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Office Gossip Kills Organizational Culture

I had a colleague at my last job, prior to starting Candid Culture, who was a peer and a friend. We were at a similar level and would periodically sit in one of our offices, with the door closed, engaging in office gossip, talking about the bad decisions our company’s senior leaders made. One day I realized that these conversations were exhausting to me. They were negative and didn’t make me feel better. In fact, they made me feel worse.

Some people distinguish between office gossip and venting, asserting that venting is cathartic and makes people feel better. It doesn’t. Venting and office gossip are one in the same and both will make you tired and feel worse about your job and organization.

I’ll use an analogy I read in one of Deepak Chopra’s books. When you put a plant in the closet and don’t give it light or water, it withers and dies. When you put a plant in the sunlight and water it, it grows. And the same is true for people. Wherever you put your attention will get bigger and stronger. Whatever you deprive attention will become smaller.

In addition to draining you of energy and ensuring you focus on the things that frustrate you, office gossip kills organizations’ cultures. If employees can’t trust that their peers won’t talk about them when they’re not there, there is no trust in the organization. And this lack of trust feels terrible. It makes employees nervous and paranoid. A lack of trust sucks the enjoyment out of working because we feel we have to continuously watch our back.

Office gossip isn’t going anywhere. It’s a human phenomenon and is here to stay. But you can reduce office gossip.

Here are five steps to reduce the office gossip in your workplace:

Reducing gossip in the workplace step one:  Address the gossip head on.

Tell your employees, “I’ve been hearing a lot of gossip, which is not good for our culture.”

Reducing gossip in the workplace step two:  Hold regular town hall meetings, and give employees more information than you think you need to about initiatives, organizational changes, profitability, etc. Employees want to know how the organization is  doing and what they can do to contribute. In the absence of knowledge, people make stuff up, not because they’re malicious, but because they have a need to know. Employees don’t have to fill in the gaps with office gossip when you inform them.

Reducing gossip in the workplace step three:  Create a no-gossip-in-the-workplace policy.

Tell your employees, “We want people talking directly to each other, rather than about each other. As a result, we’re putting a no-gossip policy in place.”

Reducing gossip in the workplace step four:  Draw attention to gossip.

Perhaps suggest, “Every time you hear gossip, wave two fingers in the air (or something else that’s equally visual).” This will draw attention to office gossip without calling anyone out.

Also, ask your peers and friends not to gossip with you. End conversations that contain gossip. This will be hard to do, but if everyone does it, it will become much easier.”

Reducing gossip in the workplace step five:  Have an agreed-upon consequence for gossip.

Tell employees, “Every time we hear gossip in the workplace, the gossiper owes a dollar. Every quarter the gossipers will buy the office lunch from the office gossip jar.”

The keys to reducing office gossip are to draw attention to the gossip, have a consequence for gossiping, and over communicate so your employees don’t have to fill in the gaps themselves.

Venting and office gossip are the same. If you’re talking about someone else, unless you’re planning a conversation with a coworker or friend to address a challenge or problem, you’re gossiping. And talking about what frustrates you will only make you more frustrated.

My advice:  Do something about the things you can impact and let the other stuff go. Talk about the things that matter to you. Resist the temptation to speak negatively about the people around you. And know that anyone who will gossip about someone to you, will also gossip about you.

Negative Feedback


Office Gossip Kills Organizational Culture

Venting = office gossip

I had a colleague at my last job, prior to starting Candid Culture, who was a peer and a friend. We were at a similar level and would periodically sit in one of our offices, with the door closed, engaging in office gossip, talking about the bad decisions our company’s senior leaders made. One day I realized that these conversations were exhausting to me. They were negative and didn’t make me feel better. In fact, they made me feel worse.

Some people distinguish between office gossip and venting, asserting that venting is cathartic and makes people feel better. It doesn’t. Venting and office gossip are one in the same and both will make you tired and feel worse about your job and organization.

I’ll use an analogy I read in one of Deepak Chopra’s books. When you put a plant in the closet and don’t give it light or water, it withers and dies. When you put a plant in the sunlight and water it, it grows. And the same is true for people. Wherever you put your attention will get bigger and stronger. Whatever you deprive attention will become smaller.

