Melbourne, June 18 : The office grapevine has long been an accepted part of any organization. Now however, employers are starting to see workplace whispers as insidious, malicious and potentially devastating to staff morale.
And, employees are learning to pay a heavy price for idle chatter, with those who indulge in it getting sacked or having to confront their victims.
PR company boss Sam Chapman calls gossip "a productivity killer".
"It hurts the gossiper and the gossipee. Gossipers are wrecking their reputation by talking about others. Gossipees are hurt because they're being maligned," the Courier Mail quoted him, as saying.
To quash such talk, Chapman, a PR company chief executive, devised a policy for his staff of 17: "If I hear you gossiping about somebody, we send you back to the person about whom you were gossiping and you tell what you said.
"That dispels all the false information."
But some employment experts argue that punishing workplace gossip is not the answer. Creating ways to deter it is.
"Gossip is a fixable offence, not a fireable offence," says Rachelle Canter, author of Make the Right Career Move.
"Firing someone for gossiping is an extreme measure and one that won't eliminate gossip but rather send it further underground, where it can do more harm," Canter added.
In spite of its negative connotations, gossip can play an important role in policing behaviour, says David Sloan Wilson, a biology professor at Binghamton University in New York.