Spring Cleaning

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This is the time of the year where people feel energized to renew and reinvigorate their spaces. Inside, they open windows, wipe baseboards, and dust everything, high and low. Outside, gutters need attention, branches may need trimming, and it’s crucial to assess any areas where water may have seeped in. This is particularly important, as any errant water can lead to rot.

Culturally, we are so used to this pattern that we all recognize the phenomenon of “spring cleaning.”

What we may not realize is that organizations need this kind of attention, too. In this case, we aren’t looking to do tasks like clean carpets or do paint touch up, we need to consider the human element. Just as water leads to rot in wood, there are certain behaviors that end up “rotting” an organization.

The one that is most insidious? Gossip. Oxford learners dictionary online defines gossip as: informal talk or stories about other’s lives which may be unkind or not true. In the workplace, gossip wastes time, decreases both trust and morale and can lead to a tremendous amount of misinformation.

So, what can be done about this issue?

  1. Establish a culture where gossip has no ability to thrive. People tend to see it as harmless behavior. In actuality, it’s anything but. Be clear about the costs of gossip and that it won’t be tolerated.
  2. All leaders must walk the talk. Model the behavior you expect to see (or in this case, not hear). If any conversation begins to veer off track, moving toward gossip, bring it back, quickly, and firmly.
  3. Teach people ways to connect and solve problems effectively. In my experience, the main reason gossip flourishes is because people are frustrated and don’t know how to resolve it in a healthy way. Their feelings of helplessness often lead to venting, petty complaints, and grumbling. While these indirect tactics give them a sense of power, it’s just an illusion and doesn’t ultimately have value. Having the ability to speak up for oneself and resolve issues is true power.

While it’s easy to defer maintenance, at home or at work, it will always come at a cost. Take this opportunity to tackle your “human element” spring cleaning list and enjoy the results for seasons to come.