How to Stop Workplace Gossip

Workplace gossip is all too common and it can be devastating to entire companies and to your career as well.

Have you ever tried going seven days without talking about another person, period?

Try it, but don't be surprised if you can't get past the first hour without finding yourself talking about someone who isn't a part of the conversation!

Whether you have been the one gossiping or you've been gossiped about, it's important that you learn how to deal with gossip, and how problematic it can really be. It doesn't matter whether gossip is true or false, it still has no place at work.

The negative effects of gossip are strained relationships, mistrust, discontentment, even anger, and decreased productivity. For example, how much time have you wasted, in long conversations, complaining to others about the assistant who isn't as helpful as he could be, or your partner who isn't as loving as you'd like, or how you know that that other department has a hidden agenda, that conflicts with your team's goals!

Most of us intuitively realize that people who are gossips, do not have an inner world that is healthy and rich.

Do you get, that if someone is a workplace gossip, it is because they feel insecure/inadequate? And/or they have a low sense of self-worth, and are desperate to find some way of feeling better about themselves.

Contrast this with a person why shies away from gossip ... these people are too busy focusing on being the best they can, on making their personal dent in the universe.

Think of someone you know who seems to stay away from workplace gossip.

  • Would you say that that person is fairly secure within their own self?
  • Is this a person who seems to have a good sense of their own self?
  • Is this person quite successful?
  • Do others look upon him or her with high regard and is s/he well liked?
  • Is this a happy person?

Contrast that with a person who is a known workplace gossip.

  • Does this person seem to constantly try to find fault with others to make him or herself look better?
  • Is this person well liked and trusted?
  • Is the vibe around this person pleasant or unpleasant?
  • Do you think this is a happy person?

Workplace Gossip Causes Lack of Trust in a Relationship

Gossipmongers aren't trusted. I bet you've caught yourself wondering, as you walk away from a gossiper: "I wonder what s/he says about me when I'm not around?"

workplace gossip Worried about gossip in your workplace? Consider being coached by me in how to handle it.

Every great relationship is built upon a foundation of trust, reliability, honor, and integrity.

As a leader you are responsible for developing healthy relationships, both with your direct reports, your colleagues and your senior leaders. Involving yourself in workplace gossip is a surefire way to undermine your credibility as a person and as a leader.

So, as tempting as it is to talk about others ... STOP IT! It doesn't serve you or them.

Gossip Stops Performance Improvement

A big problem, when you take part in workplace gossip, is that you are telling the wrong person. Invariably you are telling a person who can't improve the performance.

Gossiping may make you feel good in the moment, (you got some frustration off your chest) but it doesn't really make the issue go away, does it? Nor does it build powerful performance!

If your workplace is filled with gossip, you can almost guarantee that it is under-performing.

Gossip is one of the greatest causes of distrust and consequently under-performance in any business.

What sets high performance leaders apart from others, is that they:

  • Accept responsibility for developing healthy relationships.
  • Always go directly to the person with whom they have an issue and discuss it.
  • Are focused on getting the relationship and the performance back on track, fast.

High Performance Leaders Teach Others How To Resolve Issues In A Safe Way

As a leader, it is not your role to be a sounding board for complaining and gossip in the workplace ... nor to solve people's issues for them. Rather, it is your role to coach and guide people to resolve their issues with others, quickly and successfully.

Allowing People To Complain To You Encourages Under-Performance.

Here is an example of one of the skills you will learn in the "Successful Feedback training.

Imagine Mary is complaining to you about something Jim has done.

A High Performance Leader would ask a question such as: "Are you telling me this so I can coach you in how to work through this problem with Jim, or shall we find him so we can all discuss it together?"

Do this in a supportive way: your intent being to develop the skills within your team so that issues are resolved quickly - not to punish, nor to let issues bubble and fester until they turn into volcanic proportions.

If the person's response is, "No I just want to vent", then your response could be something along the lines of "Look, that doesn't serve you, me or Jim, I'm happy to work with you to find some solutions you could take to Jim and discuss, but I don't want to get caught up in venting sessions".

