Unconstrained Conversation Ruins Corporate Culture

Unconstrained Conversation

One of the keys to running a successful business is mitigating unnecessary issues that can affect it. After all, challenges that threaten your business can arise at any time. So what might be a challenge that could occur in the future that you can control now? How about negative chatter in the form of office gossip that threatens corporate culture?

It’s Just Part of Human Nature

According to Forbes, most people tend to view gossip as just part of human nature and don’t give much credence to how it might impact the workplace. Gossip can create a negative working environment and lead to an increase in employee turnover while creating additional costs in new hires. Tolerating gossip in the office is the equivalent of putting the iceberg deliberately in front of the Titanic and expecting that things will be just beautiful. Negative gossip should not succumb to the “it is what it is” rationale in the workplace.

Andres Pira: Homeless to Billionaire

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Gossip, the Good and the Bad

When it comes to gossip in the workplace, “positive gossip” can be good. The Canadian Mental Health Association suggests that one method to reduce the spread of negative gossip is to promote the sharing of “positive gossip”. If employees are going to share positive or uplifting stories about their co-workers, then it can help build a corporate culture. However, all too often gossip falls on the negative side, manifesting in damaging or disparaging speak about other employees. When the energy company Enron collapsed and was investigated by the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission over 600,000 emails were reviewed. Eventually, the emails were released to be used for historical research and academic purposes. A study done by Georgia Institute of Technology discovered that fifteen percent; over 90,000 emails were gossip-related and that the gossip was three times more negative than positive.

Where does it begin?

Gossip in the workplace is usually the result of poor internal communication and spreads when employees are feeling uncertain, especially in companies that change direction without explanation. When employees feel lost or confused, they turn to gossip. What might be happening? Who’s getting fired? Why is that person getting promoted? They must have (insert gossip). One of the ways to combat gossip is creating transparency and maintaining a safe environment for employees to voice their concerns. When employees feel safe and “in the know” it gives them no reason to gossip. 

Andres Pira: Homeless to Billionaire

Andres Pira

Homeless to Billionaire

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For me, I think it’s essential to take time to sit with employees dealing in negative talk. In Homeless to Billionaire, I discuss how important it is to get to the root of the problem, and how sometimes you’ll discover that workplace gossip is unrelated to work. Often, they’re dealing with issues outside the office.

An example was an employee who had poor money management. When business slowed, they were unprepared. They blamed their shortcomings on the business and made offensive remarks about other employees who were doing well. Did I fire them? No. I understood their concerns and know what it’s like to have no money. I was homeless at one point in time. We worked together and came to an understanding. The employee was reminded of a policy we have in place, and they fell right back in line with what is expected. However, if the employee had failed to stop, then I would have terminated them right away.

Set the Tone on Day One

I believe so firmly that gossip is one of the greatest causes of negativity in the workplace that I am in favor of having all employees sign a No Gossip Agreement that says they will:

  1. Not speak or mention another person’s name when that person is not present unless it is to compliment or reference them regarding work matters.  
  2. Refuse to participate when someone mentions a person (who is not present) in a negative light.  
  3. Not respond to negative emails or use email to pass on private or derogatory information about anybody in the agency.
  4. While off the job, not speak to another co-worker about people at work in an unflattering light.
  5. If someone else does something unethical, incorrect, or disruptive, I will use the proper channels to report this to the person in authority. 
  6. I will mind my own business, work well, be a professional adult, and expect the same in return from others. 
Andres Pira: Homeless to Billionaire

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Initiating a No Gossip Policy in the workplace stops gossip before it happens. After all, there’s no place for it in the world or the workplace. If we take the time to set the tone, we can alleviate problems that drain, distract, and affect job satisfaction.

-Andres

About Andres Pira – philanthropist, real estate tycoon, author, speaker, and global citizen. Andres Pira enjoys living in Thailand where his journey began from Homeless to Billionaire.

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