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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

Take the toxins out of office gossip

My newest column in The Globe & Mail‘s Leadership Lab series hit cyberspace this morning.

Take the toxins out of office gossip

is about how leaders need to make it unequivocally clear that negative gossip about others is never acceptable in the workplace. There IS a difference between trivial banter and negative gossip, and it’s up to leaders to establish a zero-tolerance policy, AND model the behaviour they expect from others. Click on the link above for a further explanation.


I am now in my second year of writing regular columns for The Globe‘s Report on Business, and I am so excited and thankful that they continue to generate so much interest and dialogue. It’s only when we talk to one another about the issues that we face that we become even better leaders than we already are. So please share your thoughts; I’m eagerly looking forward to your reactions and perspectives. Add your viewpoint to The Globe‘s website, or if you wish, respond on our blog, drop me an email or send me a tweet (@mergespeaks).

And please do me one more favour – help me get the word out … pass the link along to your staff and colleagues. I’d love to hear their perspectives – whether they agree or disagree – as well!

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Here is a direct link to the article in case you need to cut and paste it elsewhere:

How a leader should handle workplace gossip

bigstock-bullying-in-the-workplace-offi-25457597Set a zero-tolerance policy around workplace gossip and you’ll quickly gain a reputation for leading a positive and productive workplace. Here is the rule to live by – “Don’t say anything negative about a person unless s/he is actually in the room.” That’s it! Faithfully and consistently stick to the rule yourself, and insist that your employees do the same. And when you hear someone start up with “Did you hear what he said?”, stop them, immediately, and repeat the rule.

When staff disparage or laugh at people who aren’t there; when they say “Did you hear what she did?” and it’s not a compliment; when they snicker about someone else’s faux pas – all they really mean is that they have nothing better to do than talk about other people. Continue reading