Employee gossip can make any human resource department worry about the state of their workplace environment. Gossipy employees tend to decrease company performance. Not to mention, having someone who is a little too loose-lipped could cause conflicts or disruptions within the workforce. Therefore, many employers would enjoy simply instituting a broad no-gossip policy to prevent workplace gossip. However, companies would be better off creating a conflict-free environment using training.
Employers should refrain from attempting to mute employee behavior with extensive gossip policies. These policies are likely to neglect the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), reported Business Management Daily. The NLRA makes it unlawful to punish employees for disputing or complaining about work conditions, employee perks, and even pay.
The NLRA protects employees when they engage in activities that could have mutual aid and protection purposes, reported Business Management Daily. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) often finds gossip policies ambiguous, overly broad, and restrictive to employees. In fact, discussing or complaining about employment terms and conditions is absolutely normal and healthy under proper management.
In a recent employee gossip case, a worker claimed she was wrongfully terminated based on the company’s overly broad no-gossip policy. Judge Donna Dawson saw the policy was in strict violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA. “A thorough reading of this vague policy reveals that it narrowly prohibits virtually all communications about anyone, including the company or its managers,” Dawson wrote in her official statement.” In fact, read literally, this rule prohibits negative and positive comments about a person’s personal or professional life.
Employee Training Could Mitigate Legal Issues
HR departments should take extreme caution when creating a no-gossip policy. Instead, they should institute a helpful employee training and consulting program. Employers should train workers from their first day on respectful behavior and their expectations in the workplace. Giving examples will lessen the chance of employees challenging managers or talking unprofessionally about co-workers.
No-gossip policies are often somewhere in employee handbooks and completely missed. A company can create a positive work environment for workers entering the business by starting a training program. HR departments can help relieve the tensions between workers and their managers by using behavior training exercises. Employees should contact their HR department to see what actions their company is taking to prevent gossip in the workplace.
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