Tell me if these scenarios sound familiar.
- Someone stops by your desk or workspace and starts blabbing about another co-worker.
- A peer vents about something your boss just told them that is upsetting to them.
- You hear two co-workers in the hallway talking about what so-and-so did.
It’s all gossip and it’s all unhealthy to a great work culture.
Unfortunately, it happens at every workplace, and whether we want to admit it or not – we’ve all participated in it one way or another.
While gossip is common, accepting that it’s part of the normal work environment can and most likely will kill your culture.
In a recent episode of “The Fleet Success Show,” our podcast hosts Josh Turley, Jeff Jenkins, and Steve Saltzgiver discussed the topic of gossip, how it can impact your fleet operation’s culture, and how you can prevent it.
Listen to the entire episode here.
What Is Gossip?
First, let’s be clear about what it means to gossip.
When Josh meets with new employees at RTA, he defines gossip as: “When you are talking to someone about a problem that they cannot solve for you.”
We all know the obvious definition – talking behind someone’s back. This explanation goes deeper and recognizes that gossip can also include venting.
“When you’re telling someone who has no bearing on the problem and can’t solve it for you, you’re just dumping,” Josh said.
At the end of the vent session, their peer can’t fix the problem. All they are doing is spreading negativity and burdening another person with the issue.
Risks of Allowing Gossip
While gossip is common, allowing it to happen can be detrimental to your fleet operation.
As our hosts discussed in the podcast, having gossip in your culture is one of the biggest threats to team unity. Nothing can destroy a team faster than knowing a peer doesn’t have your back or is talking about you.
Listen to real-life examples of gossip Josh, Jeff, and Steve have encountered in the workplace when you listen to the entire episode.
How to Prevent Gossip at Your Fleet Operation
Because gossip is so widespread, it takes direct action to eliminate it from your company.
“In every organization I’ve been in, you’ve always got two predominant people or two groups of people. One is the gossip and the other is the one who gets people to gossip or vent to them. The enabler,” Jeff said.
To prevent this, you need to acknowledge the problem and call individuals out on the role they are playing in spreading gossip. As Josh said in the podcast, the key is speaking the kind truth. We follow this practice at RTA. Instead of acting like there isn’t a problem, or avoiding conflict with a person, we have an honest conversation with the person to tell them there is a problem and help them fix it.
These conversations are hard, but Josh recommends just being honest and upfront. At the start of the conversation, say this is going to be uncomfortable, but explain that it’s coming from a caring intent. You are having this conversation because you want them to be part of your organization for a long time.
In some cases, the person might not even be aware that they are gossiping. Having this conversation can help them see it and find ways to change their behavior.
It’s also important to address the issue at the company level. Make it clear that gossip is not tolerated here. Also, let your team know what to do if they do encounter a problem.
At RTA, we tell our staff to hand problems up. That means if there is an issue, don’t tell someone below you about it, or a peer. Instead, hand problems up to someone who can help you. In most cases, this is your manager. If your issue is with your manager, then go to HR or someone above your boss.
And lastly – and perhaps most importantly – to shut down gossip you need to start with yourself. Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re all guilty of gossiping at some point. So, make an effort to not participate in it. If we all do that, then it will help diffuse the temptation to do it at work.