Absence and Gossip

How unannounced absence generates gossip in the world and in the office

The world of management has always drawn its inferences from ordinary and extraordinary situations in out-of-office environments.

Certain human characteristics, in any case, will never change, whatever the setting may be.

Management experts for years have interpreted human behavior in all kinds of informal settings and applied them to the office environment, creating management techniques and rules that have proved to be unarguable.

One such innate human quality that seems to have stood tests of time, setting and location is our tendency towards and passion for gossip.

Office gossip has been a point of much concern for managers throughout the world.

Gossip tends to twist and exaggerate facts, grossly modify the truth, and is often the root cause of negative emotions such as envy, hatred, fear, anger and greed.

This is as true for the world in general as for the “quiet” office spaces.

Absence and gossip, as we have seen from recent international events and everyday office politics, are almost inseparable.

Taking Notes from Russia and Putin

Perhaps one of the most significant instances of a blown-out-of-proportion absence and gossip scenario in recent times, is that of the “disappearance” of Russian President Vladimir Putin. After being absent from the public eye for more than a week, Putin reappeared on March 16, and put to rest gossip mills that had been tirelessly churning out new stories explaining his absence by the hour.

In a span of one week, Putin had gone from having the flu to suffering a stroke, from being ousted by a coup to flying off to Switzerland for the birth of his love child.

Putin himself has not yet provided an explanation for his absence, and the reason for it is left upon our imagination.

For all we know, he probably simply needed a holiday from President duty.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman of Putin
Dmitry Peskov, spokesman of Putin

“have you all seen the broken, paralyzed president, who has been kidnapped by generals? He’s only just flown in from Switzerland, where he attended a birth, as you know.” Dmitry Peskov, spokesman of Putin, in a statement after Putin’s reappearance

In all seriousness, however, for a country that was already in a state of unrest, its President’s disappearance threatened to overwhelm Russians with concern, fear and anger.

A wave of relief and reassurance washed over citizens of the country following Putin’s reappearance, and the Russians welcomed back their president with grand celebrations throughout the country.

Absence, Gossip and the Workplace

Not all absence and gossip circumstances conclude with a happy ending however, and this is particularly true for absences in the workplace.

For as long as offices have been around, the rules for taking leave has always been very particular.

Employees are required to inform managers of their absence much in advance, unless it’s a sick leave or emergency, in which case informing the manager at least an hour before the workday begins is advisable.

Every office allows for only a fixed number of paid leaves, and sick leaves often require one to produce a doctor’s certificate.

Stringent procedures exist to tackle absenteeism, especially unannounced absenteeism and those who don’t follow the rules can most certainly expect trouble.

Employers take their employee absences very seriously, which is why a large chunk of most hiring agreements are often dedicated to rules regarding absenteeism.

In the office environment, where a delicate chain of responsibilities has to be maintained at all times, unannounced absences are highly discouraged.

A lack of communication can create uncertainty, causing stress and conflict and eventually leading to poor teamwork and degraded performance qualities.

An employee missing in action for a day may be tolerated, but if that extend to two or three days, his/her absence begins to invite the irk of bosses and colleagues.

Perhaps there was an important report the employee was required to complete, or a meeting he/she was expected to attend.

The absence may delay a project at work, cause other employees to work overtime and will eventually cost employers real money.

In the midst of all the chaos, are the rumors and gossips, inevitably resulting from poor communication or a lack of it.

Employees who fail to address their absences invite unnecessary speculations resulting in further tension and office politics, and eventually such employees are written off as untrustworthy, undependable, and insincere.

Unannounced absence and gossip are therefore indissoluble, whether it is the Russian President or a mere office employee.

The Manager’s Role

While gossip is damaging to an employee’s reputation, eventually it is even more damaging to the efficiency and performance quality at a workplace.

While management experts have been unable to come up with any foolproof methods to end office gossip, there are always small but significant steps that can be taken to curb rampant gossip in work environments.

Managers in such situations are often advised not to address gossip and take a neutral stance, unless of course the gossip seems to be generating negativity.

An employee’s prolonged absence might lead to anger and resentment, eventually resulting in poor teamwork and reduced levels of dedication.

While managers have to be careful not to encourage absenteeism, it is also their responsibility to dispel negativity and enmity among employees.

The difference between the two may seem like a fine line, and the manager’s role in such situations is often challenging.

An employee’s prolonged absence might lead to anger and resentment, eventually resulting in poor teamwork and reduced levels of dedication

Tackling both absence and gossip however, often starts with a serious discussion between employee/s and manager.

Employees with notorious absence records should be notified of the unfavorable consequences, while gossip mongers should be curbed with assertiveness and progressive disciplining.

Even though one is known to lead to another, absence and gossip by themselves can also be significantly damaging to office environment, and taking necessary steps to curb the situation before it becomes a recurring and rampant problem is advisable.


Written By


Pursuing an MSc in Geology, apart from science, writing on HR has always been one of my greatest passions.