The Gossip Effect


Building a winning culture is the subject of countless articles and interviews. It’s on everyone’s mind these days, CEOs to first-level leaders.

Something seemingly simple, but perpetually elusive is containing gossip.

Gossip is arguably the most significant contributor to a low-trust, low-productivity culture. It’s sadly easy for anyone to devolve into patterns of gossip, as it’s common in all of our lives, in homes, schools, churches, and neighborhoods. It’s all around us and often very common in every aspect of our relationships.

Leaders in organizations—or for that matter, anyone at any level—can overnight become a transition figure in their culture. Take this significant step to transform your own brand and reputation. From there, watch your own influence and trust grow on your immediate team and then across the organization.

Starting as soon as you finish this blog, commit that you will never again talk about someone behind their back. When someone comes up in conversation (via phone, text, email, or live in a face-to-face meeting), speak about them exactly as if they were standing right in front of you, looking you square in the eyes.

Easier written here than modeled in our behavior, but let’s make a commitment to each other: let’s be uber aware of our loyalty to everyone, especially those who annoy us or we generally dislike, even for well-deserved reasons. This doesn’t mean we don’t provide high-courage feedback to those in our lives, professionally and personally, or we avoid difficult conversations, or we shy away from sharing frustrations. To the contrary, have those conversations—in the presence of the particular person.

To quote Dr. Stephen R. Covey:

“When you defend those who are absent, you retain the trust of those present.”

Unconscious biases are hard to identify, much less know their true impact. Before you can take steps to operate more fairly and effectively at work, you need to get your bearings. Download our latest guide: Seven Misconceptions About Unconscious Bias. 

About the Author

Scott Miller

Scott Miller is a twenty-three-year associate of FranklinCovey and serves as the executive vice president of thought leadership. Scott hosts multiple podcasts including FranklinCovey On Leadership and Great Life, Great Career. Additionally, Scott is a co-author of The Wall Street Journal bestselling book, Everyone Deserves A Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices For Leading A Team. He is also the author of the multiweek Amazon #1 New Release, Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow. Scott writes a weekly leadership column for and is a frequent contributor to Thrive Global. Previously, Scott worked for the Disney Development Company and grew up in Central Florida. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and three sons.

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