Office gossip

Humans gossipped before we figured out fire, housing or farming. It’s built into our culture and possibly our DNA.

Gossip informs culture and can influence connection and hierarchies. And in many communities, it’s destructive.

If office gossip is benefitting you and the people you work with, good for you. But if office gossip is leading to stress, turnover or low satisfaction, it might be time to do something about it.

Two suggestions:

The first is a simple boundary. Don’t talk about anyone on the team unless they’re in the room.

This is simple to say and surprisingly difficult to do. Talking about people behind their back is built into the practice of management. It’s also the main sport of the water cooler and the fuel for gossip.

One boss meets with another boss to talk about an employee. And now there’s a reason to gossip and wonder.

With Zoom calls transcending space and time, there’s no longer a logistical reason to leave someone out. And you can adopt the posture that if it’s worth talking about someone, it’s worth including the person being talked about.

Once this becomes your practice, it gets more difficult to speculate about what was said, because nothing was said.

The second, which can’t work until you’ve consistently done the first, is to challenge office gossip at every turn. Thriving DM traffic on your Slack, cliques in the lunchroom–these undermine the organization you’re building. You wouldn’t tolerate people stealing petty cash or telling off your customers… the culture becomes what you tolerate.

Gossip won’t disappear. It can’t. But making it clear to the high performers that things aren’t like that around here–and meaning it–sends a message about the focus and culture of the team you’re working so hard to build.