Gossip is a recurring cancer in many organizations, large and small, for-profit and not-for-profit. It detracts from any efforts to create a high-trust culture. Yet people at all levels of organizations continue to engage in gossip on a daily basis.
Why do they do it?
The answer is easy: because it’s fun.
When people gossip about the company executives, about perceived misguided decisions, about supervisors, about colleagues, it brings them together. They have a “common enemy” they can talk about. They can smile, laugh, nod their heads in agreement and have a good time.
What gossipers fail to see is the big picture. Gossip has a slow corroding effect on the day-to-day culture. It can bring down a department, a division, a company. Gossip is akin to what construction professionals call “bad mud.”
Mud is used to make bricks. If “bad mud” is used to create the bricks in a large building, those bricks will eventually weaken and fail. The entire building will be at risk. The same applies to businesses.
Gossip has a pervasive ongoing effect on the workday lives of all teammates working at that firm.
Gossip happens when leaders are not transparent. So many leaders still think that knowledge is power. So they hoard knowledge, holding facts close to the vest, revealing only those things they believe they have to share.
When leaders are not transparent, colleagues are not motivated to wait for answers to their questions. They continue to ask those questions and, when answers are not forthcoming, they do one thing:
They make it up.
That’s what gossip is – made-up answers about questions people are eager to learn more about.
If leaders share knowledge, plans, reasons for decisions, teams and team members are no longer motivated to make up their own answers.
So make some time to look in your organization’s cultural mirror. Is gossip part of your daily culture? If you are not sure, ask people.
Reducing and eliminating gossip starts with the leaders. At all organizations, attitudes and behaviors flow from the top down.
Gossip is part of this picture. Don’t gossip.
What can you do, starting tomorrow, to minimize and eventually eliminate negative gossip from your office culture?