By Beth Weissenberger
You know your workplace is toxic if one or all of the following holds true: 1) results in the company are down (including yours); 2) you’re scared to talk to people i.e. your boss, your peers, etc. for fear of retribution or not being heard, 3) keeping your head down seems like the smartest option for you; and 4) gossip is prevalent in the company.
So let’s talk a little more about gossip. It’s one of the surest signs of toxicity and when left unchecked can bring the toxic feel to a whole new level.
You want the culture of your company to be one of dealing head on with upsetting issues. Gossip may be a lot of things, but it is not a way to deal with issues head on.
Gossip is a form of manipulation. It frequently comes from being hurt, offended or scared. Gossip is a theory that we develop in our own heads – or with the collusion of our friends, family and co-workers – as a way of building a case against someone by bringing individuals into cahoots to adopt our theory. Theories are usually just excuses for not finding out what is really motivating the person we’re gossiping about.
Gossip is a coward’s way of not dealing with a relationship head on. It comes from a person not having the integrity or the audacity to deal straight with an issue or a person. They can’t bring themselves to engage in the real conversation (which they fear), so they go underground with it.
Gossip typically concerns very upsetting issues – issues that need to be addressed. So, usually what folks are gossiping about is important to them, and not simply an act of meanness or idle entertainment. When it IS just mean entertainment, you should stop that immediately too! Engaging in meanness is toxic to them and to you!
You want the culture of your company to be one of dealing head on with upsetting issues. Gossip may be a lot of things, but it is not a way to deal with issues head on! If it’s something they are upset about or outraged about, the real dare is to figure out how to communicate it and address it without getting them or the person in trouble.
Most people justify to themselves why they should not have a hard conversation. So, I advise clients to stop passing the buck and getting away with it. People who gossip really want to make a change and impact something. Teach them that they are just being a self-justifying “chicken” who should figure out how to frame the problem and attack it and have the courage to deal. When they do, they will be thrilled and proud. And you will be too.
Beth Weissenberger is the co-founder and president of HG Corp & HG Sports.
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