Archive for the ‘Workplace Gossip’ Category

Transparency: Bad For Drama, But Good For Business

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, or House of Cards, or even Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, you know that hidden agendas are great for drama. Everyone is watching everybody else out of the corners of their eyes, wondering what they’re planning to do next.

Imagine how those shows would fall flat is every character suddenly developed a commitment to transparency. It would kill the drama!

That’s exactly why transparency is essential for business. Drama lives in the shadows. Transparency kills the drama by shedding light. When we watch television, we want to see things fall apart. But the same drama that makes for great entertainment can make a workplace unbearable. It can bring productivity crashing to earth, and with it the livelihood of everyone in the company.

Transparency is one of the most essential qualities in today’s workplace. Say what you mean and mean what you say. No hidden agendas. Plenty of sunshine. Be open and honest about what you need and what you intend to do.

A workplace that embraces the need for transparency replaces drama with happy, productive team members—which is better than winning an Emmy, don’t you think?

Why Do People Spread Gossip, and Why Do Others Listen?

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

Gossip ruins lives. It’s worth taking some time to study it so you can help rid your workplace of it. And one of the first steps is understanding the reasons that people are such willing participants in it.

Why do people spread gossip? Usually the person spreading rumors has a bad self-image, so they try to pull others down to compensate. Seriously, think about this. If you have gossips in your workplace, are they people who have their stuff together? I’m not talking about the bluster and confidence on the surface, but what’s really inside. Are they grounded and satisfied? Not bloody likely, or they wouldn’t feel the need to level the playing field.

According to workplace research, the content of gossip is 80 percent inaccurate. That’s the proof that the real intention is to hurt others, not to solve a problem, even if they pretend otherwise.

Gossip is a two-way transaction, of course. So why do people listen to it? Two reasons: First, they want to feel “in on it,” partly so they aren’t on the receiving end of it. I hate to tell you – that will not protect you. If you keep gossip alive as a part of your workplace culture, it’s like feeding a rattlesnake and letting it roam the halls. Eventually it’ll bite you too.

Second, people listen because they too like the little thrill of supposedly putting themselves above someone else. They’ll tell themselves they aren’t the kind of person who would start it, but what’s the harm in listening in? Plenty, of course, because gossip needs an audience to stay alive.

Understanding the motivations of the gossips and their audiences is an important step in fixing the problem for good.

So what about you? Are you part of the solution—or part of the problem?

If you participate in the gossip game—whether as pitcher or catcher—call it quits. You know better. If the Queen of England came to your home today, you’d act better, wouldn’t you? Well, act better right now. Be the person your dog thinks you are. If you’re the one with a poor self-image, it will do a lot for your self-esteem to keep your nose clean from gossip. If you don’t, you are virtually guaranteed to come to a really bad day and maybe even lose your job. One way or another, the result is always ugly.

So make a commitment here and now to rise above it all.

Gossip takes two

Monday, February 17th, 2014


Gossip is the mother lode of dysfunctional behaviors—the worst poison in a workplace culture.

And it’s an epidemic. In a survey by the American Society for Training and Development, 85 percent of people admitted to gossiping in the workplace, and 21 percent reported gossiping frequently.

This crazy and dysfunctional behavior has been “normalized.”

In fact, a survey by Equisys found that the average employee spends 65 hours a year gossiping at the office. That’s a week and a half that’s completely non-productive. No, it’s worse than that—the average employee spends a week and a half each year actively undermining the health and productivity of the workplace!

You might think you’re off the hook if you only listen but don’t spread it yourself. Fat chance. If you listen, you are the “buyer,” creating the need that the gossip is fulfilling. If you stop listening, they will have to stop dealing.

There comes a time when we have to grow up, and that time is now. That means no spreading gossip and no listening to gossip. Commit with every cell in your body NOT to participate.

If someone comes to you speaking negatively about another person, it is your ethical obligation to say something like, “I can see you’re concerned. Let’s get a productive result here. Let’s go together right now to talk to Janet and make sure you hear each other’s concerns so something changes.”

Now THAT’S a healthy agreement.

Confronting a Gossip

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

When most people think of a dysfunctional workplace, they picture a lot of screaming and yelling. That’s unpleasant, but believe it or not, it’s not the most destructive thing a workplace can endure. Real dysfunction has little that has to do with raised voices.

If I had to nominate just one thing as the most destructive symptom of the dysfunctional workplace, there’s no contest. It’s GOSSIP. And the only way to root it out is by going straight to the source—confronting the gossip directly.

But how do you confront a gossip?

Step one is to recognize that gossip is an attempt at communication— seriously screwed up communication, sure, but communication nonetheless. You can’t eliminate the behavior without providing something to replace it—namely a good and healthy way of communicating.

If Joe was late once again with his report, Jack might be tempted to do a little quiet backstabbing. But if he wants an actual change in Joe’s behavior and a sane workplace, all Jack has to do is to go to Joe and say, “Joe, when you are late with that analysis, I end up on my knees to my boss because then my report is late. Please promise me you’ll get that to me on time from now on.”

Reasonable. Direct. Easy.

If instead Jack makes the wrong choice and comes to you with gossip about Joe, simply say, “Gee, it sounds like you need to talk to Joe directly so you can work this out.” Then add the clincher: “Let’s go over to Joe right now and make your suggestion about what you want to see changed.”

If Jack says, “Oooh, I don’t know if I want to do that, he’ll get mad,” you point out how much madder he would be if he learned that he was being talked about behind his back! “I know you want to do this honestly, so let’s go ask Joe for what you need.” Reasonable. Direct. Easy!

It’s amazing how quickly gossip withers on the vine when you stop feeding it. So have some courage, be the one who not only declares a zero-tolerance policy for talking behind another person’s back, but also walks the walks. Then watch the dysfunction ebb away.

Quick Tip

Be sure to watch yourself as well! Nothing will kill your gossip-free initiative quicker than gossiping yourself.

Get Serious About Gossip

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

I spend a lot of time ringing the bell about gossip and how it poisons a workplace. But sometimes I wonder if the word gets in the way. When some people hear the word “gossip,” they picture a gum-chewing secretary with cat’s-eye glasses, filing her nails as she shares the latest rumor with the other secretaries in a voice like Fran Drescher.

Got the picture? Now LOSE the picture. If you only think of gossip in that stereotypical way, you’re likely to overlook it when it really happens. Any time one person in a workplace is saying something about a coworker that they wouldn’t say in front of them, 99 times out of 100, it’s harmful, it’s hurtful, and it’s gossip. And it’s usually not even accurate. If it were, they would be going to the person and making a request and taking leadership to get a change.

Don’t be confused by all the different forms gossip can take. Here are just a few:

  1. The Concern Troll: “What’s up with Judy lately? I’m getting worried about her, dragging herself in late and sleepwalking through her day like that. Have you noticed?”
  2. The Everybody Sezzer: “If Bob is angling for that promotion, he sure isn’t doing himself any favors, missing deadlines and flying off the handle at the least thing. Everybody says he’s back on those pills again.”
  3. The Heart Blesser: “Susan just doesn’t have the brains God gave a goat, bless her heart.”

Every one of these cuts another person down who isn’t present and enlists the listener in the crime. Every one has to be called out when it happens. And EVERY ONE is gossip, the sworn enemy of the productive and engaged workplace.

The first step in curing the disease is knowing the symptoms. So get serious and wipe it out of your workplace for good!