Stop the Gossip

communication trust Jan 12, 2020

“Did you hear about Ann? I heard that she didn’t turn in her project, AGAIN, and made some lame excuse for why she couldn’t get it done.” 

This was the juicy gossip that changed the way I reacted to gossip. 

You see, Ann was a friend of mine, and when I approached a group of other friends, and this was what they were saying, I made a bold move. 

I said, “If you have a concern about Ann’s project, maybe you should ask her about it instead of talking behind her back.” 

And then I turned and walked away. 

As I walked, I felt my ears burning, and I wondered what they were saying about ME at that very moment. 

I felt incredibly awkward and vulnerable, and I assumed that none of those people would be my friends anymore. 

But I also knew that what I had done was right. 


Gossip can be compelling, right? 

Be honest- what do you really do when someone starts to gossip? 

  • Do you participate? 
  • Stay quiet? 
  • Walk away? 
  • Or, set a boundary? 


Recently, I asked you to share some feedback with me about what gets in the way of healthy relationships and trust at work. 

(Thanks to all of you who responded! Your feedback was super helpful!)

One theme that came up repeatedly, is GOSSIP. 


Gossip is generally defined as talking negatively about someone’s personal or private information when they are not there. If it doesn’t have a negative overtone, we may not label it as gossip. 

BUT, gossip- even when the message is not negative- can lead to rumors, which distort information and are TOXIC in any workplace. 

The best bet is to help people speak DIRECTLY TO each other and to encourage people to CONFIRM things they hear (when they need the information) DIRECTLY WITH the SOURCE. 

The guideline I use when I am coaching or consulting people is this: encouraging people to speak directly TO each other about the issues that concern them is always your best bet. 

That includes peer-to-peer, manager-to-employee, AND employee-to-manager. 

(Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but let’s start with the principle, and if you have a unique situation, I’d be happy to discuss it! )


Let’s talk about HOW. 

  • Establish clear and direct expectations on your team about NOT gossiping. Create a ground rule that specifically says, “We don’t gossip or speak poorly about one another. Instead, we express our support and belief in each other.” (Better yet, ask your team to come up with the guidelines… they will probably mention this since most everyone hates gossip and recognizes its cost.)
  • Model and practice interrupting gossip powerfully and positively. Find the words that are right for you, and practice them. It’s not easy, and it will probably be awkward, but preparing in advance will help. 
    • For example, you could say, “I feel uncomfortable when you talk about NAME when they are not here.”
    • Or, “I’m sure you mean well, but I don’t want to talk about NAME. I hope you’ll talk to NAME directly."
    • Or, “We have a guideline about not talking about others. I’m concerned we are crossing that line. Let’s change the subject.” 
  • Create opportunities as a team for sharing concerns
    • Allow time and space for the team to talk about how results compare to expectations, and about how to continuously get better. 
    • If it is clearly expected that our team will consistently strive for improvement, then sharing some of our disappointments and frustrations together can be a part of that process. Make sure it doesn’t get personal. 
  • Finally, focus on positive ways to bond so that gossip won’t feel necessary. 
    • Sharing gossip can make us feel like we are BONDING, which can feel good. Unfortunately, there is collateral damage with gossip. 
    • Bring your team together for regular sharing. 
    • Encourage people to get to know each other. Encourage openness and connection.


Gossip is TOXIC in any workplace and it can destroy the hard work you are doing to build trust. 


Take control of gossip! Don't let it fester. 

If you want help addressing gossip, rumors, silos, in-fighting, or any other challenging team dynamics, enroll in my course, “Building a High Trust Workplace.” It’s FREE until January 28th, so check it out today. CLICK HERE to enroll. 


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