Most people would deny indulging in workplace gossip. However, Deborah Grayson Riegel, a communication coach and instructor at Wharton Business School, says people engage in this destructive practice without realizing it. If you have ever participated in a “confirmation expedition” by asking a colleague to confirm your negative experience of a third party (”Have you noticed Sam in accounting never replies to emails?”), or welcomed a similar inquiry from a coworker, you could be contributing to a climate of eroding trust, hurt feelings, damaged reputations, and divisiveness—in other words, you might be gossiping.
Gossip is a way of bonding by excluding others, of venting, and of validating our own beliefs, so the urge to engage in it is strong. But talking behind backs undermines an open, honest culture. How can we stop doing something wrong that feels so right? Riegel has this advice:
Have you ever interacted with a colleague regarding negative impressions about a coworker? How might that conversation have been more productive? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
6/15/2021 11:20:40 am
I disagree w Brown on this topic. I suppose it depends on time and place. Ppl in higher ed during Covid were barely holding it together. Chaos and confusion were off the charts. There were racial healing circles during this period of time. I think because so many ppl were feeling overwhelmed, we should have had support circles for everyone. Because we did not, there were many complaints about management overworking Dpt chairs. Better to recognize a problem and create opportunities to discuss safely than to wind up with many ppl complaining.
6/22/2021 04:14:10 pm
At our workplace we have recently developed a team charter. One of the statements on the charter is "Assume good intent" If someone outside the Team does something that might cause irritation or friction we are encouraged to think "...they probably don't have agenda to undermine us. Go and talk to them to find out more and gain a deeper understanding of the issue"
6/24/2021 09:16:10 am
What an excellent addition to your team charter. Assuming good intent is always an important notion and following up with the actual source of the comment is key. One more suggestion I might offer is to follow up within a reasonable time period (1 - 6 months) to ensure people are actually following through with this noble effort. A simple semantic differential can provide invaluable data. “Our team is assuming good intent and following up to gain greater clarity…” Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree. If everyone agrees or Strongly agrees, celebrate. If there are more SDs or Ds, further discussion to revitalize the agreement might be needed. Thanks for this submission Simon.
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