The End of Gossip
Leadership is relational. Plans and programs shrivel compared to the relationships you create, nurture, or tolerate. Organizations are only as strong as the relationships that hold them together.
Gossip weakens and destroys relationships.
Gossip is about power.
Those without power, gossip to get power.
Manipulation, twisting truths, and speculation are symptoms of feeling powerless.
Leaders inspire gossip when they:
- Tolerate it.
- Withhold information.
- Avoid difficult conversations.
- Avoid taboo topics. Fearful leaders build fearful organizations filled with speculative gossip.
- Speculate about motivations rather than dealing with behaviors.
Secrets invite gossip; information kills it.
Trust, transparency, and candor end gossip.
Ask, “What can’t we share?”
Fear of transparency indicates inequities, favoritism, and protectionism within organizations. The good ole boy’s club rules.
Default toward transparency:
Assume everything is public until someone says it isn’t.
After conversations, ask, “What was said that can’t be repeated?” Build cultures where openness is the rule not the exception. Constituents and partners have the right to expect transparency.
Principles of communication:
The guideline for all conversation is usefulness. If it doesn’t serve a useful purpose, don’t say it. Before speaking, simply ask, “Is it useful?” Does it:
- Create or strengthen connection.
- Express values.
- Align with mission and vision.
- Demonstrate respect.
Don’t create information overload by sharing everything, prioritize according to usefulness.
The goal for all conversations is building-up. Even when tearing down, building-up must be the ultimate goal. Every word you say must be for the good of your organization and everyone in it.
The direction of all conversations is the future, even when addressing the past. What future are your words creating?
What is uncomfortable about transparency and candor?
What are the limits of transparency and candor?
I could say SO much about this topic. I’m practicing extreme restraint here. I want points for that. 🙂
Thanks Dauna. I was thinking about the “withhold your words” side of this topic. Glad you brought it up, by example. 🙂
Great thought provoking stuff!!!
One HUGE thingy on my wish list Dan is to go to Barry Wehmillers class on Communication.
They are getting results so far off the charts from the norm. Just feel I could learn a whole lot from them. Hope one day I get to go, that would be cool Beavis.
For me in life there is a body of thought, theoretical, then real life.
In theory, fantasy land…all why’s are connected. All Gods chillin working and talking and grooving to the same tune!!! Pure Imagination is a cool tune!!! Google it and watch Gene Wilder sing it as Willy Wonka!!! Marvelous!!!
Everyone honest as the day is long, cooperating, not competing. Kids fed, not dying from thirst or hunger. We gots enough food and water, what’s up with our distribution? No wars, operating completely from love, not fear. Yeah heaven on earth.
So the Lightworkers are working on it, making progress!!! Horray progress!!! Till all the illusions of the ego are found to be illusions there will still be work to do. Lightworkers are cool! 4th Dimension goal, service to others, worthy!!!
Anyways communication is different for each and works in an agreed upon fashion from the participants. What is their agreement? Lie to each others face when talking like everything is cool when talking and do the direct opposite when apart? I got some agreements just like that, you?
I got some great open honest to the bone agreements too! I like them better and strive to bring all my communication agreements to be more like those. Tough when only one wants this. Actually I find it impossible.
So all in all AA Big Book says there is some of the best in the worst of us and some of the worst in the best. I have found this to be true.
So I am gonna tread lightly on the judgement of Gods other kids and their communication agreements.
Gonna continue in the now to be as present as I can be. Judge not cause that is how I am judged. (Thanks emmett fox for explaining that in a way I could grasp it)
Now once I commit to this it is enormously more difficult than it sounds. Funny how commitments all seem to work that way.
Sounds glorious when I say I will DO! Hard when I gotta DO! Darn isn’t it saying it enough?
Dr Paul one of the writers of a story in the Big Book says acceptance is the key. I got a choice all day long to be right or happy!! Happy rocks when I choose it!
He also wrote this great stuff about dealing with other people. He said work to be an Interested Observer! I been practicing that lately in the present and it works just great!!!
I notice without my unrequested assistance and commentary and requests and demands the world just hums right along.
I am just happier as an Interested Observer is all.
You might try it and see how it works for you.
SP back to the present, NOW
Thanks Scott! I appreciate your passion.
I appreciate your appreciation
Those without power, gossip to get power. This is really powerful statement. It prevails in many organizations. It is much prevalent in weak organizations where people are more fearful. They engage in gossiping in order to protect themselves. Where top management engage into gossiping, it sends strong signal to lower level employees to engage into gossiping. It spreads like virus and people are more careful about protecting their image. And in order to protect their, they gossip to damage others image. And eventually, it becomes infectious cycle of gossiping. Leaders should be aware about such symptoms. To overcome this, they should come forward to accept responsibilities and encourage to take responsibilities. They should also reward candid opinion, candor and right behavior.
When people are more critical about organizations, then transparency and candor could be uncomfortable. So, management should discuss, debate and win others trust before being transparent.
