Gossip, The Silent Killer of Business

I often write about gossip. In some cases gossip is nothing more than a nuisance; but my experience has proven to me that gossip is one of the biggest and most overlooked threats to careers and businesses. It is a pervasive poison that destroys reputations; sabotages growth and can potentially destroy a business.

A Point of View

People gossip for a lot of reasons. Often, it’s someone seeking validation. They feel insecure either professionally or personally and to compensate for their insecurity they point out the personal or professional shortcomings of others.

Sometimes what they say is true, other times it is truth with a little spin, and other times it is completely false. And it doesn’t matter what level of truth gossip holds, It’s still gossip. And it can make an otherwise professional environment feel like high school.

There’s a Cost

Business owners often overlook gossip in the workplace. Think about it…if you have a business to run, how important does gossip seem? It’s pretty low on your radar right?

But, here’s the thing..

  • Gossip creates a toxic work environment. Everyone in the office knows who the culprits are and they know that it goes unpunished.
  • Gossip kills productivity. The time spent on staff drama is enormous. People spend hours a day going from office to office sharing the latest juicy story.  And once the story gets back to the victim, there’s a lot of wasted hours in damage control.
  • Gossip can create a hostile work environment creating a potential law suit for an employer. If an employee complains to a supervisor about being the victim of gossip the employer must take some action. They must try to put a stop to it; if they don’t, and if it becomes pervasive and interferes with a person’s ability to do their job, they have legal recourse.

And If That’s Not Enough

  • Gossip causes good employees to resign from positions because they don’t want to make an issue or confront the person doing the gossip. As an employer you aren’t responsible for issues that you aren’t made aware of, but it’s still awful to lose a good employee over gossip.
  • Gossip turns off customers. No one wants to do business in a place where they here constant complaining and gossip. Think about it, have you ever been in the checkout line at the grocery store and the cashier and the bagger are chatting up a storm? First they are ignoring you, but more importantly you are overhearing things you likely don’t want to know and very well shouldn’t hear. Things like “Sally called off last week; I heard she was too hung over to come to work” or “Did you hear that Sam got reprimanded for the way he touched Michelle?” Your customers can and will find other places to do business if they are continually subjected to this.

What The Employer Can Do

As a business owner there are some things you can do to protect your business from gossip.

  • Assume a bully free work environment with a zero tolerance on gossip. Take immediate action when it is brought to your attention. Call all parties into the discussion immediately and stop it.
  • Reward employees for creating positive work environments. Lunch time pizza parties, an after work happy hour are good ideas. Anything that shows your employees that you appreciate their willingness to remain professional and stay away from gossip.

What You Can Do

As an employee you can stop work place gossip.

  • Stop listening. Politely excuse yourself from the situation. Gossip loses power when it loses listeners.
  • Proactively object when you overhear others gossiping in the workplace; if you feel uncomfortable, alert a supervisor in a reasonable amount of time so that it can be addressed.
  • Don’t gossip yourself. Anytime you want to say something about another employee, ask yourself if anything good is going to happen by making the comment. If the answer is no, then don’t say it.

It’s Worth The Effort

As a consultant who is often called in to rebuild staff that has self-destructed from the results of gossip, it is probably in my best interest to keep quiet about this huge threat to businesses. But, in my work I see the damage that is caused. I see the revenues that are lost, the careers that have been derailed,  the destruction in the souls of the individuals.

Don’t think that gossip is harmless. It isn’t, and it can destroy your world. No matter which end of it you’re.