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WORKPLACE GOSSIP, PART 2: BUILDING COMMUNITY

Alan Andersen

In our last blog post, we talked about the practice of gossip, and how poisonous it is. A lot of people think gossip is inevitable — a byproduct of human nature we can never be free of. I’m here to tell you that we can – and we must!

Why do people gossip? What’s at the root of the desire to spread negativity about other people?

Remember, we’ve said that there’s a very basic need every human has to have communication, community, and connection. Yet, where there are people, there’s conflict. If you hate to deal with conflict and you do everything to avoid it, you’ll end up with only superficial relationships. And that’s one of the foundations of gossip.

No Avoiding Conflict

If you want to be in healthy community and truly connect at a meaningful level with other people, you will have conflict. No way around it. Period. There will be times when we offend each other, when we miscommunicate, when we jump to conclusions, when we miss what the other person was trying to say.

When we have honest conversations to resolve those conflicts, we learn and grow from the experience of being challenged by another point of view. That is what makes us wiser and stronger as it helps grow our character. The way to PEACE is through truth. And peace-making is through resolving conflict, not avoiding it.

People involved in shallow, fake relationships are still trying to get their human need for connection and their desire to be heard met. Unfortunately, they feel the need to protect themselves, so they refuse to engage in authentically caring for others.

Calling into Community

When we listen to gossip, we allow these people to continue in their isolated world. We do not call them out of that lonely place into a community where they can be real, messy — and loved. We allow them to continue their pattern of negativity and unhappiness. Then we allow them to pollute our environment with their negativity and critical spirit.

You cannot have joy and criticism at the same time. So why would you trade in your joy card for this negativity? I don’t get it.

When I was in graduate school, I shared a house with four women. We agreed to some basic rules, but two really left their mark on me: 1) No gossip about fellow housemates, and 2) No listening to gossip.

That second rule kept me on the straight and narrow. I did not want to be called out by one of my friends and embarrassed because I was a gossip. I was willing to do the hard work of communicating, of working through the inevitable conflicts we faced, which deepened our relationships and led to peace and joy.

Anti-Gossip Policy

Please help me end gossip. I encourage all companies to adopt a policy to ensure that personal conflicts are being handled in a way that keeps people’s dignity and integrity in check. (Read my article on healthy conflict.) Equip your people with communication and conflict-resolution training.

I promise you, if you insist on a culture based on agreed-upon values and attract the right people to your organization, you can eliminate gossip in your workplace.

It is simple; it is just not easy!

Your Coach,

This article previously appeared at True Life Coaching, a subsidiary of Shandel Group. If you enjoyed this post, read Shandel's book, Clarity: Focusing on What Matters.

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