How To Eliminate Gossip On Your Church Staff
By: Nicole Cochran
Gossip can spread like wildfire and brings a sense of distrust to your church staff. It creates a stressful workplace and enables us to knock down our peers, usually to makes us feel better about our situation or ourselves. It also makes it extremely difficult to have an open mind when interacting with someone who we’ve heard a rumor about.
Unfortunately, gossip is a far too common problem in most organizations and often grows in churches as well. It can be a huge killer of good staff culture. As a church leader, it’s vital to step up and extinguish gossip before it spreads. Here are five practical steps to eliminating gossip in the workplace.
1. Define gossip.
It may seem obvious, but you need to let your team know upfront what you consider gossip to be. Consider putting a small section about it in your employee handbook. This is not so they can toe the line, but so that they have a full understanding and can prevent it from ever becoming an issue. Here are a few common definitions:
- Ask yourself, “Is it my story to tell?”
- Gossip is when two or more people are talking about a problem without being a part of the solution.
- Casual or unprofessional conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.
- Idle talk about someone’s private or personal matters, especially someone not present.
Also clearly define what information on your church staff is confidential. As a function of their job, certain team members may know things that others don't. Discretion is vital. Make sure your staff has completel clarity of what kinds of things can be shared and what cannot.
2. Implement & communicate a zero tolerance policy.
At Ramsey Solutions, our friend and client Dave Ramsey has a zero tolerance policy for team gossip. You get one warning, and if caught gossiping a second time, you are fired. This may sound harsh, but it benefits everyone and protects the team and staff culture.
Just as important as having a zero tolerance policy is enforcing the policy. As difficult as it will be, you need to be prepared to actually have to fire someone. But enforcing this policy will show your church staff just how important it is to keep negativity out of your team.
Sidenote: We've all been in Christian circles where we have heard gossip being masked as concern or a prayer request. If that’s happening in your church or on your team, as a leader it is your responsibility to swiftly nip that in the bud.
3. Create a culture where feedback is heard.
Gossip is often the result when there’s no other outlet. If your church staff has a culture where there is no clearly-defined way of expressing thoughts or concerns, then rumors are bound to fly around the office.
Create avenues and opportunities to have productive and open discussions with employees, such as staff reviews or team meetings. Keeping an open door and being an advocate for your church staff members will give them confidence to approach you with concerns rather than discuss them with others.
4. Set the example.
As a church leader, you are looked to as an example of your church’s values. One of the policies we have here at Vanderbloemen (that I’d argue every organization should adopt) is that complaints go up and compliments go down. That simply means that superiors should never gossip or talk negatively, but only encourage or give constructive feedback to their employees. And in turn, employees should take complaints or concerns only to their superior, not engage in rumors and gossip with their peers.
5. Reward praise.
While it is expected that leaders should set the example of praise, shaping a staff culture of compliments and team encouragement will help build positivity in the workplace. If you see your fellow staff members encouraging one another, give verbal affirmation. Always recognize and reward positive behavior.
Gossip will only tear down your team, so avoid the toxicity and eliminate it from your workplace altogether. William Vanderbloemen offers some more great insights and practical applications here for churches on ways to stomp out gossip.
What ways have you combatted gossip on your team? How do you prevent it?