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Workplace Gossip

No GossipAllowing gossip in the workplace is like encouraging your employees to swim with sharks. Let me cut right to the chase – real leaders don’t participate in gossip, and likewise they don’t tolerate gossip from others. Gossip destroys trust, undermines credibility, and is one of the greatest adversaries of a healthy corporate culture.  While the emotional distress associated with gossip can be dealt with fairly easily, the political discord that can erupt in an organization can be nothing short of disastrous. In today’s post I’ll share my thoughts on how to control gossip in the workplace…

My question is this: as a leader, do you want to create a culture of doubt or a culture of leadership? If what you desire as an executive is to have a healthy, thriving, and productive company, it is essential that you curtail office gossip. Gossip is one of the most divisive undercurrents pervading business as it allows for the unnecessary dispersion of negative innuendo for the pleasure of a few, and to the detriment of many…Show me a person that participates in gossip and I’ll show you someone who cannot be trusted. People who participate in gossip often times view their activity as being politically savvy when in fact gossip is the tool of insecure, rank amateurs…

I’ve written often on the importance of building solid relationships through displaying a consistency of character, creating a bond of trust, making good decisions, and striving to help others succeed. When you take part in gossip you do none of these things. In fact, gossip seriously undermines each one of the aforementioned success metrics by propagating inaccurate information. At its core, gossip is the highest form of disloyalty, and it is far from innocent or idle. Nothing can claim more tainted professional reputations, destroyed friendships, and polluted corporate cultures than gossip.

The best definition I’ve found for gossip is: “Gossip is talking about a situation with somebody who is neither a part of the solution or a part of the problem.” If you have a problem with a person, or take exception to a particular situation, go directly to the source. There are few things in life I loathe as much as those that don’t have the courage and integrity to hit things head on…

If I have a problem with someone I give them the courtesy and respect of addressing the issue with them. Talking to anyone else wouldn’t resolve the issue, it would merely be self serving indulgence at someone else’s expense. In fact, it is my opinion that the worst form of gossip is conducted under the guise of seeking advice or counsel. If you need to seek the wisdom of a third party prior to addressing the root issue, do it generically and anonymously so as not to impugn the character of another.

As I mentioned above, gossip isn’t idle, nor is it innocent, cute, or something to be trivialized as insignificant. At best gossip creates unnecessary tension, but most often it creates outright conflict. As a leader you wouldn’t likely tolerate gossip targeted at you, so if you allow gossip to be spread about others, what does this say about you? If gossip pervades your organization and you are not aware of it, then you clearly don’t have the pulse of your organization, your public statements about the importance of culture and morale will seem disingenuous, and you’re likely guilty of being what I refer to as a disconnected leader.

In the same fashion that being the source of gossip is destructive, so is furthering the damage by ratcheting up the rhetoric by participating in gossip. If someone comes to you about a problem with another person, immediately redirect that individual back to the person in question. If that doesn’t work, and you must get involved, offer to accompany the person with the problem in addressing the individual they have an issue with.

I have watched many a well intentioned executive get sucked into gossip in an attempt to help, only to pay a big price down the road for their error in judgment. If you want to be a long-term survivor in business I would suggest that you not participate in gossip and get rid of those that do. Remember that those individuals that will gossip to you, will also gossip about you…

Many would suggest that the thought of eliminating gossip in the corporate world is an exercise in naivete. They would take the position that gossip is just part of human nature, and that gossip will always exist in any type of environment where social dynamics are present. The old saying “it is what it is” is only true until you decide to make a difference. As a leader it is incumbent upon you to do the right thing, which is to protect your reputation and those that you work with. Furthermore, allowing anyone under your charge to participate in any activity to the contrary makes you an accomplice in the decline of morale, and the decay of your corporate culture. Put simply, good leaders don’t tolerate gossip.

If you’re still inclined to partake in gossip let me leave you with the following three thoughts:

  • No worthwhile gain ever comes at another’s unjust expense;
  • It’s more profitable to do your own work than to tear down or lay claim to the work of others, and;
  • Envy and deceit never give birth to lasting joy.

As always, I welcome your comments below – I am particularly interested in any examples of effective methods you’ve used to curtail gossip, or how gossip has adversely impacted you or someone you know.

 

Image credit: Shine

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    Sampathkumar Iyengar

    September 2, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    a relevant post and most welcome one !

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      Mike Myatt

      September 2, 2011 at 3:52 pm

      Glad to be of help Sir.

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    D Brown

    September 2, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Bravo!

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      Mike Myatt

      September 2, 2011 at 3:52 pm

      and to you as well…

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    Teddy

    September 2, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Gossip does little good only harm

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      Mike Myatt

      September 2, 2011 at 3:52 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Teddy.

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    Mike Cassidy

    September 2, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    So relevant!
    “It’s more profitable to do your own work than to tear down or lay claim to the work of others…”
    If there is time for gossip concerns is work being done?

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      Mike Myatt

      September 2, 2011 at 3:50 pm

      Common sense is always better than nonsense – therefore your comment makes perfect sense to me:). Thanks Mike.

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    Bvivet

    September 2, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    So true…
    Sadly I currently work in a company where my boss who is vice-president does gossip more than anybody I know of in our finance team. But worse, the guy spends roughly 1.5 -2 hours on the floor routinely talking about stupid stuffs not related to work. I just wonder how can such a guy get away with this. He has no work ethics at all; it just makes me sick. Just hoping that someone one day realizes it and kick this irresponsible man out.

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      Mike Myatt

      September 2, 2011 at 3:48 pm

      I’ve always said a leader not accountable “to” their people will eventually be held accountable “by” their people. 

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      desaraysmiles

      January 3, 2014 at 7:01 pm

      I know the feeling.

