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Dealing with workplace gossip – Dogs don’t bark at parked cars

Unfortunately, workplace gossip is a reality.  Sometimes it’s fairly benign, but more often than not, it is hurtful to the person who is the subject of the workplace gossip.

workplace gossipA professional colleague told me about a situation that happened to him just recently.  He has been quite excited about certain business successes he has achieved.  However, he was deeply disappointed to find out that someone whom he considered to be a good friend publicly criticized and disparaged his recent accomplishments.   He believes that this gossip is driven by envy and spite.  He is, not surprisingly, frustrated and saddened by his so-called friend’s actions.

Dogs don’t bark at parked cars

I was immediately reminded of a phrase I heard from a Bahamian colleague over six years ago  — “Dogs don’t bark at parked cars.” I remember clearly when he said this, I turned to him with interest and had to ask him to explain.  “You never see a dog chasing a parked car, do you? The only reason you are a target for workplace gossip is because you are making giant strides and going to winning places! If you weren’t climbing to great heights, then there would be no reason for anyone to try and knock you down. Take any malicious workplace gossip as a compliment and as an affirmation of your success.” Those wise words have stuck with me, and I repeated them to my upset colleague.

So what about you?  How many times have you been upset or hurt by gossip and back-biting.  Perhaps this phrase is what you need to help put things in perspective. I’d love to hear what you think.  Please share by adding to the Comments link below.

If you’re looking for some more advice on how to handle workplace gossip, you may find this column I wrote for The Globe and Mail useful: Take the toxins out of office gossip

6 thoughts on “Dealing with workplace gossip – Dogs don’t bark at parked cars

  1. Great message about the way that some people react to the success of others. One of the key characteristics of leadership is having a set of values that reflect the way a leader behaves and acts. Effective leaders “walk the talk” with their values, they live them. When others respond in a negative way to the successes of others, it’s a reflection of their values.

    Failure to recognize the importance of ones values is a sign of an immature leader or someone that simply isn’t a leader. In today’s environment where people have mobility and options, they won’t follow people with divergent values. Successful leaders use them to guide their decisions and actions; they also allow them to be leaders of others that have similar values.

  2. Consider the whole picture in this situation. Focus on the positive outcomes. Sometimes with a picture, there is a small flaw. There is the temptation to point it out. More can be gained by enjoying the remainder of the picture that is pleasing to the eye. You choose which aspect that you want to invest your valuable time in!

  3. Jim, as usual, you are bang on! When people (leaders included) find it necessary to pull others down in order to lift themselves up, it truly is a reflection of their own lack of self-confidence and self-esteem.

  4. Linda, I guess in many ways it’s like the glass is half empty vs. the glass is half-full kind of people. Far better (and more productive) to focus on the positives rather than the negatives!

  5. A great line with innumerable applications. My experience in public office was often challenging, especially by those whose focus was to avoid much change. How often the line heard was “let’s wait and see”. How I wished to retort with “courage is the ability to let go of the familiar”! Hmmmm

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