In one of my recent leadership programs, an executive expressed her frustration about organizational gossip and negativity. Her company was going through some changes, and the leadership team was frustrated with the rumor mill. Through the discussion, she came to the realization that the leadership team had not done a good job of communicating the changes and managing the impact.
In the absence of information, people make things up. If there is a lack of communication in an organization, employees will fill the void with their opinions and perceptions, which breeds gossip.
Dave Ramsey has a no-gossip policy in his organization. His mantra is, “negatives go up, positives go down.” Anyone who has a complaint or issue should only send it up the chain, never down. Complaining to someone who cannot solve the problem is not tolerated.
Here are three strategies for combating gossip and negativity in your organization:
Develop a communication campaign. Most organizations don’t spend nearly enough time communicating important information throughout their organization. The executive team may spend hours each week behind closed doors, but often important information is not shared with employees, or worse, different messages are sent by different leaders. To reduce gossip and negativity, leaders should have a well thought out communication campaign to ensure important information is disseminated throughout the organization. I’m a big fan of Umpqua Bank and their CEO, Ray Davis. Ray regularly walks around and asks employees, “What is it you need?” He also hosts quarterly broadcast calls and meets with select employees quarterly over dinner to talk about important organizational information. You can listen to my free interview with Ray Davis to find out how Umpqua purposefully creates an engaging environment:Umpqua Bank Interview
Conduct a listening tour. In her book, Motivate Like a CEO, Suzanne Bates recommends that leaders sit down with influential employees and figure out what is demotivating or getting in the way. I am amazed at how many top leaders in organizations turn a deaf ear to what is really going on. It’s almost like if they don’t hear about the negativity or issues, they don’t exist. Effective leaders seek out the issues and take responsibility for creating an environment of truth and engagement.
End executive meetings with a communication recap. In your executive or leadership meetings, take the last 10 minutes to discuss what you will communicate and how you will communicate information throughout the organization. This increases the chance of the correct message getting out to your employees, and reduces gossip. The bottom line is that if your organization is doing an excellent job communicating, negativity and gossip will be the exception. Communication needs to be a planned effort and not an afterthought. What does your organization do to reduce gossip? I’d love to hear your comments. Hit “reply” and let me know!