ask is where the right versus right dilemma presented is. Spreading gossip poisons the workplace and undermines employee discipline and cohesion. On the other hand, dismissing employees on gossiping grounds amounts to censorship and wrongful employment termination. The second query should be what is the origin of these rights in the right vs. right dilemma? The law protects individual rights to work and expression (Agba et al., 2017). On the other hand, organizations also value employee cohesion as a strategy to perform well and grow. These points lead to the third question, what is the character of individuals and organizations stuck in the right versus right dilemma? Gossiping is not ethical, as it propagates non-substantiated views as facts. If the information turns out to be wrong, then the gossiping employees like Sharkey would turn out as having a questionable character.
The nature of most public organizations creates the need for them to work in cohesion to deliver public services (Agba et al., 2017). Therefore, securing the integrity of their leadership is critical. The last question should be what will work in the world as it is? The law protects the interests of those in employment. The organization is also interested in maintaining a cohesive workforce. The best way is to advocate for a culture of tolerance and responsible communication in the workplace. There are both active and adverse effects of gossip in the workplace. Gossip serves an instrumental self-interest purpose to allow people to gain information and develop trust. It is also an organizations common form of informal communication (Kuo & Kuo 2013).
Human Resource Division,
Proposed Anti-Gossip Policy
I do at this moment request for your clarification on the recent notice circulated on company notice boards indicating of your intention to introduce a policy to ban gossip in the workplace. You stated that such behavior would earn employees immediate suspension from work as a way to tame the habit. My concern is that such action would create untold turbulence in the workplace. Suspending or sacking employees would only lead the organization to legal battles and hefty compensations. Kindly consider withdrawing such a policy and find other approaches of pursuing workplace cohesion.
Company Legal Advisor
My target audience in the petition statement above is employers and employees alike. I presented the argument in the form of a request complete with a case story as a practical approach for giving insights to the target audience. My main claim is to encourage employers to allow free speech and gossip in the workplace and consider pursuing other strategies to achieve workplace cohesion other than banning workplace gossip. I made an effort to appeal to the employers' emotion by pointing out the threat of many legal suits from employees dismissed or suspended for gossiping in the workplace. I also made an effort to establish the credibility of my argument by pointing out that I am a qualified lawyer who was giving a legal position on the matter of employee suspension or dismissal over workplace gossip.
Agba, A. O., Eteng, F. O., & Titus, T. C. (2017). Effect of workplace gossip on work-relations and organizational performance. Kuwait Chapter of the Arabian Journal of Business and Management Review, 6(6), 31.
Kuo, C. C., Lu, C. Y., & Kuo, T. K. (2013, July). The impact of workplace gossip on organizational cynicism: Insights from the employment relationship perspective. In International Conference on Cross-Cultural Design (pp. 44-50). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
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