It’s Toxic – Gossip In the Workplace

girls-685787_1280Gossip is a sad phenomenon that exists in many organizations. Gossip can have many adverse side effects on an organization, including an increase of conflicts and decrease of morale. Even though it might be unrealistic to believe that we can completely free the workplace of gossip, there are ways to deal with it before it impacts the culture too negatively.

Gossiping is a key indicator of an unhealthy organization culture. It’s also one of the fastest ways to derail creativity. Gossip breaks down the level of trust within the group. With gossip your employees start second-guess each other, break up in cliques and eventually focus more on the rumors than on their work. Productivity is lost, and so are good employees who do not want to work in a toxic environment.

Is it gossip or just innocent chit chat?

Gossip is a false statement made by someone with a negative intent. It’s also gossip if the speaker is unwilling to share the information publicly if the person being spoken about is in the room. Consider the impact of what is being said. Does it cast negative aspersions or have a negative emotional charge? Does it create rifts or exult in the misfortune of others? Does it serve to perpetuate conflict or negativity? Is it hurtful or damaging? Is it something you would say in front of that person?

Gossip starts with a story and stories are interpretation of facts. However, facts do not cause stress or drama; it’s the story that accompanies the facts that causes it. And behind the story is the storyteller.

How can I break the gossip cycle?

In order for you to successfully break the destructive cycle of gossiping, there are two things you need to know.

First, you should be aware of the main reasons people gossip. These main reasons are:
– show others wrong,
– gain validation,
– control others,
– get attention,
– divert attention and
– avoid conflict.

Second, even as “just a listener” to the gossip you are enabling it. Most people don’t realize that as a listener you are actually a co-narrator to the gossip. In other words, the act of active listening actually supports and promotes gossiping – the more you listen, the more you encourage. On the other hand, if you don’t listen, the gossip has nowhere to go. Just think about it, have you ever tried to tell a story to someone who clearly wasn’t interested? What happened? Exactly, your storytelling ran out in the sand.

As an employer, you need to keep gossip at bay in your organization. A first step to do that? Lead by example. Do not start, participate, listen or in any other way encourage gossip. Not about your employees, upper – or lower management, colleagues, customers or any other stakeholders. Great leaders don’t gossip about others.

Discourage gossip in an official company policy and include a section about gossip in the company handbook. Make sure that your employees know that gossiping is not tolerated and will be dealt with. Deal with it when it happens. Talk to the individuals involved and be very clear with the consequences of the behavior. For most, this will be a realization that will result in an immediate change.

Be proactive. Communicate changes and other news in an early stage with all your employees. If you keep them informed about what’s going on, they’ll be less likely to speculate with or about each other.

Do you want to learn more about how to effectively handle workplace issues? Contact us at gustolifegroup@gmail.com for a dialogue about how we can support you and your team.


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2 thoughts on “It’s Toxic – Gossip In the Workplace

    • Ulrika says:

      That is very true Stewart – it would surely be an easy “fix” if workers did not engage in gossip. Thank you for taking time to read and comment./Ulrika

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