In addition to draining you of energy and ensuring you focus on the things that frustrate you, office gossip kills organizations’ cultures. If employees can’t trust that their peers won’t talk about them when they’re not there, there is no trust in the organization. And this lack of trust feels terrible. It makes employees nervous and paranoid. A lack of trust sucks the enjoyment out of working because we feel we have to continuously watch our back.

Office gossip isn’t going anywhere. It’s a human phenomenon and is here to stay. But you can reduce office gossip.

Here are five steps to reduce the office gossip in your workplace:

Reducing gossip in the workplace step one:  Address the gossip head on.

Tell your employees, “I’ve been hearing a lot of gossip, which is not good for our culture.”

Reducing gossip in the workplace step two:  Hold regular town hall meetings, and give employees more information than you think you need to about initiatives, organizational changes, profitability, etc. Employees want to know how the organization is  doing and what they can do to contribute. In the absence of knowledge, people make stuff up, not because they’re malicious, but because they have a need to know. Employees don’t have to fill in the gaps with office gossip when you inform them.

Reducing gossip in the workplace step three:  Create a no-gossip-in-the-workplace policy.

Tell your employees, “We want people talking directly to each other, rather than about each other. As a result, we’re putting a no-gossip policy in place.”

Reducing gossip in the workplace step four:  Draw attention to gossip.

Perhaps suggest, “Every time you hear gossip, wave two fingers in the air (or something else that’s equally visual).” This will draw attention to office gossip without calling anyone out.

Also, ask your peers and friends not to gossip with you. End conversations that contain gossip. This will be hard to do, but if everyone does it, it will become much easier.”

Reducing gossip in the workplace step five:  Have an agreed-upon consequence for gossip.

Tell employees, “Every time we hear gossip in the workplace, the gossiper owes a dollar. Every quarter the gossipers will buy the office lunch from the office gossip jar.”

The keys to reducing office gossip are to draw attention to the gossip, have a consequence for gossiping, and over communicate so your employees don’t have to fill in the gaps themselves.

Venting and office gossip are the same. If you’re talking about someone else, unless you’re planning a conversation with a coworker or friend to address a challenge or problem, you’re gossiping. And talking about what frustrates you will only make you more frustrated.

My advice:  Do something about the things you can impact and let the other stuff go. Talk about the things that matter to you. Resist the temptation to speak negatively about the people around you. And know that anyone who will gossip about someone to you, will also gossip about you.

Negative Feedback


Gossip in the Workplace Kills Organizational Culture

gossip in the workplaceI had a colleague at my last job who was a peer and a friend. We were at a similar level and would periodically sit in one of our offices, with the door closed, talking about the bad decisions our company’s senior leaders made. One day I realized that these conversations were exhausting to me. They were negative and didn’t make me feel better. In fact, they made me feel worse.

Some people distinguish between gossip and venting, asserting that venting is cathartic and makes people feel better. It doesn’t.

I’ll use an analogy I read in one of Deepak Chopra’s books. When you put a plant in the closet and don’t give it light or water, it withers and dies. When you put a plant in the sunlight and water it, it grows. And the same is true for people. Whatever you give attention will proliferate. Whatever you deprive attention will go away.

Your life is made up of the people you spend time with and what you talk about. What are you talking about?

In addition to draining you of energy and ensuring you focus on the things that frustrate you, gossip in the workplace kills the organization’s culture. If employees can’t trust that their peers won’t talk about them when they’re not there, there is no trust in the organization. And you can’t have real relationships without trust.

Gossip isn’t going anywhere. It’s a human phenomenon and is here to stay. But you can reduce gossip.

A few ways to reduce the gossip in the workplace:

  1. Address the gossip head on.

“I’ve been hearing a lot of gossip, which is not good for our culture.”

  1. Hold regular town hall meetings, and give employees information about initiatives, organizational changes, profitability, etc. Employees want to know how the company is really doing and what they can do to contribute.
  2. Create a no gossip in the workplace policy.

“We want people talking directly to each other, rather than about each other. As a result, we’re putting a no gossip policy in place.”

  1. Draw attention to gossip.

“Every time you hear gossip, wave two fingers in the air.” This will draw attention to the gossip in the workplace without calling anyone out.

