I happened to stop at a sandwich shop the other day. It’s a great chain with really good sandwiches. As I walked in, I quickly realized that I was the only customer there. But it was after lunch, so I bet it was hoppin’ a bit earlier.
There were three young folks working: two guys making sandwiches and one girl at the register. The guys seemed like they were having a good day. The girl just looked at me funny. I gave my order for three sandwiches, and the guys jumped right on it. (No, they weren’t all for me…just two of them. OK, just one.) Once I paid, I noticed that a couple of firemen and a young girl were in line behind me ready to order.
As they placed their orders, one of the guys had to run to the back to get something, so the girl took his place. It was then that she began to complain! She grumbled about something the company wasn’t doing, and it was loud enough for the customers to hear.
You should know that this is one of my pet peeves! I can’t stand when team members complain with customers around. Push aside the fact that it’s a severe gossip issue, no customer wants to hear it. And every time it happens, all I can think about is what’s wrong with their leadership.
There are many reasons for gossip, like lack of character, integrity, etc. Gossip is a cancer and needs to be IMMEDIATELY cut out! But there’s one main reason that I have found that team members gossip—the feeling that leadership won’t listen to what’s going on.
At EntreLeadership, I get the opportunity to talk with both leaders and team members. When the discussion of gossip comes up, I dig really deep to find the root cause of it. Almost every time, the team members feel like they are trying to correct problems and nobody will give them the time of day. When this happens, they feel the need to tell someone else in order to be validated. They need to know that someone else understands the problem and the necessity to fix it.
This situation can be resolved pretty easily in most cases—TALK TO YOUR TEAM! You have to get in there and find out what’s going on. There is no leadership error that I hate more than a leader who won’t actually talk to their INDIVIDUAL team members and get a pulse. I capitalized “individual” because I know too many leaders who get a pulse from team members about OTHER team members. It is ridiculous and is another post some time.
“Well, I don’t want to talk to them because they’re just always so cynical!” Seriously? That’s your answer? Great job leader! You know, I once heard Jim Collins say that a cynic is nothing more than a passionate person who is tired of being let down. Why don’t you try getting out of yourself and discover the inner champion of your team member? Who knows? You might be impressed. Worst case, you find out they do suck, and you get rid of them. Most likely, I believe, it won’t be the issue. You’ll find that you’re the problem. OUCH!
The title Stop Talking! is for the team member who’s complaining, especially with the public within earshot. If that’s you, force a time with your leader to get them to listen. If they suck, and they can’t give you the time, go someplace where you can be a champion! Don’t stay and become a cynic!
Question: What do you think causes team members to talk like this?
18 thoughts on “Stop Talking!”
Of all the issues leaders must address, I think this has to be one of the most challenging. Until I heard you all talk about it, I never thought about how harmful it can be to a team, and I now view it differently. You asked why we think this happens? Well, in addition to what you said, we’ve all observed gossip since the day we were born. It’s just accepted and no one ever tells their teams to not do it and to bring issues to leadership instead. Also, I believe people gossip/complain to their teammates because team members have something in common – they’re not the leader. Team members form a different type of relationship with one another. This is a very good thing, too, in my view, but gossip is a negative for sure. The key to all of this is the leader must raise the issue with their team, set the expectation and hold people accountable. Otherwise, most people won’t even think about raising the issue to the leader. It’s just not intuitive.
We have a very small office (less than 10). One person is the worm spoiling the whole apple. The issues have been presented to the President with potential solutions (mainly office etiquette training). He hates confrontation and thinks it is something that will work itself out. I even gave him the Entreleadership 1-day materials from when I attended a year-ago and he read about 1/2 of it. He finally returned it last week. Said it was stuck in a briefcase that he doesn’t use anymore. I have to admit, I am in the process of putting together a plan to launch my own business on the side. Once we are through BS2, I will make the full transition. Just to give you a sense of how our office works, no one says a word to each other for HOURS unless it is work related, and at it is kept to a minimum. All of this because the “worm” uses every bit of conversation and uses it to gossip with friends and clients in addition to literally running to the printer to read everything that is printed even if it isn’t hers so she has more to gossip about. When customers come in, the walk past her work space as fast as they can without running to avoid her. The funny thing is that when she isn’t in the office, the atomosphere is so pleasant. We can talk a little personally and the President even chimes in. When she is the office, all conversation stops and the President reacts the same way… when she walks in and he is talking personally with us, he stops and walks back to his office and doesn’t say a word to anyone for hours. Any suggestions would be greatly welcomed! (Thanks for letting me vent Chris :-).)
