The Danger of Gossip Within an Organization

Gossip is commonly defined as rumor or talk of a personal, intimate, or sensational nature. Whether or not the gossip is true, it is often toxic, spreading faster than a virus in a kindergarten classroom. Not only does gossip bring down morale, it affects the culture of the organization. Often, those who habitually engage in gossip are passionate about what they are saying but lack the solutions or the power to make positive change happen.

Gossip hampers teamwork, productivity, time management, and employee retention. Additionally, it can cause a great deal of anxiety and promote a negative climate and culture of the organization. This, in turn, is reflected to the public as well as potential quality employees and can ultimately impact a business’ bottom line.

How Do You Stop Gossip in your Organization?

In order to curb gossip once it has started, it is important to be sure that you have established a vision and a mission statement that defines the organizational culture and expectations. If you haven’t done this already, do it immediately. Once the mission statement and expectations for all employees have been established, be sure that everyone, from the top leadership on down knows and understands the expectations. Most importantly, set a personal example that lives up to these standards. By creating a positive culture within your organization and holding everyone accountable to that standard, you are clearly defining who you are as an organization to your staff and your customers.

This “positive culture” can be seen immediately by customers. For example, let’s take a look at the restaurant industry. When you enter a restaurant like Chick-Fil-A, it doesn’t take long to see that the facility is clean, the staff is friendly, and you are taken care of in an expedient fashion. There is an obvious standard in customer care that staff works to maintain.

On the other hand, there are restaurants (I won’t single any out…you know who they are) that you walk into which are dirty, run down, have long wait times for food and have staff who are clearly inattentive or just plain rude. Oftentimes, you can see staff members huddled at the waitress station or cash register muttering about various things. This is an example of business that either hasn’t clearly defined their mission statement and organizational culture, including the treatment of customers, or leadership that has failed to live by or cultivate the positive mission and expectations outlined by the organization.

How Can New Business Owners Avoid Pitfalls that Lead to Gossip and Complaining

Quick answer—don’t hire humans. Just kidding. While you can’t eliminate gossip and negativity entirely, here are some ways to keep it to a minimum:

  1. Focus on a strong, positive foundation—From the onset, have a clearly defined vision and mission statement that definitively describes the culture and values that you expect within the organization. Many leaders are so focused on sales, processes, and finances that they fail to give this step its proper attention.

  2. Reward staff members who reflect these values—Positive reinforcement boosts morale and motivates staff to strive to meet these standards.

  3. Keep lines of communication open—By listening to your employees, you can eliminate the frustration or helplessness that staff sometimes feels when dealing with aloof management and the gossip that often accompanies that frustration. Even if you don’t act on the suggestions, you have given employees a voice and a way to contribute in a meaningful way. As Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, once stated, “It is terribly important for everyone to get involved. Our best ideas come from clerks and stock boys.”

  4. Talk the talk and walk the walk—Leaders who actually lead by positive example have a powerful effect on others. An effective leader inspires others to behave similarly.
 

Whether the perpetrators are top level management, front line employees, or both, gossip and complaining can be toxic and costly to an organization. By clearly defining values and expectations and constantly cultivating a positive culture within your organization, you will boost personal productivity, time management, teamwork, and personal leadership among staff members. This positive culture will naturally attract quality employees who share those values and will ultimately increase your customer base and profitability.

Could your organization benefit from management development, staff or team development, organizational leadership, or business coaching to reach your goals and create a positive climate? Leadership Excellence offers programs tailored to meet your specific needs. Located in the Cleveland, Ohio area, Leadership Excellence has provided leadership development training and keynote speeches to many successful organizations nationwide. Contact us to see how we can help your organization reach its goals.