How To Squash Gossip Like A Bug Before It Squashes Your Business

We originally published this article on Forbes.com. Although outside the scope of personal finance, in a sense, so many people have shared it on social media that we thought you might get value from it here, too.

Gossip is not to be tolerated. I can tolerate innocent mistakes, slip-ups and occasional bad judgment. But gossip among employees must be stomped out immediately, and it must never return, or it will bankrupt your business.

See, gossip has a way of snowballing. Once it becomes acceptable, the game turns into discovering new gossip to top the last person that shared something inappropriately.

This environment is exhausting, will steal productivity from your business and is likely to lead you towards bankruptcy if you let it.

Think about it. Your top employees, who out of envy are often the topic of gossip, will thrive in a productive environment and be very happy. But if gossip is causing them stress and hurting their productivity, they will leave.

A-Players always have other options, so creating a safe environment is key.

What Is Considered Gossip, Exactly?

You should talk to your employees about what is acceptable and what is not.

Talking about something someone did, or a choice they made or their bad habits that hurt the business is always acceptable under one condition.

It’s acceptable if it’s a Committed Complaint, meaning they’re committed to resolving the issue.

This is when a person either talks to the person immediately about their behavior, or to someone who has the power to resolve the problem. Telling the person directly, or the CEO, or HR is fine, but if an employee is repeatedly complaining to another employee who has no power to change the situation, it is not a committed complaint.

Then there is Complaining. This isn’t gossip, exactly. It’s human nature to vent about something immediately after the fact when emotions are high. But complaining needs to be kept to a minimum. It either needs to quickly turn into a committed complaint, or it needs to stop.

Finally, Gossip is never OK. I would fire someone over gossip.

Gossip is when a person complains with no intention of solving the problem, to someone who has no power to fix the problem, and tries to win the person over to their opinion: “Can you believe what So-and-So said?!”

Your Responsibility as a Listener

In my view, someone who listens to gossip and doesn’t ask the person to stop is complicit.

Jay Z once said, “Don’t tell me what was said about me. Tell me why they were so comfortable to say it to you.”

Sometimes if someone feels comfortable gossiping to a person, it’s because the listener has gossiped about the person before, too. Other times, it’s because the person has let it be known that they will listen to gossip–even if it’s just by staying silent.

People often stay silent because they don’t like to start waves, but you should let your employees know that it’s their responsibility to protect the culture of the company from gossip.

What is Your Business About?

Your business is about building wealth by providing value. What will happen to your business if it becomes about gossip?

I can tell you from experience working with organizations saturated in gossip–value creation will slow down. Energy will be spent on settling disputes and getting back at others.

The only way to protect your business and yourself is to set your expectations with employees early, and never let gossip take hold.

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