Everyone loves to gossip, but nobody likes to admit they do. It’s a fact. And I don’t care if you’re shaking your head right now.
Understand the true definition of gossip as per the dictionary:
- a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others
- rumour or report of an intimate nature
- a chatty talk
If that sounds normal to you, it is. Having a ‘chat’ or ‘sharing information’ has been one of the fundamental ways we have communicated for ages. It’s part of our nature. And that’s okay.
What’s not okay is when those casual chats become a way for people to disclose or divulge information that’s either inaccurate or based on one’s judgment. Gossip has a way to get viral for all the wrong reasons, and that’s not cool.
I’ve seen capable people getting discouraged and leaving companies because there was a miscommunication somewhere, the genesis of which was gossip. Sure, these folks lacked ego strength, but then, not everyone’s made the same.
As a leader, it’s essential to evaluate both the nature and consequences of these harmless conversations. Because they can ruin the company culture faster than anything else, you can’t afford to have your best people leave because a clown chose to gossip about someone with another clown.
It’s essential to identify the source and take action immediately. You can consider the following route:
- Confront the source and clarify the intent.
- Facilitate a meeting with all parties involved in the gossip. This can get ugly, but it’s better this way and sends a strong message across the team about your stance on “the story” or other stupid distractions.
- Reiterate the expectations before concluding this meeting.
I know the above is confrontational, and most leaders I know aren’t comfortable with these meetings. They would rather have a one-on-one meeting with the parties involved than a team discussion that addresses the issue head-on.
As a leader, you are the culture custodian, and the onus is on you to take these conversations seriously. And you do this by acting on it with the right intensity. Anything less undermines your leadership and ability to take a stance when it matters the most.
Am I suggesting that you should fire these folks? Of course, not! But I want you to consider that option, should a situation arise. Because ignorance and hoping that something like this will go away or get better will time is a recipe for disaster.
Is that a risk worth taking?