Pssst: Gossip Is A Great Leadership Tool
Gossip gets a bad rap--and not without reason. We generally regard gossip as being untrue, or as involving personal information that should not be shared, whether it's true or not. As George Bernard Shaw once said, "The things most people want to know about are usually none of their business."
But a recent study suggests that workplace gossip may actually be a good thing. According to Stanford University researcher Dr. Matthew Feinberg, "Groups that allow their members to gossip sustain co-operation and deter selfishness better than those that don't."
What if you could put the power of gossip to work in your organization--in a positive way that builds people up rather than tears them down? You can. Here's how.
Catch your people doing something right
As one successful CEO notes, many bosses barely interact with their employees, unless it's to tell them that they did something wrong. While some good employees may tolerate this for a time, others will move on to greener pastures. Why not start some positive gossip in your office by telling your employees--face to face, or via email or personal notes--what a great job they did on a particular task or project, and how proud you are to have them as employees? Spread this kind of positive gossip in your office and it will be repaid many times over with happy, productive, and loyal employees.
Talk about the good things your business does
Chances are your company is doing a lot of good things out there in the world, and you should make sure your people hear all about it. Whether you're providing eldercare services in your community, or you have developed a patch that makes people invisible to mosquitos, or you sell a line of refreshing organic fruit juices through grocery stores throughout the region, your business deserves props. Spread the word and your people will soon be bursting with pride for the positive change they are helping make, and they will pass on the word to their friends, relatives, and colleagues.
Communicate positive customer stories widely
Your customers can be the very best source of positive gossip in your business, because they have experienced for themselves the benefits of your company's products and services. Be sure to tell positive customer stories to your people--individually, in teams, and in large-group meetings--and invite customers to stop by your offices or participate in team meetings to tell their own stories. This is an extremely powerful form of positive gossip, and everyone in your organization will benefit by hearing it.
Make gossip part of your company culture
Gossip isn't gossip if it isn't spread around. Make sure you let your people know that you not only approve positive gossip at work, but that you encourage it. Research shows that positive gossip has far-reaching and long-lasting benefits. Model the behavior you want others to emulate by engaging in frequent positive gossip yourself, and providing positive feedback to those employees who follow your example. Remember: You always get more of the behavior you reward!
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While Peter Economy has spent the better part of two decades of his life slugging it out mano a mano in the management trenches, he is also the best-selling author of Managing for Dummies, The Management Bible, Leading Through Uncertainty, and more than 65 other books, with total sales in excess of two million copies. He has also served as associate editor for Leader to Leader for more than 10 years, where he has worked on projects with the likes of Jim Collins, Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and many other top management and leadership thinkers. Visit him at petereconomy.com and follow him on Twitter: @bizzwriter.