Gossip… What a powerfully destructive word; yet it seems to be a mainstay in the way many people converse in the workplace, at home, and in their relationships. You’ve experienced it… during your breaks at work; engaging in, listening to, or overhearing gossip about your boss, co-workers, the projects, and all of the decisions you think are stupid. Only to return home or close your laptop and share it all over again with your significant other, family, and friends. Or, you leave your friends… and it’s seemingly more natural to gossip about the people rather than smile and recap the positives of the night. That’s the problem with gossip… it tends to only deal with the negatives or perceived negatives, it prevents us from truly enjoying and valuing our job, our work, or relationships because over weeks, months, years, and decades of us talking poorly about them… it’s hard to love them and give them our all. Lastly, gossiping negatively impacts your reputation as a leader and may significantly erode your chances of advancement at work. What’s negatively said and heard rarely gets forgotten and can unwittingly keep you stuck professionally. So, what to do? Here are 4 Ways to attack gossip and block the gossiping of others!
As a leader, you will have your good days and tough days. I don’t like saying “Bad Days”’ as this world consists of roughly 7 billion people and more than half of them would trade places with you right now; gladly taking what you call a “Bad Day”! Be Mindful to openly discuss and gossip about the good you see in the organization, your team, your people, and co-workers. Let people overhear you saying something great about others and let that “Good Gossip” travel as fast as the bad gossip! It’s amazing how it hits your employees, your boss, your husband, or wife that you were talking good about them. As a professional speaker, it’s one of the compliments I get and am most proud of… “I love the way you talk about your wife!”. The audience likes hearing my “Good Gossip” and honestly… it’s hard to speak positively and lovingly about someone or something all day then go home and not like them. Your words are powerful… Be Mindful!
The second big point is… on those “Tough Days”, Be Mindful of who, when, and where you choose to vent! This cannot be understated; I shared about this in my book, 7 ways to Lead, and in my Leadership Trainings. Be sure your venting is people-limited, time-limited, purposeful… and done in the right setting.
Early on in my leadership career, I experienced organizational change. A new boss came in, the organization had new standards… not better standards, just new, and everything I loved about the job and profession seemingly disappeared in a year’s time. I went from being one of the best employees to one of the worst. One day, I was in my office loudly gossiping, venting, and using a few choice words I won’t share here… it was my younger years sorry to say! A week later, I was called into my boss’s office. As I entered, I saw my boss and someone I was told was from corporate sitting alongside him. Long story short, they shared the incident of my gossiping and venting in my office and others had heard, that it wasn’t acceptable, and couldn’t happen again. I had an array of feelings swirling from anger, resentment as to why my boss didn’t come to me first, frustration regarding how much I’ve done and given the company, but most importantly peace… Peace in knowing they were right, I handled the gossip and venting immaturely, and although I’d prefer the situation to go another way… the tough conversation had to occur for them to instill their new vision, expectations, rules, and get the right people in the right seats and the wrong people off the bus. The ball was in my court!
My point is… Be Mindful of who you’re venting with, when you’re venting, where you’re venting, and why you’re venting. Leaders are human too and venting will happen from time to time and now you know how to do it. Gossiping is the opposite and doesn’t have to happen; when you do decide to engage; make it “Good Gossip” and let that spread around… believe me, you won’t be on the wrong end of a “Tough Conversation” when that’s the case! A leader who engages in the bad gossip breaks the trust of their team, loses their team, encourages the behavior, and will tend to get the bare minimum from their people; manufacturing other gossipers and cliques.
You may not be the gossiper, but what will you do when gossip comes your way… and it will? Every job has its Negative Nicks and Nancys and they want to talk to YOU! They’ll share their story of woe about things, people, and decisions they don’t like at work or in their personal lives… and will speak for as long as you’re willing to listen. Saying nothing doesn’t make you innocent… you have become just as much a part of the problem; just like the Get-Away Driver that didn’t shoot anyone or steal anything! So, what to do?
The Bold Approach
A Gossiper starts their teardown of the company, team, or person and you say… “I hear you; I’m glad I’m not in ______________ position. They have tough decisions to make and probably didn’t even fully like or agree with this one and still have to deliver it with us with a smile.”… and walk away!!! I’ve used this in my employee days with co-workers and many of them simply looked at me, nodded their heads, and said “hmmm”. That’s what I call an “Eye-Brow Raising Moment”. How many will you deliver as a professional… remember, leaders, can be anyone in the organization… why not you?
The Subtle Approach
I’ve done this one as well. A Gossiper starts their teardown of the company, team, or person and in mid-sentence, I’d say, “I’m sorry, excuse me, I have to get something from the printer (or whatever/wherever) I’ll be back”…. and never come back, Lol! The point is to get away from the drama, negativity, and gossip to protect your sanity, your professionalism, and your leadership as your name will not pop up in the gossip and garbage!
The Gossip Choice
We all have three choices when it comes to the urge to gossip. You and I are human and will be faced with it daily, professionally, personally, and your Leadership & Work/Life Harmony depends on the choices you consistently make.
Vent & Initiate – Be sure your venting is people-limited, time-limited, purposeful, and with a plan to initiate a new and positive way to address the issue. One of my BIG Rules is to please accompany your problem with a suggested solution! We may go with your solution, fine-tune it to address the bigger picture, or I may challenge you to better fit your idea into the Vision and Bigger-Picture of the team and organization. So, what’s your suggested solution?
Vent & Accept – Vent appropriately and see the writing on the wall. In the example I shared earlier about being called into my boss’s office; I saw that nothing was going to change and inevitably become worse. Although I was wrong about how I said my gossip and who I said it to… I was right about the problems and instead of corporate addressing the problems, the processes, and interviewing their people; they were full speed ahead on what I disagreed with. Therefore, I had a choice and you have a choice to vent like a leader and either accept what is, adjust, and stay. Or, accept what is, prepare, and move on to a job or profession more suitable to your vision. There’s no sense arguing and being a cog in the system when you know you’re leaving and will most likely need a letter of recommendation!
Vent & Evolve – This isn’t for everyone, but some leaders and employees desire to have their own, start their own, and be their own boss one day. What a great position you’re in to enhance your craft and superpower, learn what to do, what not to do, vent appropriately, and evolve as you prepare to begin your own business. This option provides so much clarity as you get to fully utilize your good and bad experiences from the job you dislike… and it also offers more appreciation and understanding about all the bosses, employees, projects, and changes you gossiped about! The gift of being on both sides tends to assist your professional and personal evolution!
My expectation in my business is simple… Positivity & Productivity. I only hire or outsource individuals that are positive in mindset and language, a joy to work with, energetic, great at their job, intuitive, proactive, and produce toward the vision. Gossip and negative talk have NO place in what I just described. Your team or organization may be in need of a Reset of what is expected, respected, and accepted; however, it only sticks when you model it and consequence it. Enjoy the journey and your new look on A Leader’s Gossip!
“Let people overhear you saying something great about others and let that “Good Gossip” travel as fast as the bad gossip!”
– Andre Young
Written by: Andre Young
Click www.youevolvingnow.com to find out more about Andre Young’s Leadership & Work/Life Harmony Trainings, Speaking Engagements, Books, and more; evolving your organization, your leaders, employees, and teams!