When you do this consistently, your people will know that they can trust you. That you won't talk about them unless they are present. It will be one of the greatest acts of leadership that you can do - also one of the most unusual!

There are two things you want to be aware of when listening to workplace gossip:

  1. You are hearing the other person's rule book, their interpretations, prejudices, biases and fears etc. You don't know what other events have passed between Jim and Mary that may have caused Mary to be complaining to you about Jim.
  2. Once you have listened to Mary's gossip, you may now have been contaminated about Jim - even if you didn't want to be. Some part of you may believe the gossip - and you may very well start to look for those negative traits in Jim and find them! Read more about how your focus impacts on the results you get.

What Type Of Leader and Person Are You?

You will be able to find a lot of well-justified reasons for gossiping (or whatever name you want to call it), however if you are truly dedicated to High-Performance, then ask yourself:

  • "Is this gossip bringing out the best in me, the best in the person I am gossiping to and the best in the person we are gossiping about?"
  • "How much more powerful will I be if I speak only with integrity?"
  • "How much stronger will I lead when I choose to not listen to gossip?"

In the Moment Of Choice you need to decide who am I? Am I a Message or a Warning?

What To Do When You Find Yourself Involved in Workplace Gossip

It is the High Performance Leadership way to be the person to put a stop to the gossip - particularly, when you are amongst your peers. It's certainly easier to let people who report to you, know that you don't talk about others, unless they are present. It can be a bit more of a challenge when you are talking with your peer group, or your leader, and they are 'bagging' another person or group.

Now, is the time to use the best of your influence skills, and let them know that you'd prefer to only focus on solutions, and that it would be best to have the other party involved in the conversation to get it fixed. It might be at this time that you will need to have a conversation with your Prostitute!

If, directly confronting the gossip, seems too unsafe, your other options are to change the topic, or find a reason to excuse yourself from the conversation. Don't stand there and listen to it. Even listening to it will seem like you approve of it. So, either ask for a topic change or just walk away from the situation.

Should you find yourself talking negatively about someone else, forgive yourself your humanity - none of us are perfect. However, be mindful to own your part of the story. Maybe you could say something like:

"I know this is unhealthy and I am gossiping, I am stepping out of my integrity but I just need to vent. Can you listen to me and then offer me an alternative viewpoint or help me to develop a strategy so I can raise my concerns with the other person in a more constructive way."

Truthfully though, the best advice is: keep your mouth closed until you can find a way to speak about the other person, no matter what they have done, in a way that honors both yourself and the other person.

The question I constantly ask myself when I find I'm fuming about someone is, "If I am being the best possible version of myself, what positive things would I look for in this person and what would I do in this moment?"

Admittedly, at times that can be very, challenging, particularly if someone has done something that is hurtful or very annoying. However, the definition of unconditional love is to "look through the eyes of your higher source and find the good". It's always there - just sometimes buried underneath the gunk that is life, and which causes us to sometimes behave in ways that isn't us being at our best.

And, asking a question like this doesn't meant that you give in/give up. It simply starts to put you in a mindset, where you can set the tone and vibe of any conversation/interaction you might have with this person, that will lead to positive result .... rather than an escalation of the problems.

Gossip in the Workplace Awareness Activity

  1. What excuses might you have been using to justify your reasons for talking about someone else?
  2. How would like to respond, from today forward, when someone starts talking to you about another person?
  3. How does workplace gossip affect your relationships with others? How would you like your relationships to be?
  4. What do you think of people who gossip to you? Do you trust them?
  5. As you gossip about another person ask yourself, what poison am I spreading? What will this person now think of the person I am gossiping about?
  6. How do you feel after you have gossiped about someone?
  7. List the reasons why it feels good to gossip about others. Are these reasons like chocolate or chips - feel good but not the healthiest of choices?
  8. What can you do to enhance your own sense of self, so you don't feel the urge to bring others down, and therefore, have a positive impact on others?

Get more on how to use gossip positively to enhance your own and your team's reputation.

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