Thursday, 18 November 2010

Workplace Bullying Gossip: What Can You Do?

Workplace Bullying Gossip: What Can You Do?

Gossip. We've all heard about it. We've all 'done it'. We've all been on the receiving end of it too. No one is immune. Yes, some are addicted to it and use it as a means of connecting with others. Bullies thrive on the usage of gossip. It takes a true leader to not participate in gossip. Furthermore, it takes a true leader to stop it. So now what?

They say if you really want to know what people think about you, go to the washroom at work and wait to hear what others say! Well, even if you've never done that or won't do that, know that gossip is happening everywhere. The question is, do you have a personal policy with regard to not spreading gossip? Do you have an organizational policy? What can you do if you are on the receiving end? What is gossip anyway?

What is Gossip?
Gossip can be explained as: Rumor or discussion of a personal or sensational tone.

Why Do People Gossip?
Gossip is a way of avoiding responsibility for one's feelings, and it can be used by someone with a lower self-image as a way to connect with others and feel better about oneself, but at the expense of another.

Gossip acts as an external substitute to filling one's own needs without having to face anything that is going on inside such as rejection, fear, etc. Know this: it is hard to truly connect with others when you are disconnected from yourself. This won't change until you are willing to practice staying mindful with your own feelings and take responsibility for them rather than avoiding them with gossip. Bullies choose gossip as a tactic many times. Why? It's so much easier than facing their own lack. People gossip out of lack.

Why Does a Bully Use Gossip?
Gossip fits well into the bully's plan. The bully can stretch or bend the truth or make up a lie about a target and not confront the target directly. Remember, gossip is indirect, passive behavior that the target is not usually included in directly. The bully uses gossip, the most powerful form of control in an organization, in order to discredit an individual. If the target is discredited, the bully gets a 'rush' to feel their addiction of needing power over.

Why Do People Enjoy Hearing Gossip?
Gossip is almost always something personal toward the target where the target is being presented as 'less than'. When we hear of someone as 'less than', we do not have to do the work to be more ourselves. Competitiveness is king in this equation. Anyone addicted to competitiveness and envy will surely have to discipline themselves to not gossip.

So, What's The Answer?
Decide to stop participating in gossip.
When you hear gossip, resist the temptation to contribute.
Advanced leadership: confront the person gossiping by changing the subject if someone seems to be a good person and just got off track.
Advanced leadership: confront the person gossiping by talking to them after privately if you feel they could 'hear you' and not become defensive.
Advanced leadership: confront the person within the group publically right away to help the target save face if the person gossiping is really running the target down.
If gossip is a problem in your organization, share with your manager that you'd like to see a policy in place to ward off gossip. Remember, a policy about anything must be clear as to what it is and what the consequences are if it happens.
If you are a target and you find out after the fact, continue to log your issues and have a collective case to go to a higher authority. Resist the need to defend yourself right away. Plan your move.
Remember, the truth rises to the top. Most people hearing gossip don't usually feel good about the person gossiping even though you can be under the illusion they are 'getting along so well'.
Become the change you want to see in the world, says Gandhi and stay positive by your example.
Become more and more rooted into who you are and why you are here. Great leaders who have had to fend off gossip often say 'the vision leads the leader' even though there may be muddy waters...and there are muddy waters for us all.

Here's to a week of support, kindness, gentleness, patience and hope.

Valerie Cade, CSP is a Workplace Bullying Expert, Speaker and Author of "Bully Free at Work: What You Can Do To Stop Workplace Bullying Now!" which has been distributed in over 100 countries worldwide. For consulting on workplace bullying prevention and respectful workplace implementation, go to

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Glaucus said...

Sometimes a gossip is useful to find out who the baddies are.

Lynda said...

Gossip is never useful. You can recognize the "baddies" because they are the ones who's actions don't line up with their words. Gossip hurts everyone involved because it feeds the bully's ego and it tears down the targets confidence. It's a lose-lose situation. Good article.