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The Toxicity Of Gossip.

Keep The Workplace Free From Poisonous Chatter.


Gossip couple
Image via Getty Images

We're well into 2013 now.

A new year. But, the same old problems everywhere you look.

One of the biggest is gossip. Chinwagging. Chit-chat. Tittle-tattle. Call it what you will, it's really destructive. And yet it is the downfall of morale in every ad agency and in house department around the globe.

You cannot eliminate it completely. That task is one even the most hardcore HR manager would have trouble doing. But you can help to reduce the impact of it greatly, if you know what to look for and how to deal with it.

Now, by gossip this is not an attack on discussing a cool viral ad, commercial or TV show you saw in the past week. It's not reviews on restaurants you visited, or books you've just read. It's not stopping people slating badradio ads, or billboards. This is not a campaign to eliminate water cooler chats and general non work-related conversations. Those are good for morale, and help people bond. No, this is about one thing, and one thing only - malicious talk other people.

Why Is Gossip So Bad?

The biggest problem is that half the time, it's just not true. Like most gossip, there may be elements of truth in some of it. But a half-truth wrapped in something that sounds like accurate reporting can be very dangerous. People get hurt. Friends become enemies. The smooth-sailing ship hits stormy waters. And by and large, trust goes out of the window.

As human beings, most of us want to know what's going on with the people around us. We also love a little drama. So when we hear a rumor that the creative director is about to get fired, or the account manager has been sleeping with the client, we cannot help but stick our noses in and add a little fuel to the fire.

This is not helpful. At all. It's not only a waste of time, it's destructive.

As mentioned earlier, truth is in short supply when it comes to gossip. Maybe someone overheard the CEO saying something negative about the creative director, and through long games of telephone, that dislike became an imminent firing. Maybe the account manager and the client were seen laughing together in the corner of an agency party, and that became an affair. It's hard to tell.

But here's the thing. Even if it's 100% true, gossiping about it does nothing for anyone. There are always consequences to people's actions, and sooner or later (usually later in today's litigious society) those actions catch up with the people involved.

Gossip, it just degrades the people being talked about, and the people involved in the chit-chat. We're professionals. We have better things to do with our time than to engage in whispered conversations near the coffee machine. And we can all play our parts to stop it becoming a big problem.

How To Reduce Gossip to a Minimum.

There are several things we can all do. Here's a list of the top five ways to bring agency gossip to a crawl, and perhaps even stop it in its tracks.

1. Engage in Good Communication

Rumors cannot grow and become vicious gossip if there is regular, honest communication with all employees. Is the company being sold? Are we losing an account? As a leader in the agency, let everyone know what's going on at least once or twice a month.

2. Do Not Add Fuel to the Fire

Gossip can only spread if people pass it on, or engage in these conversations. If someone starts to lower their voice and talk to you about something that is clearly rumor or gossip, just say you don't know anything about it and politely walk away. If it keeps happening, you can come out and say that you do not think their gossiping is helpful to the company, or the morale. They will look elsewhere to spread their gossip. If everyone does the same, the gossipy person cannot spread anything.

3. Don't Believe The Hype

If you hear a really juicy rumor or story, you may feel the need to act upon it. But you have no idea if it's true or not. Take anything you hear with a huge pinch of salt.

4. Facts Are Your Friend

So you've heard something bad about someone. Or about the company. Find out the truth for yourself, instead of participating in a gossip chain. Most of the time, if you go directly to the source you will discover those half-truths and fuzzy facts are nothing to concern you.

5. Set The Example

You cannot tell people to steer clear of gossip if you're guilty of doing it yourself. Don't be self-righteous about it, but be a good employee who is focused on work and people, not idle chatter. If you don't do it, other people will follow your lead.

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