I’m sure you've found yourself in a situation at work where you’re “in the zone” and then a colleague has approached you just to vent about someone else? By the time they’ve finished, you’ve lost your momentum, you feel burdened by your colleagues’ frustrations and you’re probably frustrated with them!
These situations continuously occur across the world, every single day. If someone has an issue, whether it be with a manager, colleague or maybe even a relationship outside of work, what do people do? Do they effectively address that issue with the person they have a problem with? Unlikely. More often than not, people share their frustrations with anyone except the person they have a problem with.
Yet, gossip only serves as short-term relief from problems without actually solving them. By gossiping about others, it creates a victim/villain narrative and takes focus and energy away from resolving the problem by holding a crucial conversation with the right person. It’s also a significant distraction for the person hearing the gossip.
So, when someone stops by to interrupt your day with their problems, what can you do?
Option 1: Sympathise
This is the easiest option, all you need to do is nod your head in agreement until the vent is over so you can go back to work and continue with your day. This may be the easiest option but you’re agreeing with the wrong intentions because nothing is resolved and the same thing will only happen again in the future.
Option 2: Defend
Arguably, this option is just as ineffective as the first. Instead of agreeing, you defend the person not in the conversation and maybe even try to rationalise their point of view. It might feel like you’re helping the situation, but it won’t lead to a resolution and worse still you’ll probably just end up antagonising your colleague, break the trust in the relationship and be seen to be ‘taking sides’.
Option 3: Coach
You recognise that a conversation needs to happen between your colleagues, a conversation that doesn’t involve you. You can still offer support and teach your colleague how to hold an effective crucial conversation, but with the intent of seeking a resolution, not being involved in idle gossip.
By following the “CPR” model, you can challenge those who are gossiping with you and stealing your time, energy and focus. By coaching these skills, we can also help the colleague to get unstuck and hold their own crucial conversation.
- C- Stands for content. The problem is that your colleagues are having the conversation with the wrong person and until they communicate their issue to the right person nothing will change.
- P- Stands for pattern. Every time your colleagues complain, the pattern continues because you are failing to address the root of the issue and nothing is resolved. You need to address the pattern by outlining an agreement for change.
- R- Stands for relationship. After several attempts to overcome the pattern, you realise the real problem is not the pattern, it is the relationship. You may feel the other person isn’t commitment to certain priorities at work, which can be detrimental for the relationship.
By showing them this model, they will hopefully realise why their problem has caused them such frustration and provide them with a starting point for tackling it.
When employees have the skills to hold the right conversation with the right person, we can significantly reduce the time and effort wasted by gossip and the complex work-arounds created to avoid dealing with a difficult issue.