Joseph and Sally, co-workers at Software Solutions, were walking to the break-room and overheard the managers in their meeting talking about bringing in an outside vendor to market a new product line. Sally gasped, “Oh no! Then what is going to happen to Maria, Michael and Anthony in the marketing department? Do you think they are getting rid of the in-house marketing team?”
Joseph said, “I’m not sure, but someone from accounting said they saw Maria crying in the bathroom.”
Sally replies, “well, we have our all-employee meeting Friday and I wonder if this is the big announcement management has been talking about?”
Rumors start spreading and quickly the whole office is whispering about whether Maria, Michael and Anthony will be getting their final checks on Friday. Everyone is hovering around Maria and Michael’s offices trying to get the scoop on what is going on. Maria begins to actively look for other employment and Anthony is contemplating what to do. Meanwhile, Michael begins to point out a few mistakes he has found in Maria’s work to the boss and casually mentions he thinks Maria might be seeking other employment.
Friday morning arrives and the human resources director begins the all-employee meeting with an introduction to a new outside vendor, Market Pantry. The company has decided to add a new “employee perk” and Market Pantry will be coming in once a week to display their new organic line of food products with a chef to cook the entire staff lunch every Friday for the next quarter as a way of saying thank you to all the employees for working so hard this year.
How productive do you think the team in this story was that week? Are you surprised that none of the “affected” employees went directly to their manager to get a better understanding of what was happening before assuming the rumors were true? Does it amaze you how quickly one rumor can throw an entire office into an uproar and possibly destroy a career and/or a company?
All too often, we pay attention to others perceptions and conclusions of a situation or an event . . . . even though they were not present during the situation or event they are reporting.
This could be called “gossip” – defined by Dictionary.com as “idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others.” For some, “gossip” refers only to malicious or actionable talk about someone beyond the person’s hearing; while others believe that gossip involves untrue tales and still others believe gossip can include truthful remarks.
So, what is gossip?
“My name is Gossip. I have no respect for justice.
I maim without killing. I break hearts and ruin lives.
I am cunning and malicious and gather strength with age.
The more I am quoted the more I am believed.
My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face.
To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become.
I am nobody’s friend.
Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same.
I topple governments and wreck marriages.
I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartaches and indigestion.
I make innocent people cry in their pillows.
Even my name hisses. I am called Gossip.
I make headaches, headlines and hearts ache.”
It’s human nature to gossip. We talk. All of us do this. Many believe it’s about relationship building and connecting. Others take a firm stance that “talking behind someone’s back” is always gossip.
So, where’s the line?
Before you answer, you may want to check out these two resources:
The first is a study by the Georgia Institute of Technology entitled: Have You Heard?: How Gossip Flows Through Workplace Email. This study examines the effects of gossip in the modern workplace and this surprising data includes emails that had an impact on Enron’s collapse.
The second is a YouTube video “Are You Willing To End Gossip”. This video visually portrays what gossip is, what it does (destructive and scary!!) and what you can do to overcome your urge to gossip.
Where do YOU draw the line on gossip?
It all depends upon what you want to have in your workplace. It’s a “behind the back” choice to:
#1 – Establish a work environment that gives team members High 5’s behind their backs
#2 – Establish a work environment that tolerates slander of team members behind their backs
Which choice, #1 or #2, do you prefer?
Your Partner in Alignment,
Need to stop the gossip and change the culture at your workplace? Get help today!