“Some say our national pastime is baseball. Not me. It’s gossip.”
~ Erma Bombeck
(The names in this post have been changed to protect the innocent).
“Hey Mary, listen to this…I heard from Bob that Jim spoke to Heather who supposedly overheard Patty telling the new guy that someone might have seen our VP Michael (whose wife just gave birth to a precious baby girl) walking out of a restaurant last Wednesday night with Joan from accounting. The scoop is they were holding hands and looking very friendly together. It’s so sad they are having an affair and cheating on their spouses. I never liked Joan, and always thought she would sleep her way to the top. But don’t tell anyone I told you because I’m not one to gossip.”
They are everywhere. You know who they are. Heck, you may be one yourself, or at least participated a few times.
The gossiper: The person who delights in spreading rumors, both personally and professionally, about other people. Statistics show that 100% of business offices around the world have people who gossip. (Okay, I made that statistic up, but you get the severity of the problem)
Gossip can do so much harm in such a short amount of time that businesses need to address the problem head on. Gossip can destroy trust, ruin a reputation, wreck credibility, create discontent and is one of the greatest challenges to a healthy corporate culture. It is a virus that grows very quickly. It can damage friendships, relationships, and marriages. Show me someone who gossips and I’ll show you someone who cannot be trusted.
If you work in an office that is overrun with gossip (or more importantly, manage or are an executive in that office), it is important to tackle the problem as soon as possible. Gossip can be personal or it can be work related. (“Hey Jim, I hear the company is downsizing and letting 50 people go at the end of the month.”)
Here are a few tips:
- Address the gossip head on. You should mention to all that gossip is not good for a positive work environment or healthy company culture. This can be addressed one-on-one (in private), or at a meeting. Let people know if they have a problem with someone in the office, they should be talking directly to that person. Not through email or telephone, but in person. And let them know the reverse is true as well; if you have a problem with someone in the office, you will go directly to them.
- Give employees as much information as possible. Keeping them in the loop about initiatives or organizational changes will stop unnecessary gossip about the company. People want information, and if they don’t get it, they will make things up that fits their narrative.
- Create a no gossip policy in the workplace. This can be discussed in new hire orientations, in written office policies and in newsletters if necessary. Have everyone pledge to a positive, professional code of communication guidelines.
- Don’t feed off the negativity of others. And let’s be honest, 99% of all gossip is negative. If someone comes up to you to start telling you gossip, ask that person if they have permission to spread the news. Cut them off at the beginning and let them know you do not participate in talking about people behind their backs.
- Create a happy place to work. It has been shown that work environments where people are supported, appreciated and valued have far less gossip than offices that don’t.
In short, nothing good comes from gossip. I do understand that at times, it’s fun to talk about other people. Social media complicates things and helps spread untruths faster than ever. Resist the temptation to speak negatively about the people around you. If you are committed to try to stem the flow of gossip, you may be surprised how many people jump on your bandwagon and support you, as they also want to stop the negativity.
Remember, someone who gossips to you will have no problem gossiping about you.