Who doesn’t love a bit of office gossip?
We get to feel connected to the person we are gossiping with and that feels good.
Usually, the nature of the gossip gives us a fleeting sense of superiority, schadenfreude or entertainment. All of which are a welcome distraction to what’s going on in our head at any point in time.
Gossiping over your first coffee of the day is a lot like having a big iced cupcake loaded with sprinkles with your morning caffeine fix. It feels SO good in the moment, but later you likely feel rotten AND there are longer term consequences.
We accept office Gossip as the norm and it is rife at all levels of the organisation and in all departments. Some people might tell you it’s harmless and even a good way to bond at work.
I am convinced it’s one of the major challenges to effective leadership, good employee relations and productivity. There are many reasons why, but here are the biggest 4.
1. Time. The most obvious reason. I would love to know the actual figure that is weekly time spent gossiping for a typical team of 10, in busy season. This is the added time of gossiping:
in person at the coffee machine or in whispers over the desk
via direct messenger online
in whatsapp colleague groups
I’m genuinely fascinated in knowing what this number is, I think it runs to hours.
2. Relationships built on gossip aren’t solid rarely feel authentically 'close'. Have you ever gossiped with someone and then wondered if they gossiped about you? Because you didn’t really trust them then. Do you have a friend with whom, when you come together it is only ever to gossip because that’s all you have to talk about really? Think about it says about you and the relationships you have with others if the relationships you have are based on gossip rather than any kind of close connection. Are these the kind of relationships you actively choose for yourself?
3. Impact on feedback culture. We tell people other than the person who actually would need to hear the feedback, what it is we would like to say. This is not only disrespectful but a huge barrier to team growth and development. Ever tried giving impartial, balanced, fact based feedback to someone who you know would really need it from you, after talking about them in a non-balanced, opinion heavy way to another colleague? I bet you haven’t because it is excruciating and makes you feel like a terrible person, so it’s better to go with the opinion shared in the gossip and label the subject of your gossip as ‘difficult to work with’, ‘lazy’, or ‘not a great leader’.
4. Lost opportunity for self-reflection. Much office gossip comes from a place of fear or inadequacy - we gossip about that team member who just got promoted and whom our boss clearly, really values. Rather than ask ourselves what we could learn from her performance and how she shows up, we separate ourselves from being like her by gossiping about how she's a 'bit too much' or she's a brown-noser. You only want to gossip about her because you wish you had been promoted too and you wish someone would see how much you have to contribute too. When you whisper over your desk to another colleague who also perceives that your newly promoted colleague has dimmed his light, you strengthen an opinion which makes you feel more comfortable about what’s really going on: ‘She’s a right old Toad’ feels good in that moment. This shuts down your own opportunity for reflection and growth. She’s wrong, you’re right. It feels much better to gossip than it does to buckle down and up your own ante.
What would your team look like if you made your office a gossip free zone? As a leader yourself, you can do that today, by respectfully disengaging from gossip yourself. It starts today, and with you.
Committed to upping your team's vibe and going gossip free? I've got you! Shoot me a message to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will set up your free consultation today. Just you and me. In my online meeting room. Talking strategy.