Gutting Gossip

By Diana Banister

When the disciples were accused of not following Jewish law and eating with unclean hands, Jesus told the Pharisees “nothing that enters a person is what defiles them,” but “what comes out of a person is what defiles them.”  (Mark 7:21)

Jesus was referring to our words and actions. In today’s tabloid culture, what comes out of ours mouths is often gossip. From Hollywood to Washington, the news of the day often takes the form of gossip, innuendo, and tearing others down. “Gossip Girls,” a celebrated TV show, glorified that behavior, especially among teens.

It’s easy to develop a habit of saying unkind things or spreading rumors. Many employees discuss their bosses in negative terms. “Did you see what she was wearing?” “What was he thinking when he said that to a client?” “I heard he was out with a woman who wasn’t his wife.”

As a public affairs firm in the nation’s capital, our office often has CNN or FOX on and the staff hears the vitriol and negative discussions 24-7. Cable news outlets pit a Republican against a Democrat and the conversation often times devolves into innuendo.

The problem is when gossip becomes a daily habit. As a Christian, it’s my responsibility to set a good example and not delve into the salacious. Gossip is disruptive to office morale and unity and hurts the person doing it. It can be difficult to avoid and it requires a conscious effort to refrain from talking about a fellow employee or a client.

When I’m hiring, I look for candidates who are reserved, mature, and confident in their abilities. But the temptation to disparage someone else is always there.

Some useful tips for discouraging gossip include:

Holding your tongue. I try to hold my tongue and be an example. If I’m tempted to gossip, I try to remind myself that the person I’m disparaging or spreading a rumor about is also a child of God, worthy of respect and dignity. No one looks better by pointing out someone else’s flaws.

Encouraging your subordinates. I try to encourage work subordinates to not speak ill of others—especially coworkers and clients. If it happens in a staff meeting or business function, I try to gently correct it. My coworkers know I don’t curse. When they curse, they are sheepish and realize it might be offensive to me. If only they had the same awareness when crossing a line with gossip.

Holding an intervention. Gossip among employees may require an intervention. A few years ago, two young women were very close and another employee tried to join their group. They rolled their eyes and had plenty of conversations about the other girl. I stepped in and encouraged them to include her. After moving offices, she was finally accepted, but the damage had been done.

Ultimately, it’s important to search for the good in people, and you won’t find it through gossip.

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