Workplace gossip could land you in more than hot water – it could land you in the unemployment queue. According to HR experts, workplace gossips could legally be terminated by Australian employers if their behaviour violates the standards of conduct specified by the company.

Idle water-cooler chitchat is often not as harmless as it seems. Comments about someone’s personal appearance or speculation about other employees’ personal lives can offend, leading to an official complaint which can then be categorised as bullying or harassment.

According to Modern HR magazine, the onus is on the leadership teams of organisations to discourage any form of gossip from the get-go. The magazine encourages leaders to address the matter with the person responsible for spreading gossip directly, and if the issue can’t be resolved on a face-to-face casual basis, it must be escalated to the HR department of the company.

Editor for Modern HR magazine, Natalie Martin, said while the occasional gossip might seem fun and help to pass the time when things are slow at work, it breeds negativity and if damaging enough, could lead to a lawsuit or termination.

“The adage ‘loose lips sink a thousand ships’ exactly fits this type of situation. Your career can come to a screeching halt if you’re caught gossiping, the unfortunate subject of the gossip is going to feel harassed and it may affect their productivity, the team you work with will be affected by the negativity and the company may lose an employee – you!” Ms Martin said.

“Leaders in the workplace are trained to avoid and discourage gossip, however individuals need to take responsibility for their own conduct as well. Remember to behave professionally at work, no matter how juicy the news circulating might be. How you respond to gossip could make or break your career,” she said.