It can destroy even the most lean, agile teams. We all have heard it. Perhaps we have even been the instigator. What is it? Harmful, negative gossip. This type of chatter is toxic and undermines the stability of otherwise fiduciary relationships and enjoyable work environments. Unfortunately, many enjoy listening to or promoting it. That is, until its derogatory effects are felt personally. In short, some can dish it out, but become incensed if they become the topic of conversation.
Instead of propagating negative talk, be the promoter of Positive Gossip. Be a proponent of honest, upbuilding chatter. What successes have occurred recently on the team? Who are responsible for the success? There is a powerful positive effect on organizations when the tendency of team members lean toward genuinely mentioning good things that co-workers are involved in and letting it be known that you appreciate what they are accomplishing. There is no need to leave this up to management alone. Each individual at every level can be a contributor to the ‘forces of good’. Recognize the positive behaviors or outstanding performance of others and commend them.
However, if someone insist on negative gossip, try these suggestions:
- Ask the gossiper; “If you were in their shoes [i.e. the person they are gossiping about], how would you want to be helped?”
- Acknowledge that their may be a problem, then comment on a good quality of the one being negatively gossiped about.
- Ask the gossiper; “What can we do to fix the situation going forward AND help the person [i.e. the person they are gossiping about.]”
- On a different occasion, share positive gossip you may have heard about them from the person they are negatively gossiping about [e.g. “Hey Tom, Mary really appreciated your comments at yesterdays meeting. She said you were spot on!”] This approach may change the negative gossipers perspective of the person they are gossiping about.
Ultimately, gossip, wether positive or negative will impact the culture of the work place. So, how do you want to be remembered? As one who instigated division within the team with negative gossip or as a a person that unified the team with positive gossip?
Focus on the positive. Perhaps others will do the same for you!