Confessions of a Recovering Workplace Gossip

© Varina And Jay Patel |

© Varina And Jay Patel |

So you’ve never gossiped, you say – never talked about a colleague behind her back, never spread a juicy rumor.  Congratulations!  I don’t believe you.

Okay, I suppose it’s possible.  But most of you out there have probably indulged in this bad behavior at some point.  I’m sorry to say there was a time when I did as well.  Then I came to realize how poisonous and destructive workplace gossip is.  Now I spend my time spreading the anti-gossip gospel.

A workplace full of whispered gossip is excruciating.  It is destructive to the soul of your workplace and the souls of the people in it.  They never feel safe, always wondering who is talking behind their backs.

Jack has a problem with Tom. So what does Jack do? He tells Lynne, and Jess, and Steve, and Jim, and Sandy.  Everyone, that is, but Tom.

It gets even better. Jack quickly realizes he can’t trust Lynne, Jess, Steve, Jim, or Sandy. They are the kind of people who welcome gossip, you see, and people who accept gossip tend to be equal-opportunity mudslingers. Soon enough, they’ll be welcoming gossip about Jack.

Okay, now let’s suppose you’ve got the message.  You’ve quit cold turkey on gossiping and backstabbing.  But what do you do when someone ELSE comes to you with gossip?

You can certainly put your fingers in your ears and hum the 1812 Overture while tap dancing.  But that won’t do anything to help Jack out of his own nasty gossiping habit.  And since it’s your watering hole he’s muddying, you have a vested interest in helping him on the road to recovery.

Next time Jack comes to you with complaints about Tom, simply say, “Gee, this sounds serious!  Let’s go talk to Tom directly so you can work this out.” When he looks panic-stricken, underline the point: “Well is this a serious problem or isn’t it?  I can’t do anything to help you solve it – only Tom can do that. So please promise me you’re heading directly there. If it isn’t serious, then what are we talking about?”

This approach may or may not shock Jack into giving up gossip, but it will certainly send a message that YOU are not an available receiver.  It also lets him know that you will not be gossiping behind his back – a positive message in and of itself.

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