Personally, I have been burned emotionally to a crisp from workplace gossip.
All that you need to know that is there was some information that was spread about me in the workplace a few ago which consisted of something outside the job. No one asked me personally what was going on. But the lack of communication wasn’t the worst thing; the worst thing was that someone who I thought was a good friend ended up being the source of the problem. They were constantly adding fuel to a rumor going to my manager and other people in the company consistently twisting the truth.
I ended up finding out from my manager who told me this had been going on for months. Fortunately, he consistently tried to put the flame out which is why I didn’t find out much later. Not only did it burn to know that people were talking behind my back, but a place where I felt safe turned into a hell hole in a split second. The place where I spent most of my waking hours became a hub for distrust and paranoia.
Has this happened to you?
Over 66% of water cooler conversations focus on topics about colleagues at work. In addition, Scholars suggest that 14% of coffee-break conversation include gossip. Meaning that once a week during your breaks you probably run into a bit of workplace gossip.
So what is gossip? The dictionary often describes it as “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.” People usually enjoy gossip, they get a good laugh, share a secret with someone else and polarize a group. But where the line for gossip? Here are a couple of questions about the conversations you have with coworkers:
- There is something being expressed that is negative about someone? Chances are its gossip.
- Can you verify that the information is true? If not, its gossip.
- Does it rejoice at someone’s mistake? If so, its gossip.
STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO STOP GOSSIP
While this seems to span a large number of conversations, it’s important to note there are many easy anecdotes where you can still have ‘fun’ discussion with coworkers. However, in the unlikely occurrence that you end up conversing with a gossiping employee, here are a couple of things you can do to keep your workplace healthy:
- Communicate with the Offenders – The easiest way for gossip to spread is that the offenders think it’s okay and people care. Chances are most people just go along with it. An easy way to curb the discussion is by mentioning how you would prefer to talk about something else. Simple easy and to the point.
- Stop Echoing the Gossip- The way that gossip stops is that no one is willing to continue echoing it. In this case, just don’t share the gossip and it will die off with you.
- Keep Your Private Life Private – Best way to reduce gossip, stop giving people so much to gossip about. If you keep your private life, well private, gossipers will have much less to find out about you so if rumors do start, they will be impersonal enough to avoid any emotional heartache
- Be a Role Model – Do onto others, as they do onto you. Novel idea, and very cliche I know. However, you consistently can spot this in workplaces. People complain if someone gossips about them, but as soon as they get a chance they start spreading a rumor about a coworker. Be the bigger person and start promoting a positive culture that does not involve tearing down other people
- Going to a Boss – I am not usually a fan of going to a superior and asking for help for social interaction. It reminds me of kids that would make fun of people and if you verbally retaliated they would immediately run to a yard duty or teacher and ‘tattle’. However, there is a time where this becomes appropriate after multiple attempts to avoid engagement in gossip. At that point, your mind needs back up and have to ask your supervisor for their opinion.
GOSSIP POLLUTES CULTURE
A final thought on the concept of gossip: Gossip can be likened to farmers in the time of crops.
Imagine that each year a group of farmers prepare for the yearly harvest several months in advance. In preparation, they use large equipment to turn dirt, plant crops, and finalize each detail for a lavish harvest. Occasionally, the farmers would accumulate the waste from all of the large vehicles they operated and dump the waste into a lake just outside of town. They continued this habit of work, accumulating and dumping each month before the big harvest. When the big month came, the crops were dead and farmers were left in a panic. “How could this have happened,” they collectively thought. Little did they know that the lake was actually the water supply for their crops. With the continuous pouring of waste, they eventually destroyed the water source for the crop and consequently the big harvest they worked so hard for.
The same truth happens with gossip, it may feel good to get it out of your system by talking to a coworker about gossip but it eventually pollutes the culture. If too much gossip happens, the culture will decay and you will end up with what the farmers had a dead culture.
Jeff Butler Internationally respected speaker and consultant, Jeff Butler helps bridge generational gaps between Millennials and companies looking for their talent and patronage. Butler has quickly built his reputation as a memorable presenter with tangible solutions for attracting, retaining, and engaging Millennials as employees and customers. Within just the past three years, he has spoken at two TEDx events and multiple Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Amazon, and LinkedIn.