Also, ask your peers and friends not to gossip with you. End conversations that contain gossip. This will be hard to do, but if everyone does it, it will become much easier.

  1. Have an agreed-upon consequence for gossip.

“Every time we hear gossip in the workplace, the gossiper owes a dollar. Every quarter the gossipers will buy the office lunch from the gossip jar.”

The keys to reducing gossip in your office are to draw attention to the gossip, have a consequence for gossiping, and over communicate so your employees don’t have to make stuff up. Employees want to know what’s happening in the organization. In the absence of knowledge, people make stuff up, and it’s never good.

Venting and gossip are the same. Unless you’re planning a conversation with a coworker or friend to address a challenge or problem, you’re gossiping. And talking about what frustrates you will only make you more frustrated.

My advice:  Do something about the things you can impact and let the other stuff go. Talk about the things that matter to you. Resist the temptation to speak negatively about the people around you. And know that anyone who will gossip about someone to you, will also gossip about you.


Workplace Gossip – Gossip is Killing You

Dating turnoff:  A guy who tells me negative things about other women he’s dated. If he’ll talk smack about other women to me, he’ll talk poorly about me to other people. I know I’m special, but I’m not different. And neither are you.

If your coworkers talk to you about other people in your office, why wouldn’t they talk to others about you? Likewise, if you talk to your friends at work about all the dolts you’re forced to work with, why shouldn’t your friends assume you will talk negatively about them.  Like you, they’re special, but not different.

Workplace gossip exists in every organization everywhere. It’s been around forever and is here to stay. The problem is that gossip creates environments of suspicion and fear and kills organizational cultures. Employees watch his or her back, wondering from where the next jab and stab will come. And when people are worried about how others will damage them, they work alone versus together. They hoard information and recognition. All of this is, of course, very bad. But the distrust and paranoia that gossip creates isn’t the only reason to reduce the gossip in your organization.

An even more compelling reason to reduce the amount of workplace gossip — it’s exhausting.

My clients split hairs attempting to convince me that gossip and venting are not the same thing. They insist that venting is productive—it allows people to blow off steam and problem solve. Here is my one word reply:  Garbage. That is complete garbage.

Although I am the least woo-woo person I know, this next thought may sound a little woo-woo.  So hang in there with me. If an hour after a meeting you and your work friends are still talking about how inept the meeting facilitator is, you might as well still be sitting in the meeting. If you go home after work and complain to your spouse about the people you work with who do little work, then you might as well still be at work. You life is what you talk about and with whom.  That’s the woo-woo part.

If you want a different experience, say something different. If the meetings in your office are ineffective, talk to the meeting facilitator off line. Offer suggestions; offer to run the meeting, or stop going. Do anything but talk to people who can’t impact the situation. If you’re working harder than the people around you, either talk to them or your manager, or simply do less. Sometimes we have to let things break for others to know they are broken.

Whatever you choose to do, know that talking about the things that frustrate you to people who can’t do anything about them makes you feel worse not better.

I’ve already conceded that workplace gossip isn’t going anywhere. So what to do?

Here are a few things you can do in your office to create a more positive and trusting culture:

  1. When you find yourself talking negatively about someone who isn’t present, stop.
  2. If there is something you’re unhappy with at work, tell someone who can do something about it. Just be careful not to dump a problem at a manager’s door. It burdens managers who are already too busy and annoys them. State your observation; recommend a solution; ask for their support if you need it.
  3. Create a no workplace gossip policy in your office, and charge a $1 every time you hear gossip. The money can go to charity or towards funding company parties. People are hesitant to part with their money. You’ll be surprised at how much $1 can alter behavior.  The people you work with may look at you funny, but they know how badly it feels to be thrown under the bus. Others will, in time, appreciate the policy. Working in an environment where you know others won’t talk about you when you’re not there creates an unprecedented feeling of confidence few of us will ever experience.

Ultimately the answer is simply to:  Desire to have a different working environment and draw attention to the gossip you hear. That alone will help. You want people to trust you. And you want to work with people you trust. One of the fastest ways to build and repair trust is not to speak negatively about the people you work with. Plain and simple.

 

 


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