Tips for nipping productivity killing, workplace gossip, in the bud

 “If my coworkers would just spend as much time doing a good job as they do dishing up the dirt, we’d be a lot more productive,” my colleague told me recently. “Honestly, everyone complains about all the gossip but they are all guilty of adding grist to the gossip mill.”  

Most workplaces have grapevines with plenty of juice. It’s human nature to comment on the comings and goings and what we think about it. While most gossip is just idle chatter, sometimes it can become a distraction when it consumes too much time or turns ugly.  

Let’s take a look at some of the typical grapes on the vine and what you can do to nip gossip in the bud. 

The Smiling Saboteur—

It’s the smile that fools you. Your coworker seems friendly enough but what you don’t know is how he is damning you with faint praise. “Oh, yes I agree that her customers think she’s very good but did you know that she delegates everything to her staff?” They are masters at planting seeds of doubt about your competence and they are quick to cast a shadow on any of your accomplishments. 

Saboteurs, like termites, eat away at your credibility in small bites. Often your career starts to crumble before you even know what hit you. 

One strategy that will yield protection is to treat people so well around you that they will be quick to defend you, or tip you off when they see evidence of sabotage. Once you discover it, you can let some key people know that the person is not a “friend.” This will alert people to the smear campaign and the perpetrator usually ends up doing himself in. 

Bored Blabber—

Idle hands are indeed the devil’s workshop. Like old folks sitting in front of the general store, they pass their day watching everyone else’s business. Because they have so much time to fill, they end up speculating, predicting, moralizing and judging everyone’s actions around them.  

The obvious solution is to fill the time with real work. Bored Blabbers need higher standards, more to do and faster deadlines—or the ranks should be trimmed. 

Disgruntled Disser

The disgruntled usually feel mistreated in some way and they intend to “dis” those who

wronged them. Frequently, they aim their jabs at management. If there is a down side to a new idea, they will find it. If a manager does something positive, the Disgruntled Disser will search for the hidden motive. “You mark my words, you’ll see that I’m right!” is their motto. They love to find the flaw and crow about it to their coworkers. 

One of the best ways to blunt the effects of a Disgruntled Disser is to kill him with the trilogy of kindness, openness and honesty. Once his peers weigh his bitterness and anger against this trio, he will lose his audience. 

Righteous Rescuer—

“I can’t believe she didn’t know something like that,” she’ll hiss to a peer. She will run to the boss with every little wrong, quick to point out her coworkers’ incompetence. She points out that if she had done it, no such blatant mistake would be made. She knows every technical procedure but won’t share her turf. She’d much rather catch people making mistakes so she can save the day and trash the one who goofed. It feels so good to feel so superior. 

Righteous Rescuers actually believe no one can do things as well as they can. If they are that good, they should be expected to train coworkers. If they are the only person who can do a task, a backup should be trained immediately. If the Righteous Rescuer won’t release their death grip on their knowledge, they need to be moved to a different job, so they are forced to let go.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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