Gossip, The Silent Killer of Business

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.



Share your thoughts:


  1. Kate

    This is such a clarifying article. I have been struggling at my job because I am the victim of workplace gossip.
    I even had to take a sick leave because it was so intense. What started off as whispering turned into out right lying and soon it was the silent treatment. Nothing was being done at all by my Manager. It is now so out of control that new employees are being trained not to listen to a word I say or do anything the way I do it. I going to present this article to my boss and HR. Thank you for recognizing the severe impact on this problem.

    • Cynthia

      Kate, I’m very sorry you are dealing with this situation. I hope that you find resolution. If you do not, just keep in mind that there are healthy work cultures out there. If this one proves to be toxic without resolution, it may be time to consider looking elsewhere. Your peace of mind and your well being are the most important factors. Good Luck.

  2. Victoria

    This was a great article. I am dealing with this right now by just not speaking to any staff members and focusing on my work from the minute I get in until the minute I leave. An exiting employee told me I was being watched by EVERYONE. My manager’s style is “management by gossip.” I want to report her to the home office. What should I do?

    • Cynthia

      Victoria, Gossip is especially bad when the manager is involved. It undermines productivity on several levels. I don’t know enough about your company size or culture to suggest you go over the manager’s head; but I do think you can take steps to avoid the ramifications that gossip is having on you personally. First, don’t ever, under any circumstances engage in it yourself. Second,, stop and think about the gossip that is happening. Is it personal gossip or professional gossip? I mean, are they sharing things about people’s personal lives or are they saying things about work performance? If it is personal it is perhaps possible to just ignore it; if it is professional it could be detrimental to a career so you need to stand up for the truth if it involves you or someone you can speak for with first hand information. Third, consider whether the job is worth the stress that you are forced to deal with. Sometimes gossip is so infused in a company from the top to the bottom that the only way out of it is to leave. You have much to consider and I’m not in a position to tell you what to do. I just want you to step back, look at the situation and do what you feel is best. I had a client once who asked me to step in and resolve this in his small company; but what I found after two months was that the owner himself was a chief initiator in the problem. And that isn’t something that will change. So you have to assess your situation and act accordingly. Good luck.

  3. Kate

    I came across a good term used to describe some of the “ganging up” behaviours associated with workplace gossip. Have you ever heard of “mobbing”? I did end up presenting your article as well as one in mobbing to my manager and HR. Our department recently completed a workshop on team building. Perceived as a joke to most…hopefully an eye opener to my boss.

    • Cynthia

      That’s kind of sad, that it was perceived as a joke to most. But, if it gets through to even one or two people, then it was worth the effort. And I have not heard the term mobbing, but it sounds like it fits. 🙂

  4. Casey

    I am in the same boat as Kate above.
    You hit the nail on this! I am a victim of gossip at work and it is exactly what you said, BULLYING! The sad part of it is that I really love what I do, but It is becoming unbearable to come to work! Everything you said in this article is 100% true! It has gotten so bad that I am currently looking for another position. I have gone to my boss on several occasions, but nothing is done about it. The hardest part of it all is that I have complete and total respect for my boss and these people are hurting him and his company. They have him convinced that I have somehow hurt the company, when in fact it is them who are hurting it. The craziest thing about this that the “HR” person in the company is the ring leader and has told other employees confidential information such as “how much I get paid”! And, this is the reason for all of the gossip and why I am not liked. I have never seen such unprofessional behavior in my life and as much as I love what I do, I am not sure if I can continue to work in such an environment.

  5. Cynthia

    It is unfortunate that so many employees find themselves dealing with this issue on a regular basis. If only more business owners and HR professionals would recognize the impact that it has not only on the emotional well-being of staff members, but on the bottom line. I wish you all luck as you navigate this messy path.

  6. sally

    I’m currently dealing with sever gossip in my work place. It has gotten to the point that I have talked to both my manager and district manager and it is in their hands now. But I cant help but feel hope less when I am given rude remarks and rolling of eyes by the corporate and their right hand. I want to ignore it all but I need to learn how to work through this. I do love my job and enjoy it and know that I can make a career of this. Can you give me some tips on how to come out this still positive. Thanks.

    • Cynthia

      Hi Sally,
      If you email me at [email protected] I would be happy to chat with you about your particular situation. I need a few more details to help you though. So, send me an email and I will respond with some questions. Hopefully together we can navigate you through this storm.