• Barbara Roy

Is Gossip Ruining Your Career?

Carly, a human resources manager for a midsize agency, starts the morning with her usual

Starbuck's venti mocha latte and a phone call to Jessica, a colleague who works reception at the same company. The pair discuss interesting new client projects, which leads to talking about who will head each one. They get to the topic of project team members, and how Stephan, a self-defined visionary / dreamer may struggle with contributing in a more technical capacity. Carly asks Jessica if she knows Stephan's wife has filed for divorce and, by the end of what started as a seemingly innocuous conversation, the two women have waged all-out war on the entire agency workforce, by the use of their tongues.


Since no one overheard the conversation, nobody gets hurt, right? It's really not quite as simple as that. Managementstudyguide.com identifies religion, culture and law as the primary influences on business ethics. A look at each gives us some specific guidance around the practice of gossip.


What Sources of Business Ethics Say About Gossip


Religion

For the purposes of this article, I'll reference the New International Version of the Bible.

  • A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends. (Proverbs 16:28)

  • The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts. (Provers 18:8)

  • A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much. (Proverbs 20:19)

  • For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. (2 Corinthians 12:20)

Culture

Human civilization has passed through various cultures, wherein the moral code was redrafted depending upon the epoch's characteristics. The same is true of business culture. Leaders sometimes think employee engagement can improve their organization. But according to CultureIQ, improving overall culture is a far more effective way to improve business outcomes while employee engagement is a direct result of the company culture.


What does this mean in terms of whether an organization is prone to gossip? Simply put, like will attract like. We're currently in a cultural climate that favors employees, and we're seeing that, given the opportunity, employees are more likely to choose a job that interests them and aligns with their passion and values.


Law

Through the lens of law, gossip has to be quantified by its nature, type and severity of consequence to be actionable. A variety of laws exist that can be applied and interpreted, depending on the situation. That said, the business culture can also impact the importance of laws within the work environment by underscoring or undermining them.


Consequences of Participation in Workplace Gossip

So, if you enjoy sharing juicy morsels or listen to gossip, what does it mean for you?


Gossip Builds Walls

Whether you gossip or just listen to it, when you speak negatively about another, it conditions your thoughts towards them. This perpetuates negative engagements with the person and will give you and your own intentions away.


Gossip Destroys Trust

Often, gossipers believe they're slick when everyone knows they "whisper and smile," including those they whisper about. The end results are not good for the gossiper as they will be deemed untrustworthy, disingenuous and negative but may not know why they are being overlooked in important discussions, passed up for promotions, or otherwise excluded and avoided. Gossip destroys trust and, by extension, reputations.


Least Common Denominator

If your company culture includes gossiping, unfortunately, you are part of an organization positioned squarely at the intersection of continual conflict and churn. As mentioned previously, culture is hard to turn around, mostly because it has to be implemented top-down. Bottom-up efforts may influence superficially or temporarily, but they can't change core policy and practices. Officially or unofficially, whatever the core organization believes, practices or imposes when necessary is the least common denominator---whether that's fairness, generosity and employee trust or ladder-climbing, obfuscation and nepotism.

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