Gossip is a Career Success Killer

This is my last post of 2014.  I always take off a couple of weeks at the end of the year to reflect and refresh.  I’ll be back on January 5 with more interesting career success content for you.

Here is a link to a video that tells the sad story of a promising interview gone terribly wrong.


“That guy” made a huge mistake.  He gossiped about the SVP to the company’s driver — and lost a job as a result.  Gossip can also hurt you when you’re on the job.   Tweet 122 in Success Tweets says, “Keep confidences and avoid gossip. Don’t embarrass others by repeating what they share with you – even if it isn’t in confidence.”

A couple of years ago I saw a study they did that identified the Top 7 Pet Peeves in the Workplace. Gossip led the list, with over 60% of the respondents listing it as their biggest pet peeve.

My friend Gary Ryan Blair likens workplace gossip workplace violence.

“To many people, the idea of ‘workplace violence’ connotes the physical harm that one may do to another. However, there is another form of workplace violence that is just as dangerous and insidious, and this is workplace gossip, rumors, and innuendo. While your first inclination may be to consider the way we talk as not being violent , the fact remains, our words in the context of gossip, rumors, and innuendo often lead to hurt, pain and suffering.”

There’s an old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” This is something that mothers tell their children to help them deal with the inconsiderate things kids say to one another. Unfortunately, it’s not true.

Gossip can have a very debilitating effect on another person. Successful people just don’t engage in it.  Gossip serves no good purpose, other than to hurt the person who is the subject.

The book, As A Gentleman Would Say, offers some great advice about gossip.

“When a gentleman is asked to substantiate a rumor… He does not say: ‘Let me put it this way: I’m not going to say yes, I’m not going to say no.’ ‘I think I know the truth, but I better not say it.’ ‘Don’t you have any better way to waste your time?’  But he does say: ‘I don’t know the truth about that, so I’d prefer not to say anything.’

Breaking confidences is almost as bad as gossip.  It can kill your workplace relationships. I always suggest to my career mentoring clients that they avoid revealing anything said to them – even if the person who says it doesn’t ask you to hold his or her remarks in confidence.

When I was a young guy, I had two mentors: my boss, the VP of HR, and a client, the VP of Marketing. I liked and respected both of them. And I wanted them to like and respect one another. One day, my boss mentioned that she found the VP of Marketing to be somewhat aloof and difficult to get to know.

This bothered me, so in a conversation with the VP of Marketing, I mentioned that my boss found him a little aloof and hard to get to know. I wanted the two of them to like each other. And, I thought that together they could really do some great things for the company. Boy, was that a mistake!

The VP of Marketing (my client) called the VP of HR (my boss) and complained that she was talking behind his back, and that if she had a problem with him, he wished that she would take it up with him. As soon as she got off the phone, my boss called me into my office and proceeded to let me know in no uncertain terms that she didn’t appreciate me violating her confidence.

I was shocked. To begin with, I was surprised that she thought of her comment about the VP of Marketing as confidential. Second, I was surprised that he was upset enough to call her to complain.

I apologized to my boss. She then said something that I remember to this day. “That’s OK you made a mistake. Everybody is entitled to make a mistake now and then. But trust me on this, you’ll never make the same mistake three times. I expect you to learn from it the first time. If you make the same mistake two times, there will be no third time because you’ll be gone.”

That’s how I learned how to keep confidences, even if I thought they weren’t told to me in confidence. The best career advice I can give you on this is to never do or say anything that will embarrass your boss, your colleagues, or other people in your company. Stay silent.

The common sense career mentor point here is simple. Follow the advice in Tweet 122 in Success Tweets. “Keep confidences and avoid gossip. Don’t embarrass others by repeating what they share with you – even if it isn’t in confidence.” Gossip not only hurts other people, it makes you smaller. The old saying, “Extraordinary people talk about ideas, average people talk about events, and little people talk about other people,” is true. Be an extraordinary person. Don’t gossip or share things told to you in confidence. Treat most things that aren’t common knowledge in your company as being told to you in confidence.

Happy holidays.  I’ll see you in 2015.

Your career mentor,


PS: You can join thousands of success minded professionals who have downloaded Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained and are using the advice in both books to help them create successful, fulfilling lives and careers.  Just go to www.SuccessTweets.com and enter your contact information.  And, when you do, I’ll begin sending you daily motivational quotes and give you a free membership in my career mentoring site.


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  1. Thanks a lot for the tip, and yes Gossiping can limit your career on the other hand if you are still on a job and gossiping about superior that can limit your future opportunities too.Wonderful topic.

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