Positive cultures are based on trust and integrity. Gossip is one of the biggest deterrents to sustaining a trusting, supportive culture. Why? Because it’s usually derogatory and betrays trust. There are several reasons people gossip. It can be for attention, out of jealousy, to feel part of a group, or to make themselves feel superior. Regardless of the motive, allowing or accepting gossip as the norm will erode trust.
Throughout my years in leadership, I’ve tried to create gossip-free and drama-free cultures. In fact, it has always been included as one of the behavioral standards I’ve set for my teams. I decided that I needed a “no gossip” standard after just one week as a new manager. I had heard rumblings that were being spread through gossip. When I brought the team together and discussed the standard, one of the nurses came to me and told me she was offended that I would set such a standard. “After all,” she said, “we’re professionals.” Funny thing is that she was the worst offender. I simply stated that as professionals, it should be a non-issue. Professionals behave professionally regardless of what is written. My standards level the playing field so everyone is on the same page.
I believe that one of the best ways to achieve a gossip-free culture is to set the expectation and provide tools. Years ago, I stumbled across a guideline for helping staff to filter out gossip. Before speaking, ask yourself these three questions, “Is it true? Is it necessary? Who will benefit from me sharing this information?” Even if the information is true, it’s rarely necessary to share and I’ve never found an example where someone will benefit from the exchange.