Avoid the Grip of Office Gossip

avoid office gossipWe all know that it’s easy to get caught up in office gossip. Wherever there is human interaction, gossip just always seems to manifest and, left unchecked, can seriously damage the culture. So as a leader, do your best to avoid it, removing yourself from gossip-prone situations or conversations. Moreover, be prepared to address it so it’s stopped before it affects morale and productivity. Know someone who has the habit of saying things like, “Don’t repeat this but so and so…” or “I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I heard so and so…”? If what’s being said about another person is not something you could say to that person’s face, have the courage to state that you won’t engage in the conversation because it’s unproductive. People will come to respect your position and the fact that you’re protecting and reinforcing your organization.

Don’t participate. Avoiding office gossip is all about refusing to play the game. Don’t generate it and don’t fall for it because if you do, you’ll fall into a trap that’s hard to escape. Not only will people waste your precious time talking about others to you and visa versa, but this bad habit can be very hurtful to others and destroy your leadership credibility. So if you gossip about Jane to Bob, then Bob knows deep down that you’re probably talking about him to Jane or others as well. Jane will also assume you’re talking about her to Bob and perhaps others as well. Consequently, neither of these two employees will ever truly trust you, and that will hinder your ability to foster an effective relationship with them and ruin your odds of inspiring their success at work. This is how productivity gets hurt. But worse, when people learn that you, the leader, are gossiping about them, that’s the kind of damage that apologies can’t really mend. The impact is irreversible to that person’s morale and self-esteem, and while people may say they can forgive you, they won’t forget. Nor will they trust you ever again — and as a leader, you need their trust.

Take on offenders. Loosening the grip on office gossip takes stepping in and fearlessly addressing it several ways. Sometimes individuals don’t realize that they’ve become chronic gossipers. Find a way to give them straightforward feedback that this habit is a bad reflection on them. Also, have a way to tell others you’re not interested in this type of dialogue by saying something as simple as, “Guys, I’d love to chat but it’s not cool to talk about Joe like that — he brings a lot of great things to our table as well.” It takes courage to do this, but you will set the right tone and gain respect along the way.

Encourage candor. The opposite of gossip is tactful candor and, the workplace cultures that adopt and nurture candor are less prone to have issues with gossip. This starts with you being upfront with others and role-modeling transparency so a secretive, gossip-prone environment doesn't become the work culture. Then it’s also about implementing strategies that enable more candor, e.g., setting aside time at staff meetings to talk about interpersonal work challenges together as a team.

How have you effectively dealt with gossip in past work experiences?

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