A guy I spoke with recently was about to meet a prospective business partner. Before they met, he had heard secondhand that this person was difficult, he was not to be trusted and he should watch out. During the meeting, he noticed how the negative opinions that had been sown about this person were impacting his interactions and influencing how he was engaging.

Consider that conversations create the environment that we live and work inside of and then shape our actions – and we don’t even know this is happening. These are often conversations hidden from our view, always there, acting and determining what is possible for an individual, an organization, or in this case a partnership.

What conversations are you hearing in your organization? What are the conversations that are mostly not being said or are muttered at the water cooler? Do the conversations create an environment consistent with the overall goal of the company and everyone in it? Or are they conversations that kill off future achievement or the sense of accomplishment along the way? The latter is common and has a profound impact on what is noticeable on the surface.

There are some obvious impacts of gossip in the workplace. These include the erosion of credibility, the lack of trust, the mood of cynicism, and the undermining of leadership. What if gossip had not just a significant impact on results but had the decisive impact? When a story begins to circulate not only does it have a detrimental impact on the results but once started, is very difficult to stop. The old Jewish tale of wisdom, “The Pillow Full of Feathers,” demonstrates this well.

An employee at an organization we work with recently made the decision to not partake in any conversations that simply perpetuate negative opinions. She discovered that others were taken aback by this at first, suffering some cognitive dissonance and a little disappointed in her lack of participation. Perhaps her choice not to perpetuate these conversations has more tangible implications than she immediately sees. The next time you feel like adding to the social glue in your organization by giving a negative opinion about a project, a colleague, or a department, take a step back and consider your results.

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