Any transparency that can damage the organizational image should be avoided. Organizational interest should be at the top while showing and understanding limits of transparency.
Thanks Ajay. I appreciate your insights.
Thanks for emphasizing trust as the first and most important component of transparency and candor. Candor without trust can be very harmful. Interestingly, it’s hard to build trust without candor. Perhaps candor during trust-building is saying, “I’m working to build trust.”
Since I am not in management, it is fascinating to read the replies of some of the leaders. I really appreciated your comments Ajay – it speaks to the root cause of gossip in organizations.
This is a topic dear to my heart. Gossip can do so much damage. I am in a work situation where my leader inspires gossip and secrets and speculation. It is tough.
I hear you. Been there. It eats at your psyche.
Thanks Marsha and best wishes for the future.
Fantastic! Bravo! I simply love this statement – “Secrets invite gossip; information kills it.”
This sums up your whole article…
How many leaders actually comprehend and pursue this this approach? Wishful thinking, perhaps?
Thanks O. I think the approach of transparency and candor is easier than we think. However, power hungry leaders reject candor every time.
Gossip is like roaches….here since the beginning of time and not going ANYWHERE. I think the best thing we can do is not be repositories for it. We should have a reputation that says “I don’t share it, spread it or listen to it.” At my former employer they had a policy on gossip….
A gossip policy. Wow! Love it.
Yeah…they actually fired someone for violating it.
Great thoughts Dan. I love what you said that leaders should “Assume everything is public until someone says it isn’t.” I blog on leadership and very glad I found your blog — very thought provoking.
I’m working toward that approach. It’s important to check with people by asking, “What has been said in this room that needs to stay i this room.” Also, assuming everything is public doesn’t mean we go around sharing everything, all the time. That’s just dumb.
GOSSIP can be the end all…Very bad stuff. ; O(
Honesty, openness and transparency are actually a lot easier, because you don’t have to remember as much, and you get to feel good about yourself. In business, transparency breeds trust, and trust breeds customers. But really, in all of life, honesty is the best policy and it’s diametrically opposed to gossip.
Great post, Thumbs up!
Agree! Honesty, openness, and transparency are easier… They build security and stability. Trouble is, they also undermine traditionally power structures where knowledge/information are horded by the powerful in order to maintain their power.
This is so true , I worked in a company where the manager was not only a gossiper but also she was in a club called themselves ” the lairs club” where they meet every week and each one should come up with the best lie about someone and then spread it ,very immature, of course I did not have any respect to this women who started lies about me and when I tried to do some about it she used her power against me, she never kept any of the customer’s confidential info she always talked about them and some to make her stories exciting to others who shared her gossip. I am glad I am out” gold never rust and so are genuine people, you can’t tarnish a genuine person reputation” MARY COSTANDI
Thanks Mary. What a sad story.
Brilliant! I especially like “After conversations, ask, ‘What was said that can’t be repeated?’ Build cultures where openness is the rule not the exception.”
Really liked this, thank you.
Simple Should I Talk Test:
1. Is it TRUE? (100% sure it is true?)
2. Is it NECESSARY (is this worth mentioning/deal with or no)?
3. Is it BENEFICIAL? (Am I going to source or one who is at the root of this, offering a way to redemption or merely piling on?)
Great conversation generator Dan. What a relevant topic to discuss in the business world. So often we attribute “gossip” to young high schoolers or old ladies- I think the more we discuss gossip in terms of business, the more we have a chance of helping individuals step away from it.
Your direction to thinking about the intent of every interaction also really stands out to me- it should always be about building up! I appreciate you connecting the idea of avoiding gossip and igniting human potential!
Danielle Elizabeth Aaronson
It can be so easy to fall into leading people to gossip, even if you are not that kind of person. I met a man once whom because of not being sure what to do withheld valuable information from his employees and that created an awful working environment because of the uncertainty people had. Like you said: “Secrets invite gossip; information kills it.”
Thank you for this, especially for someone in what I call “cubeopolis” – aka cubicle setting. Usefulness … YES! Choosing to have meaningful interactions is important.
On a somewhat lighter note, my colleagues know I have a “whisper-free” zone – my cubicle (and any meeting I am in, even) … and I have a few other things to encourage people (and/or create a setting) to consider their choices/options for dialogue, affect their behavior, and simply be more self-aware.
Time to share your post to add to food for thought. Thank you again.
I believe that to this day, Coca Cola’s formula is kept secret. That is the extreme limit of transparency: keeping secret would jeopardize the organization’s competitive edge. On the other hand, not everything is of interest or necessary to the good performance of a work team. The work environment being non-static and involving all kinds of human interactions – good or bad, and with gossip weighing heavily on the bad side – it is up to the leader to make the mingling work with the right dose of openness and transparency, all in an effort to build trust and harmonious relations.
“Every word you say must be for the good of your organization and everyone in it”. Love that part. Great article! Thanks, Dan
This is some great stuff. Fear is at the root of gossip. Fear is both the chicken and the egg of suffering. The source of all the worlds suffering, is the suffering mind.