Quote of the Week|
"The person who drills a hole under his/her own seat in the boat will
end up drowning everyone on board."
Gossip in Groups |
Some groups (such as family, neighborhood, apartment building) we
belong to fortuitously. All other groups we join for a purpose. The
purpose of a business is to earn money; the purpose of a political
group is to advance a particular political agenda; the purpose of
a social club is to provide camaraderie and activities of common interest.
Whatever the purpose, when gossip infects a group, it not only hurts
the individuals involved (those speaking, those listening, and those
gossiped about), but also sabotages the very purpose of the group.
To get some idea of the damage gossip can do to a company, consider
this: If, in a company of 200 employees, each employee spent one hour
a day trading gossip (under the guise of "shooting the breeze" or
"networking"), the company would lose approximately $160,000 a month
in lost productivity. (See
WCH Workplace Kit-Fact Sheet)
The damage gossip inflicts, however,
goes much deeper than dollars and cents. All groups function on a
basis of mutual trust. Gossip undermines trust as surely as termites
eat away at the structure of a house-invisibly, insidiously, and irreparably.
When a group which should be working as a team is riddled with gossip,
the purpose of the team-be it profit, a worthy cause, or mutual support-suffers.
The following letter that WCH received a few months after September
11, is particularly tragic because just when this group should have
been giving vital support to a particularly vulnerable population-women
whose husbands are serving in the U.S. Army--gossip exploded the group
as surely as a terrorist bomb.
Gossip Undermines a Group... |
My name is Lynn. I am a military spouse living in upstate New
York. I lead a Ladies Luncheon Group to support spouses of deployed
soldiers. These are very trying times for military wives. Many are
given only hours to say goodbye before their husbands are whisked
off to "Operation Enduring Freedom." The 10th Mountain Division
here at Ft. Drum has many families not knowing where family members
are or when they might return from overseas. The stress can be overwhelming.
For this reason I have invited women to come together, share stories,
plan family activities, and support one another.
But, just before
the holidays, the group went sour. Gossip and misunderstandings
caused hard feelings. Our mission and focus were lost. Some women
stopped coming and others alienated the women who did attend. Needless
to say, I was deeply saddened.
I have been searching for a way to
convince these very lonely and afraid ladies that we need one another
and we should come together. I am hoping that your organization
is the answer. I will introduce your thoughts and ideals to the
group. I am hoping that each of them will see the power of the spoken
word and take your pledge. I wholly believe that our words can change
the world. I hope to bring new hope to our group. God Bless America.
What Groups Can Do:
- Introduce the ideals of Words Can Heal in your office, club, social
action movement, etc. Get a few copies of the handbook (available
from www.amazon.com) and pass
- Post reminder signs around your office or meeting place: "Changing your words
can transform your life." "Who gossips to you will gossip of you."
"Let's replace words that hurt with words that heal."
- Introduce one hour a week as a gossip-free zone in the workplace cafeteria
or wherever your group meets. Have the group choose a good-natured
way of reminding those who slip up, just as you would politely
remind someone who lights up a cigarette in a no-smoking zone.
(Eg. flash a no-gossip version of the no-smoking sign or call
out a code word like "teamwork.")
- Use teamwork methods to devise a Words Can Heal program which will work for
your group. Always start small (e.g. no gossip for one hour a
week) and work your way up gradually. Reward success (e.g. lunch
out at a nice restaurant at the company's expense).
- Remember: A group which functions without gossip is more apt to accomplish