Why Don’t People Listen? The Gossiper


This week we are going to look at why people do not want to listen to others and the effects it can have in the workplace..

Julian Treasure addresses what he calls the “7 Deadly Sins Of Speaking” on a TED talk (link below). As I listened to him I began to think about how each of these “Sins” can have devastating effects in a business setting.

The first “Sin” is Gossip:

Gossip is idle talk or rumor, especially about personal or private affairs of others. It usually is some kind of a statement whose accuracy is not quickly or ever confirmed

According to Kurkland and Pelled, (taken from Wikipedia) workplace gossip can be very serious depending upon the amount of power that the gossiper has over the recipient, which will in turn affect how the gossip is interpreted. There are a few types of power that are influenced by gossip:

  • Coercive:when a gossiper tells negative information about a person, their recipient might believe that the gossiper will also spread negative information about them. This causes the gossipers coercive power to increase.
  • Reward:when a gossiper tells positive information about a person, their recipient might believe that the gossiper will also spread positive information about them. This causes the gossipers reward power to increase.
  • Expert:when a gossiper seems to have very detailed knowledge of either the organization’s values or about others in the work environment, their expert power becomes enhanced.

I have never really thought about why certain people like to gossip. I just know that once I get “wind” that they are gossipers that I never really listen to them.

I found it very interesting that this “gossiper” type of person actually finds power in gossiping.

There are several negative consequences that gossip has on the workplace gossip which include:

  • Lost productivity and wasted time at work.
  • The loss of trust and possible morale with the gossiper.
  • Increased anxiety among employees as rumors circulate without any clear information as to what is fact and what isn’t.
  • Growing divisiveness among employees as people “take sides,”
  • Hurt feelings and reputations,
  • Jeopardized chances for the gossipers’ advancement, as they are perceived as unprofessional.
  • Loss of good employees who will leave a company due to the unhealthy work atmosphere.

When you find that someone is a gossiper what do you do? Often, we just ignore the person and let them continue to spread their poison. What we need to do is to confront them and let them know that we do not believe them nor do we want to listen to what they have to say.

If you are in a position of management, there must be a consequence for such behavior, like three strikes and you are out.

Gossip is poison in the workplace and it can waste a huge amount of time, which equals money.

I do think people can learn not to gossip if they realize that there is a real cost to them.  If they choose to continue then it should cost them by losing their job as no employer should have to keep someone who will ruin the ethics and integrity of the company.




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