I’m frequently asked to conduct training on how to repair and move past gossip-rooted conflict in the workplace. Though no one wants to admit to contributing, what may not feel like gossip often is. Somewhere along the line, someone said something, or was accused of saying something, or overheard something that started toxicity in the group. This cycle happens in every workplace from regulatory to religious institutions, hospitals to high schools and even among all ages and genders.
But did you know that you can stop this career saboteur? Yes, you! The cycle will eventually come knocking at your door and you need to shut it down before it derails your professional aspirations.
A client of mine has a barometer that she uses to determine whether or not information she’s been told should be shared: “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” Imagine if we considered these three questions before passing along what could turn out to be potentially harmful information.
- Is it true? Much of what is shared in the form of gossip is untrue. It’s either stretched truth or hearsay. So why would you need to share it? Rather, get the facts and determine (based on the other measures) whether these facts need to be relayed.
- Is it kind? There is such a thing as kind gossip. But we mostly hear the polar opposite. Don’t derail your career just because you heard something “juicy” and need to pass it on. If it’s good news, that’s a completely different situation, but determining that isn’t always up to you. Before you share kind gossip, make sure that you examine the truth from all sides and how it could impact another’s career.
- Is it necessary? Does what you want to share really need to be shared? If you examine gossip at its roots, it’s often used as a temporary state of false security and elevation. The key words are “temporary” and “false.” Sometimes it helps people feel better about their own insecurities or a way to be included in a group. Typically, there is no good reason to gossip. Therefore it’s unnecessary. Just like your mama once told you, “If your friends love gossip, what are they saying about you?” Human nature never changes. Perhaps it’s time to pick new friends.
But stopping this career saboteur takes courage, and that isn’t always easy when there’s politics, peer pressure, angst or boredom involved. These are four environments that breed gossip and one misplaced word could cost you professionally.
To help, here are ten questions to consider first. If you answer “Yes” to any of the following questions, the information probably should NOT be shared.
- Will anyone be hurt when I share this information?
- Is my urge to share this information fueled boredom or peer pressure?
- Would I be uncomfortable sharing this information with the whole team?
- Would my supervisor be disappointed in me for sharing this information?
- Will my career be negatively impacted?
- Will I regret tomorrow sharing this today?
- Would I prefer someone not share this information about me?
- Is this information hearsay?
- Is the person who shared this with me known as a gossip?
- Could spreading this information cost me my job?
We all want to be seen as the consummate professional, yet it’s almost impossible to stay away from gossip. Sharing it, listening to it or believing it (when it’s negative) all constitute career-derailing gossip. It’s just not professional. And when your hand (or words) gets caught in the “gossip cookie jar,” the only one to blame is you.
But if you’ve just got to share, there are a few ways that gossip can be good for your career. It might even be a stretch to call it gossip, but what is said and how it’s delivered causes it to look very much like gossip—but it’s really communicating kind words. So when you’re craving to share something, here are three ways to make gossip good for your career:
- Share good things about someone. If a colleague has impressed you, let others know about it. Spread the word and build a community of sharing the good attributes, rather than the bad.
- Tout someone’s unused talent. If you know someone is capable of achieving more, spread the word. Of course, you want to be sure that the individual is interested in letting others know about their “hidden” or unused talent. But if the desire is there, let others know they are capable and qualified.
- Lift up another in front of the boss. Who doesn’t want to be recognized? It’s especially nice to be complimented when around those who can have a specific and positive impact on your career. If the boss is in the room, pay it forward and let them know how impressed you are with a colleague’s behavior or performance. This goodwill will eventually circle back to you.
How To Be Career Happy? Only Spread “Good” Gossip