Ever wondered how an office or a business could become so stressful? An insidious enemy, gossip can easily destroy a reputation or business. In this article, learn how to spot hidden gossip and begin to eradicate it.
Recently, a company nearly reached the brink of destruction in a flurry of scandal. The legal team swooped in and started swinging, taking out the major offenders but also cutting off 25% of the company's clients at the same time. Just before it spiraled completely out of control, a savvy board member spotted the exact problem and halted it. The culprit? A vicious round of gossip about the executive team followed by a lawsuit based on that gossip.
Gossip reaches as high as the C-suite and as low as the mail room in nearly every company. It can seem harmless and inconsequential and even fun or interesting at times, but its roots can be deep and insidious. Perhaps you have seen a beneficial program cut because of gossip, or a contract lost or a person fired. Perhaps that person was you.
What can you do to proof yourself and your business against gossip? Education is the key. Gossip is so ingrained in our culture that sometimes we can miss gossip even when it is right in front of our faces. Gossip is defined as light conversation about sensational or private matters. The danger is the viral nature of this destructive and often untrue communication.
Here are a few pointers to recognize and control gossip.
1. Look for a broad generality.
"All the women around here are lazy," or "The marketing people are cold and calculating." This might seem to be obviously untrue upon inspection, but it can easily wend its way into conversations and become a stuck idea about the group. In the example above (a real one) about the marketing people, the result was that many people in the company avoided the "marketing people". This resulted in poor communications between sales and marketing, and a problem when it came to messaging the product. Not a good result. Pay attention whenever someone lays out a "truism" about an entire group. It's almost guaranteed to be a falsehood.
2. Check for negativity.
Very often, negative statements are largely or partially untrue, particularly if the statement is about a person's character or skills. These "opinions" which have no basis in fact can be very damaging. Call others on it when they throw them around as truth. Ex. "Tim is like a porcupine. Don't give him any new ideas. He just bristles." Not only is this likely false, but it creates problems for Tim. If you pass it along, you are an accomplice to wrecking Tim's relationships.
3. Look for "frequent liars".
"Frequent liars" are those who are routinely gossiping about others. Avoid them. Politely excuse yourself from the conversation. Why? Because if they are gossiping to YOU about others, they will gossip to others about YOU as readily. Don't get caught in the trap. Keep the conversation light and positive if you simply can't get away.
4. Inspect long-standing conflicts.
In any long-standing argument or conflict, there is certain to be a degree of gossip behind it. Get the two arguing parties in a room and ask them this question: "What negative things have you heard about the other person?" Get them to list out everything. Ask them who said these things. Often, the same person is giving negative information to both sides! As soon as they both see what is happening, the conflict vanishes. Make sure you get a few names of people who were stirring up the conflict and work with those people to reduce their gossip level. This is fantastically useful in teambuilding.
Not all those who gossip have bad intentions. It is easy to get caught in a web of gossip in almost any workplace. Little by little, start educating others about the dangers of gossip and you will make your business and your life a little easier.
Wishing you success...