A wise person once said great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.
If people are often the object of negative discussion in your workplace, it has become infested with productivity-sapping gossip.
Research from CareerBuilder found 42 percent of employers ranked gossip as the second highest time-waster behind cell phone use and texting.
Investing in office gossip provides the diminishing returns of workplace dissension and a climate of distrust. It degrades the gossiper, who is taken less seriously or viewed as divisive, and the object of the gossip, whose professional or personal reputation is being assaulted.
Gossip can break the spirit of employees, alienating them from their colleagues, eroding their morale and undermining them in the eyes of their supervisors. The energy spent extinguishing rumors can be better spent meeting workplace goals.
Participating in gossip may seem like fun until you consider the obvious: where gossip flourishes, no one is immune to being a target. Not even you.
You can take simple steps to stem the flow of negative gossip in your workplace.
Keep it positive. When someone tries to spread toxic gossip about a colleague, play the contrarian by citing an example of that individual’s assets and achievements. Negative gossip needs a receptive host and cannot spread amid affirmation. Spreading positive gossip short-circuits negative energy and helps create a supportive environment.
Change the subject. Remember the mantra about great minds. Focus on ideas and innovation and the challenges at hand. If you see a gossip circle up ahead, move along—nothing to see there. If you find yourself in the company of gossipers, a well-placed compliment—who can resist one?—can derail the negative train. Without preaching or judgment, make it clear you’re too busy to revel in rumors.
Lead by example. If you’re a manager, avoid partaking of the negative gossip mill. Accentuating the positive, avoiding favoritism and providing honest and constructive criticism are effective ways to nurture an environment of trust and professionalism. Open dialogue and mutual respect between manager and workers can be as contagious as gossip.
Value collegiality. Treat your coworkers the way you’d want to be treated. Don’t be swayed by negative gossip. Draw your own conclusions about a colleague’s worth and character. You may learn to value their contributions, or even come to rely on them. Rather than backbiting, the best teams watch each other’s back.
Loose lips sink careers. At least one study has shown individuals who spread negative gossip most are liked less and perceived as less powerful than those who gossiped less. Negative gossip tarnishes the vessel that carries it, undermining the gossiper as much as the object of their dirt dishing.
Stop spreading the news. It has been said gossip dies at a wise individual’s ears. Be that wise man or wise woman. Make a commitment to stop negative gossip at the one source you can control: yourself.
Negative gossip is the enemy of a cohesive workplace. Where office gossip is concerned, it’s best to follow the old bromide: if it’s not your business, don’t spread it.