The Dangers of Gossip in the workplace.



The Dangers of Gossip in the Workplace

It may seem harmless.  It may seem like meaningless chitchat in a common area that centers around the little (or big) things one notices a colleague doing (or not) while at work, harmless venting.  It could be personal, professional, or a combination of the two.  It is many times second-hand information not confirmed, which somehow transcends its way into perceived workplace performance.  It is the speculation of others.  Either way, it can all be considered a form of gossip which can be detrimental to any environment. 

How does one tell the difference between idle chatting and gossip? Knowing the difference is extremely important in a healthy organization because it can be dangerous and even destructive in the workplace and at its worst could potentially ruin a career.  Light conversation has a neutral charge as one would say in the science world. There is no value in its information and more importantly it involves statements one would be willing to say in front of the person they are speaking of.  Workplace gossip on the other hand is almost always negatively charged, inflammatory, and potentially embarrassing to the person being spoken of.  It often comes with the intent of confirming anxious feelings, creating conflict, and reveling in the misfortune of others with the most important factor being it is something that would neverbe said on front of that person. 

In order to really know the difference, ask yourself “what is my intent”.  If it simply to notify a colleague of a rumored change in personnel, is that harmful? If the comments are hurtful, damaging or if there is no good will behind them then yes, it is gossip.  Gossip is synonymous with fabrication or embellishment and so many times what is heard is not even accurate.  When this inaccuracy hits a supervisor, it can have adverse side effects on an entire organization.  Many times it does nothing but increase internal conflict and decrease moral which almost always leads to decreased productivity. 

Elizabeth Layne, contributing writer for the “The Chronicle of Philanthropy” notes that although workplace gossip occasionally provides insight into the understanding of office nuances and personalities as well as colleague relationships, it often hurts the individuals involved and damages groups.  It is usually meant to undermine the person who is the target of it and boost the reputation of the person relaying it.  As discussed in the article below “Stop Complaining About Your Colleagues Behind Their Backs”, we use gossip as a way to collect evidence that confirms our beliefs because of the satisfaction that comes from being right.  In fact, the brain can be physiologically hooked on it. “The flood of adrenaline and dopamine that that accompanies feeling right can become downright addictive”, Judith Glaser explains.

It is said that Human Resources Managers may spend as much as thirty percent of their time listening to complaints stemmed from gossip that have no validity, therefore decreasing the efficiency of the department with no progression coming from the complaint itself. 

As parents, we are quite aware of the detrimental effects idle gossip can have on our children’s psyche.  It can be paralyzing.  We coach them on how to prevent it, how to deal with it, and how to rectify relationships – yet as adults we somehow see the workplace as being a place it is permissible.  If one has ever been the target of workplace gossip, the experience is extremely uncomfortable at best.  It can immediately transport us back to middle school and incite insecurity on many levels. If the place in which one spends at least one-third of their day becomes hostile it will no doubt trickle down to other areas of life.  Simply not lending an earto the office gossip can significantly cut down on the amount.  Refusing to repeatcan have an even greater impact and earning the trust of your co-workers by keeping confidentialthe information with which they entrust to you can all lead to an environment free of toxic conversation.  While we will never be free of workplace gossip entirely, the best place to start may be with what we heard as kids, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Integrated People Solutions is an executive placement firm in Denver, Colorado, and is part of the Kennedy Executive Network


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Kennedy Executive Search & Consulting is a global partner network of retained search boutiques in Europe, Africa, North America and Asia Pacific with offices in Amsterdam, Budapest, Copenhagen, Denver, Frankfurt, Johannesburg, London, Milan, Monaco, Oslo, Paris, Prague, Sydney and Vienna. The network covers 360 degrees of talent management: executive search finds and assesses the right talent in the market, consulting develops people and organizations. With the addition of Evolve South Africa, Kennedy is now active on 4 continents and in 14 countries and offers a global reach. Between the 75+ consultants and researchers, 30 languages are spoken. As a network Kennedy will run 365 strategic recruitments all over the world this year. Kennedy Executive Search & Consulting helps organizations to achieve their goals and people to enhance their careers every day.




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Simon Roads

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Born and raised in England, Simon Roads has had a distinguished career in various forms of aviation spanning over 45 years. His journey began as an A&P mechanic in the Royal Air Force and has encompassed a range of roles, ultimately leading to his position as the VP of Global Sales for Honda Aircraft. Throughout this extensive career, he has had the privilege of closely collaborating with Royalty, Dignitaries, and high net worth individuals, providing them with unparalleled expertise and a steadfast commitment to excellence in aviation services.

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Meredith joined IPS in 2023 as an Executive Recruiter with over 5 years of recruiting experience at Amazon and Lyft. Prior to making the shift to recruiting, Meredith was an Executive Assistant for over 3 years at a Seattle-based insurance company. With a passion for finding top talent, Meredith has hired for a wide range of roles across North America in the hardware, micromobility, operations, transportation, and tech spaces.

After an unsuccessful attempt at a Chemical Engineering degree, Meredith graduated from Oregon State University with a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies.

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