First, your president needs to get a thing called a backbone! This lack of leadership is what’s causing the whole team to be demoralized. Thinking it’s going to work itself out is beyond ridiculous. Now that I’ve vented a little, the other problem is that your president is what is called a high S in the DISC profile. He can’t stand conflict, so he won’t cause it even to save his team. Hence, the reason you will be starting a new business soon. 🙁
Right on Chris! Although it maybe hits a little close to home. We had a similar thing going on here a couple years ago. One employee was causing everyone to not want to come to work. We finally let him go, low and behold, morale went way up, productivity went way up etc… We are producing more now without him, than we were when he was here.
Micheleo, if you like your job/career at this place, you really need to discuss the pros of dismissing this employee in benefits to the employer. Like I mentioned above, more productivity, better morale, BIGGER BOTTOM LINE! Providing you and the others can pick up the slack.
Definitely not being validated is a reason…but typically someone who just has a gripe isn’t taking charge and doing their part to fix it, regardless of whether the employer is listening or not. Do small things to help. Will they appreciate you? No…but your team members will. Do everything they ask you to do and more. Will this fix it? No, and you may go home in tears. But you will have a peace in your soul because you tried and the day they fire you because they want to replace you with someone else who “fits their mold” you will have learned some tools in the meantime. Griping or venting is needed but must be done to the right people. If not, nobody wants to be around you because it feels as if you are complaining. We all face times we want to gripe, however, it is a learning process on how to take those feelings and thoughts to the right place to get results. I always try to look at myself and why I am feeling that way so that I can fix whatever I can fix. If not, telling you unless you are listening because you are my friend and want to encourage me, will not help me!
BOOM! I love it when you chime in! 🙂
I suspect in the example of your story, working at a sandwich shop isn’t this girl’s ideal “work that matters.” Do you think J-O-Bs are more prone to cynicism and negativity?
Absolutely. Because there’s not a leader that’s showing them that it’s bigger than just making lunch. Without the belief that they are making someone’s day each time they make a great sandwich, in a timely manner, and are courteous, it’s just spending time to get a paycheck. Thanks Ben!!
I think gossip is one of the most damaging issues facing an organization. In fact, it’s one of the unseen monsters that damages reputations, vision and unity. Anyone can find a reason to complain but a real leader looks for solutions to problems.
Such good stuff here! What a crazy perspective that we, as leaders, may be the solution to stopping gossip among our team! Love it. Thanks for both the conviction and encouragement.
Haha….yeah, it seems to be a little known concept.
I think you really hit the nail on the head here Chris. As someone in the service industry, it’s easy to forget that you’re always “on-stage”. When you’re having a bad day, or are simply upset with something work-related, your customers will feel that vibe from you. Employees see customers come and go throughout the day and yet may not realize the impact that each interaction has on these customers. As a disgruntled employee, you may feel: “hey, it doesn’t matter to gossip in front of this customer, they’re just one of many”, but this is a poor outlook on customer service. You mentioned that it is the leaders’ duty to cut out the gossip and I agree with this. But as I can attest to – and you mentioned in your post – sometimes leaders can feel unapproachable. Good leaders need to be open and available to their team members because at the end of the day, we’re all apart of a TEAM. A quarterback with a disgruntled or unhappy offensive line will accomplish nothing in a game; the same goes for a business with unhappy team members. Good business’s succeed because all of the employees, from the top to the bottom, are on-board and proud of where they work and the what they do. Good Leaders can facilitate this.
Heck yeah! Great input Matt!!
I agree with you, employees gossip, for a lot of BAD reasons, but one of them as you point out is because they are not being heard, or they feel they are not being heard. In a small company i think it’s a little bit easier to fix this, but how would you go about fixing this in a big company (thousands of employees), especially for those lower where the lines of commands seem to stretch to heaven.
It all begins with culture. Without it, you can
Chris – I probably have several answers to the question “why are they talking like this” – but one that immediately comes to mind is that they feel they need to be HEARD – and so they talk. Maybe they TRIED to talk to leadership but were ignored, shoved aside, and put down. OR maybe they have NOT talked to leadership because of fear of conflict or repercussions – and it is easier to tell someone else about the problem or challenge than risk your job or your position with a leader who “can’t be trusted”. Thanks for something to think about…..!