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Posts Tagged ‘how to stop gossip in the workplace’

Want a Better Workplace Culture? Gossip Less.

People have a tendency to talk about us, not to us. If you haven’t been gossiped about, you just need to meet more people.

If you have something to say, say it directly to the person involved. If you’re not going to speak to the person directly, say nothing at all. As we all know, this is easier said than done. Gossip will destroy relationships, organizational cultures, and careers faster than anything else. And we are all tempted to gossip.

Most of us consider gossip to be saying something bad about someone else when that person isn’t there. But what if we say something good?

The strictest definition of gossip is talking about another person while she is not present. But for our purposes, let’s say gossip is talking about another person so as to alter how others think about that person.

Several years ago, I took a year-long class with about eighty other people. The class met one weekend a quarter over twelve months and had a few ground rules, one of which was no gossip. Participants couldn’t gossip anywhere, at any time, during the class’s entire duration. No gossip with friends, family, or coworkers for a year.

When the class started, I assumed the no-gossip guideline would be no problem for me. Then I started to notice my behavior. At the time, I was a director in my organization and had one friend at work who was my typical confidant. Most of us have “our person” at work—someone we confide in and complain to. The two of us would sit in my office with the door closed, talking about all the bad decisions the leaders of our company had made. The moment I began paying attention to the no-gossiping rule, I realized that not only did I gossip, but I was good at it and even enjoyed it. (Oh, come on, admit it—it’s fun.)

The problem is that gossiping breaks trust. If a coworker gossips with you about someone else, he will talk about you to someone else. You are not special or different. (Well, you are, but you know what I mean.) You are not exempt.

As you rise in an organization, you have exposure to more and more sensitive information. You know about employees’ performance ratings, the organization’s financial results, and impending layoffs. One criterion of promotion is being able to be trusted with sensitive information. If the senior people in your organization think you’re a gossip and can’t be trusted to keep confidences, your career is going nowhere.

People will never stop gossiping. It’s one of those human things. We all do it, and we aren’t going to quit. The best we can hope for is to reduce the amount of time we spend talking about other people behind their backs.

I won’t suggest you stop gossiping. I merely suggest you bring attention to the gossip circulating throughout your organization. Bringing attention to the gossip circulating in your organization will raise awareness, and reduce the gossip, just a little bit.

** This blog is an excerpt from the book How to Say Anything to Anyone.


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.


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