Workplace Gossip


Discover how high performance leaders can stop workplace gossip in its tracks.

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 shys away from gossip … these people are too busy focusing 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.

  • Would you say that that person is fairly secure within their own self?

  • Is this a person who seems to have a good sense of their own self?

  • Is this person quite successful?

  • Do others look upon him or her with high regard and is s/he well liked?

  • Is this a happy person?

Contrast that with a person who is a known workplace gossip.

  • Does this person seem to constantly try to find fault with others to make him or herself look better?

  • Is this person well liked and trusted?

  • Is the vibe around this person pleasant or unpleasant?

  • Do you think this is a happy person?

Workplace Gossip Causes Lack of Trust in a Relationship

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?”

workplace gossip

Every great relationship is built upon a foundation of trust, reliability, honour 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.

Gossip Stops Performance Improvement

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:

  • Accept responsibility for developing healthy relationships.

  • Always goes directly to the person with whom they have an issue and discusses it.

  • Is focused on getting the relationship and the performance back on track fast.

High Performance Leaders Teach Others How To Resolve Issues In A Safe Way

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.

Allowing People To Complain To You Encourages Under-Performance.

Here is an example of one of the skills you will learn in the “Influence Your Way To Success ebook. (Purchase Influence Your Way to Success or get it free as a member of the Align-Lead-Inspire Club)

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:

  1. You are hearing the other person’s rule book, (for members only … join today) 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.

  2. 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!

What Type Of Leader and Person Are You?

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:

  • “Is this gossip bringing out the best in me, the best in the person I am gossiping to and the best in the person we are gossiping about?”

  • “How much more powerful will I be if I speak only with integrity?”

  • “How much stronger will I lead when I choose to not listen to gossip?”

In the Moment Of Choice (members only … join today) you need to decide who am I? Am I a Message or a Warning? (members only … join today)

What To Do When You Find Yourself Involved in Workplace Gossip

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:

“I know this is unhealthy and I am gossiping, I am stepping out of my integrity but I just need to vent. Can you listen to me and then offer me an alternative viewpoint or help me to develop a strategy so I can raise my concerns with the other person in a more constructive way.”

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.

Gossip in the Workplace Awareness Activity

  1. How do you justify in your own mind the reason you are discussing someone’s behaviour with another person?

  2. How do you respond when someone starts gossiping to you?

  3. What is your intent in gossiping? To bring someone else down, (consequently making you feel superior/better) or to resolve the situation?

  4. How does workplace gossip affect your relationships with others?

  5. What do you think of people who gossip to you? Do you trust them?

  6. As you gossip about another person ask yourself, what poison am I spreading? What will this person now think of the person I am gossiping about?

  7. How do you feel after you have gossiped about someone?

  8. List the reasons why it feels good to gossip about others. Are these reasons like chocolate or chips – feel good but not the healthiest of choices?

    The ladies of Sidney Meet Up Womens Network Bookclub

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