Is It Really Gossip?

Gossip is when you have a malice of intent or mindless, third-party conversation to someone about someone, something you haven’t said to that someone.
— Iyanla Vanzant

Gossip in Leadership

Have you ever asked yourself “If it is the truth… is it gossip?” I have many times. I have wondered where to draw the line and what is right to say and what is wrong. I have kept my mouth shut when I should have said something. My lack of communication led to a full blown storm in the workplace. I have also said something when I should have kept my mouth shut. It feels good for a moment, but can last for a lifetime.

The thing is, gossip is polarizing. No doubt about it. It does not draw people in, it separates people. It does not increase trust, it dissolves it. It does not serve a purpose, it serves a person. But what do we do then? Should we stay as far away from it as possible? Should the pendulum swing in the opposite direction and steer far far away? Should we simply not say anything to anyone?

EFFECTS OF THE PENDULUM SWING:

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Swing of Gossip

  • A culture of gossip will only lead to confusion. No one has the truth so no one can know the truth.

  • Gossip can polarize your people.

  • Gossip causes mistrust. Not just for the person being talked about… but also for the person talking.

  • Gossip breeds a ‘me’ mentality, not a ‘we’ mentality.

  • It feels great… until it doesn’t. It is like an addictive drug, you always need more.

Swing of Silence

  • Creates a culture that constantly lives in fear.

  • Quality feedback is ruined.

  • The facts have been replaced by the fear of gossiping.

  • Problems are withheld until they turn into catastrophes.

  • Promotes individual work instead of collaborative teams.

 

All these outcomes lead us to the question, “How do we find balance?” We find balance by correctly defining what gossip is and what gossip isn’t. I like the definition, “Gossip is talking about someone without a defined purpose or in a malicious way.”

When you hear someone’s personal information and you share it with a co-worker, you have no purpose other than to pass it along. This is gossip. When you see someone not acting inside the values of the company and inform a superior, your purpose is maintaining a values driven workplace. This is not gossip.

Application For Leaders:

  1. Do a temperature check with your people. Are rumors effecting their performance? Is there division and mistrust amongst your people?

  2. Remember, “What you permit, you promote.” By letting conversation that is gossip slide, you are promoting it as something acceptable. Ask yourself if the information has a purpose. If not, realign/calibrate your people.

  3. Ask your people if they run from truth for fear of gossiping.

  4. Increase your search for feedback. When people feel safe, they will share what needs to be shared.

Application For Individual Contributors:

  1. If you feel you will be gossiping, go to the person and ask permission to share. Their response, or your inability to ask, will determine your answer.

  2. Before sharing something, communicate your purpose in sharing it. “I just had to tell someone” is not a purpose.

  3. Ask your leadership to define gossip and their feelings toward it. If they don’t mind it, start looking for new work.

  4. Be a beacon of truth, not a holder of secrets.

  5. To avoid the chance of gossiping when you have a problem with someone, be an adult, and go to them first.


Gossip can demoralize a team faster than almost anything else. One of the biggest products being a loss of trust. If your team is lacking trust, we offer engaging workshops and impactful lessons for teams. If this is a problem for you or your team, click the link to contact us about our services.

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