Gossip? Gossip.

How Listening to People Complain About Your Competitors and Colleagues Promotes Gossip In Your Workplace.

I recently reviewed the RBT Code of Ethics for a project and thought that this area under Responsible Conduct stood out.

1.03 RBTs are truthful and honest and create an environment that promotes truthful and honest behavior in others. They promote an ethical culture in their work environments and make others aware of this code

But I thought…well what’s the reflective mirror look like in the organization where gossip is occuring? Has there been direct feedback about this behavior? Have replacement behaviors been discussed and modeled? Is leadership modeling this undesired behavior?

In a book, Children live what they learn, the author discusses how modeling creates the desired and undesired behavior we see in children. For adult learners, the same holds true. When leadership does it, it is ‘blessed’ as being okay. Even if the behavior is maladaptive and not what we would want to see in terms of professional behavior.

Gossip is environmentally injurious. But lets’ talk about root cause. How does it seep in and then grow?

  1. Gossip starts with righteous indignation. Sometimes we see things in the news or hear things about other organizations and our competitors. Instead of healthy discussions and framing it around a lesson, we somehow have talks about what company XX did and how they are awful. By shifting the focus and continuing on in the discussion of company XX as wrong, we move away from our challenges-holes-mistakes-mishaps. The phrase ‘but for the grace of God’ leaves us from our state of grace but places us in the seat of pointed finger. Clearly, some stuff is just not okay…but the lesson framing and how we communicate is a sign of true leadership. When the finger pointing occurs, we teach staff to move from their own responsibility and to continue to talk about what other’s are not doing well. Accusatory language does not move your organization forward.

“Well you know company XX does this and they just don’t prepare their staff well”

“I think company XX is unethical because they don’t treat their RBTs well”

“You know XX is a BCBA and she did XX and was fired. Now she’s at company XX. They are unethical too so I guess its a fit”

2. Gossip is contrary to environmental and personal self-care. A colleague, Andre Anderson, discussed environmental self-care and self-injury with me. He stated that if the organization is a ‘baby’, what does a baby need to hear and what kind of environment do baby’s thrive in. Well environments that are verbally nurturing and caring. Now personal self-care and gossip…if we think of the mantra ‘garbage in garbage out’. Gossip does not grow people, leadership, or the workplace.

3. Gossip means that your focus is off center. Your staff and you should be focused on how you get better. That’s it. There’s been so much rumbling in the industry within social media and within our organizations in calling other people out and saying who’s committed various infractions. And then we wonder why our staff gossip or talk about various topics on social media. Well…Top down demonstrated action creates the culture and environment employees act within.

Linear focused clinical leadership unsupportive of miscellaneous gossip based conversation on the clock created linear focused staff. What is the focus on? Your people. Your organization. Our collective work. Our practices. How we get better.

When hearing staff members commensurate about their last employer? Do you indulge and listen? Do you pass judgement in conversation?

Here is why I don’t:

  1. My father taught me that people who talk about someone else, will talk about you.
  2. My father taught me that some people have a price and they can be ‘bought’ to do and say dirty things…even paid to enter 4 star reviews in Yelp.
  3. It is important to discern the information and type of information people present to you and why. Exercising wisdom as a business owner and clinical leader is important.
  4. If I am gossiping during my work hours (on the floor within the workplace), then so will my direct reports.
  5. I’m too busy doing my job – keeping my organization and self ‘clean’ – I need not be bothered with other’s and how they are doing it.

Am I a gatekeeper to my profession(s)? Yes. And when it’s major, do I report it. Well, after I have a conversation with the individual, yes. But being a gatekeeper means that my fingers are not busy typing about organization XX. It also means that I do not indulge those conversations around me.

Not indulging gossip, is not planned ignoring. It is deciding on appropriate locations and people to have those discussions. The decision to not discuss where staff come from and negative experiences is purposeful because of the self-management behaviors and professional expectations I’d like to promote within my organization.

  • Gossip is an anonymous post covered in ‘discomfort’
  • Gossip is the attempt to make yourself feel better than another
  • Gossip is trying promote how you are better than organization XX
  • Gossip is lack of focus on you.

In the words of a famous toddler “Worry ‘Bout Yourself’

~Let’s Thrive and Take On What It Means to Care for Ourselves and the Environments We Work In

Landria Seals Green,MA., CCC-SLP, BCBA

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