Workplace gossip is all too common and it can be devastating to entire companies and to your career as well.
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!
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!
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 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.
Contrast that with a person who is a known workplace gossip.
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?"
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.
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:
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.
Here is an example of one of the skills you will learn in the ebook "Influence Your Way To Success.
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:
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.
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.
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:
In the Moment Of Choice you need to decide who am I? Am I a Message or a Warning?
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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:
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.
Try This Exercise
For the next 24 hours do not involve yourself in any conversation about another person unless they are present.
If someone starts to gossip to you about someone (individual or group) then bring the conversation to a halt by saying something like "I'm working on not discussing others unless they are here, so can we talk about something else ..."
You may discover you run out of conversation fairly quickly - you may also be surprised just how much of your interactions revolves around gossiping about others.