What is gossip and how does a leader address this behavior?
As a school leader I once believed that gossip was just a part of the work environment and my best defense was to ignore. District policy lacked in providing any guidelines to address gossip so I would just lead by example and hope my team would not engage in gossip. Some years later I began to follow Dave Ramsey and in researching his leadership methods I discovered he held a zero tolerance policy when it came to gossip.
What is the most common form of workplace gossip?
Discussing anything negative with someone who can not solve the problem.
Gossip is unfair to everyone in a work environment. It’s unfair to those engaged in the behavior because they are toiling in a problem without any hope of a resolution, which is incredibly stressful. It is unfair for those who overhear the gossip because it stifles their passion, undermines their confidence in your leadership, and negatively impacts their work and productivity. As the leader it is unfair to you because you have not been given an opportunity to address the concern. Therefore it undermines the vision you have for your organization or team.
How does one go about addressing this workplace toxin?
- Define gossip and make it a part of staff development. You must support your team in understanding that complaining to teammates is disloyal and it fosters a negative spirit.
- Ensure that staff understand you are ready and willing to hear their concerns and solve problems, therefore gossip is not productive.
- Give your team the language to use when they are on the receiving end of gossip. “I’m unable to solve this problem, it sounds like this should be directed to_________.”
- Once the problem is directed to you it is imperative to follow through and take appropriate action to solve the problem. If there are other leaders within your team this needs to be calibrated across the team and monitored.
- If a staff member is engaging in gossip handle it as you would with any other policy violation.
The most powerful lesson I learned from Dave Ramsey on gossip is this; “Negatives go up and positives come down.” Commit to taking on the negatives (problems) and make sure to turn them around with positives (solutions). This will shift the workplace mindset and help build a team that acts as the enforcers of your policy.