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PSSST! DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE WORKPLACE GOSSIP?

Alan Andersen

Gossip: It’s just an inevitable byproduct of human nature, right?

Well, I’m here to tell you that that’s a lie. And you can spread that around all you like!

First, let’s get clear on our definition of gossip: It’s a conversation that leaves another person in a negative light.

You know you are listening to gossip when your peer is speaking of another person in a manner that leads to a lesser opinion of that person, or leaves you with a seed of mistrust as a result of the conversation.

Is that such a big deal? Doesn’t everyone gossip at some point, and we all just deal with it and keep going?

The Danger of Gossip

No. Gossip in the workplace kills trust. It kills teamwork. It kills productivity. Most of all, it kills. Gossip separates close friends, destroys relationships and harms innocent people. It’s poison!

Why is gossip so destructive?

The danger of gossip is that it meets basic human needs and desires, but in a very dysfunctional way. We all have a need for communication, community, and connection. Each person has an innate desire to be heard, understood, and valued. When we do not have skills and opportunity to get our needs met in healthy ways, sadly we will do whatever it takes to get those needs met, even at the cost of another person. If we are not careful, when that practice (i.e., gossiping) is threatened, we will compromise our integrity and our values by, to use the cliché, throwing another person under the bus.

As a well-known preacher from the 1900s said, “Tale-bearing emits a threefold poison; for it injures the teller, the hearer, and the person concerning whom the tale is told” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon).

The Guilty Listener

But it takes two to tango, doesn’t it? The problem not only is in the one who first gossips, as we can assume that person suffers from self-worth issues. It also is in the fact that the rest of us listen!

Even if we never open our mouth in agreement, we reinforce the dysfunctional behavior by partnering with the speaker.

The listener to gossip is as guilty as the speaker of gossip!

Wiping Out Gossip

Maybe by now you may be picturing your workplace and thinking, well, gossiping is so entrenched in our culture we’ll never be able to wipe it out.

Not true! I can point you to many Shandel Group clients that could share their testimonies on how you can change your culture to eliminate the negative effects of gossip. It’s possible!

Next time we’ll talk about the root of the desire to gossip and how to get rid of this insidious poison!

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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