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    Bvivet

    September 2, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    So true…
    Sadly I currently work in a company where my boss who is vice-president does gossip more than anybody I know of in our finance team. But worse, the guy spends roughly 1.5 -2 hours on the floor routinely talking about stupid stuffs not related to work. I just wonder how can such a guy get away with this. He has no work ethics at all; it just makes me sick. Just hoping that someone one day realizes it and kick this irresponsible man out.

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    Joyce

    September 2, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Awesome!

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      Mike Myatt

      September 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm

      Thanks Joyce.

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      Mike Myatt

      September 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm

      Thanks Joyce.

      Avatar

      Mike Myatt

      September 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm

      Thanks Joyce.

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      Mike Myatt

      September 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm

      Thanks Joyce.

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    Mike Myatt

    September 2, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Every company has a unique culture and approach to leadership. That said, my experience differs somewhat from yours. While there are clearly companies that don’t value/treat their people well, many go out of their way to create a positive culture built on a foundation of trust. Bottom line – in the right environment, human resources are appreciating assets, while the non human resources you mentioned are depreciating assets regardless of environment. Good leaders treat their people well, and bad leaders don’t.

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    Lhuber1008

    September 3, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    great article!

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      Mike Myatt

      September 8, 2011 at 3:48 pm

      Thank You. 

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    Leannsuzann

    September 3, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    The rampant gossips I know are mostly full of fear and envy, they do more serious harm to relationships than I ever realized before.  I’ve heard the concept that gossip causes more damage in this world than almost anything else. In some cases it even causes homicidal acts; we all need to focus on constructive communication and leave this trash talk behind.  I have friends who are completely estranged from their families due to this type of behavior.  We all need to be proactive and lead the way to a higher level; promoting emotional intelligence would be a good start.  Thanks for speaking up on this, I know a few leaders who could benefit from this right now, it’s just convincing them…

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      Mike Myatt

      September 8, 2011 at 3:50 pm

      We all need a reminder of our own shortcomings in order to replace harmful behavior with positive behavior. Thanks for sharing. 

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    Tenaswillia

    September 6, 2011 at 2:10 am

    This article reminds me of what I have always felt about gossip.  It is very difficult to maintain a distance when everyone around you gossips.  What is even more difficult is to determine when to join in on a conversation and when to depart it.

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      Mike Myatt

      September 8, 2011 at 3:52 pm

      All conversations are worth joining in an attempt to aid or advance the good, or vanquish the bad. The time to leave is when you can no longer engage in any of the above. Thanks for stopping by. 

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    Jkindle

    September 6, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Excellent article.  It’s a good reminder for everyone … no matter what their level.  If you read the article and thought about yourself – the people who report to you…or your boss, it’s time to have a face-to-face discussion to “clear the proverbial air”. 

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      Mike Myatt

      September 8, 2011 at 3:48 pm

      Taking a proactive response is always a great recommendations. Thanks for sharing. 

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    Mike Meehan

    September 6, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    One thing to remember as a leader in an organization. Gossip most often thrives when REAL information is absent. Having a culture of open communication with real information and facts is the best cure for gossip. When the gossip is found out to not have any basis in reality, the people engagin in it will lose their “audience”. The most pervasive instances of gossip that I have seen occurred when major organizational changes were planned at the staff level and then disseminating the information was prohibited. Some hint of what’s going on gets out, and the mill goes to work. Some distorted version of reality gets spread around and it creates problems, sometimes big ones. Keep it open and honest and you’ll minimize the problem.

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      Mike Myatt

      September 8, 2011 at 3:47 pm

      Hi Mike: Thanks for the astute observations. Many people in the absence of fact fill the void with their personal form of fiction. I agree with you that it’s incumbent on leadership to insure that knowledge gaps are few and far between. Thanks for sharing Mike.

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    Milemarx

    September 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Excellent article!

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    Melissa jackson

    September 8, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    When
    dealing with gossip in the work place a manager have to get a handle on it as
    soon as possible and as a manager you have to remember that all it is gossip.
    As the manager you must take charge and put a stop to it before it get out of
    hand. Lots of employees feed on gossip in order to get what they want. Some people
    believe that gossip is fine as long as it doesn’t harm the organization. It’s
    unprofessional to gossip in the work place so it should not be allowed by the
    employer.

    […] Workplace CommunicationWorkplace Communication Skills: How to Develop Effective CommunicationWorkplace Gossip if (top!=self) { window.location = […]

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    Baqer

    September 30, 2011 at 10:55 am

    Lack of information to make good decisions on employee perfomance lead  some people to gossib about performance in order to gain promotions or work perks. They do this by downgrading others & upgrading themselves. leaders need to watch for these types of individuals

    Oh No She Didn't! | Workplace Gossip

    October 27, 2011 at 10:36 am

    […] Don’t participate. Engaging in gossip shows those you supervise that this sort of behavior is acceptable. Though letting employees vent to you might seem like a good idea, doing so without offering to take action or encouraging an open conversation among all parties simply lets the situation fester. And if an employee finds out you’ve been talking about him or her behind their back, it can undermine the employee’s trust in you. […]

    Avatar

    desaraysmiles

    January 3, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    I have a person that continues to gossip, lie and start so much drama in my work place. The person brings all problems to work about how the kids make her sick ,or the dog, or the spouse or another friend. Even talks about sex life ,it goes on and on. Whoever the person works with at the time is their bff but talks so bad about them when they are not working together. It is causing so much stress for me and others. This person goes to human resource and lies to them trying to be the victim. Then comes back letting people know they went and etc. This person is always negative and I feel the person harassing myself and others. How do I stop this? I am a lead that needs leadership advice.

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