One of the most destructive things we can do to a culture is to gossip about one another. Gossip is, essentially, the act of talking about each another instead of talking to each other.
In a way, gossip is understandable. We are trying to assess what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ by observing and commenting on other’s behaviors. We are also comparing ourselves to others to confirm that we are ‘ok’ in our social group. Gossip is a reflection of the level of insecurity we feel about our social status.
Gossip is also, however, highly destructive because it places judgment over connection. When we judge or talk about another’s behavior we separate ourselves from them, and this painful and unnatural. Talking about each other also breaks trust, which further separates us. A gossipy culture destroys safety for all the members because no one person can ever be certain that the rest of the group is not talking about them!
In my experience with organizations, one of the hallmarks of a toxic culture is the level to which employees talk about each other. If I hear leaders talking about a particular person without that person present I know that trust has been broken. If I hear team-members talk about their leaders or each other I know that communication is broken and misunderstanding rampant.
The only answer to gossip is to refrain from doing it. If you have something to say, say it to the person. If you want to create a strong culture (family, work or community) talk to each other rather than about each other. Build connections instead of walls. When we connect we build trust, and when we trust each other we can create anything together.