Do You Know the Gossiping Guidelines?

Accountability Organizational culture


Gossiping is a negative drag in the workplace. It is almost always hurtful and brings no value to anyone. Email and social media provides even more opportunity for gossiping. Text can be even more harmful than face to face personal attacks. Janet Ott, a coach and one of finest communication teachers I know, gives the following advice regarding gossip. This is an abbreviated version from her March newsletter:

“First, let’s define gossip: I believe it’s anything you say about another person that you would not say to their face.

There are many consequences to our engaging in this verbal exercise. First, the gossip is often negative or even nasty – and that brings everyone’s mood down, even though it can be a juicy social experience! Most importantly, you label yourself as someone who is unsafe, petty. People almost always wonder “What is he/she saying about me when I am not present?” Other fallout in the workplace includes conflict, hurt feelings, and rumors running rampant.”

Ott acknowledges that while, gossiping is human and commonplace it is unacceptable. She offers some guidelines:

  1. Before you open your mouth – check your intention. The only green light would be using this discussion to get help in identifying a solution to deal with the issue or person. Be honest with yourself.
  2. There is no trivial comment (verbal or nonverbal) ever made by a leader. Every comment is noticed and given meaning. Never, never speak negatively about any other member of your management team or ANY employee. This includes nonverbal gestures like eye rolling or heavy sighs when the person’s name is mentioned. People will be eager to talk about your negative judgments and they will spread faster than a virus.
  3. When you hear what sounds like a rumor, gently ask the person if they have “checked it out” with the source or would be willing to do so. Stop feeding the rumor mill.
  4. If you are with someone or a group and the talk turns to bad-mouthing someone else, politely excuse yourself (…gotta go!) or gently say something like “I’m uncomfortable talking about _______ when they are not here. Let’s change the subject.” Listening to gossip perpetuates it – silence doesn’t count.

Gossiping flies directly in the face of respect as a value. Let’s be self accountable about gossiping. If you and I stop it, the chain is broken.

Character Move: let’s be really observant about gossiping. Let’s see if we can go a week without participating in gossip. Let’s build from there.

No gossiping in the Triangle,