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Oct 26, 201707:05 AMOpen Mic

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3 simple steps to prevent gossip from infiltrating your office

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Work gossip. Some of us participate in it, and most of us see it as a relatively harmless reality of working in an office. The truth is, gossip has the power to dismantle even the best teams and keep good teams from becoming truly great. Here’s why work gossip is bad news.

It allows mistrust to grow. When you start talking about coworkers instead of talking to them, you begin to see and assume the worst about their behavior. One of the hallmarks of a great team is assuming positive intent. This is the idea that we should assume that our teammates have a good reason for what they’re doing or what they’ve asked of us. When gossip spreads, your team will begin to do the complete opposite. Teammates will begin to assume that other individuals and groups have secret or ulterior motives for decisions, and they’ll fuel these suspicions with more gossip. Gossip makes it easy for a vicious cycle of mistrust and suspicion to take root and grow quickly within your team.

Your team will split into warring factions. It’s typical for teams to have smaller sub-groups within them — these are usually teammates who work together closely on projects. The types of sub-groups are fine if there’s a clear business purpose behind them. But sub-groups will begin to see each other as enemies when gossip is tolerated. On great teams, individuals see the team’s success as their own success. On a team with gossip and warring factions, groups and individuals view success as a zero-sum game. People will see start to see the success of another “faction” as detrimental to their own. Cohesion and a true team mentality aren’t possible on a team that gossips.

You won’t have the tough (and necessary) conversations. Talking about co-workers behind their backs is a habit that allows us to avoid conflict. However, open conflict and disagreement are at the heart of the world’s best teams. In fact, in our research on hundreds of teams, the highest-performing teams (when compared to low-performing teams) are:

  • 106 times more likely to give each other tough feedback.
  • 50 times more likely to openly discuss conflict when it arises.

If you gossip or tolerate gossip from your teammates, your team will never have the tough conversations that make it possible to push through major challenges and grow.


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