Success Tweet 122: Keep Confidences, Don’t Gossip

My new career success coach book Success Tweets: 140 Bits of Common Sense Career Success Advice, All in 140 Characters or Less is turning out to be quite a hit.  Over 1,000 people have downloaded the free eBook version and several people have purchased multiple copies of the hard copy book.  I think it’s a great addition to my career advice writings.  Go to to get a .pdf of Success Tweets for free. 

If you want to purchase a hard copy for yourself – or two or three to give to friends, associates, people you mentor, people you manage, your kids, your grandkids – go to or send me an email at  I’ll send you quantity pricing information. 

Today’s career advice comes from  Tweet 122…

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 received a press release from Randstad USA that I saved.  The press release focused on a study they did that identified the Top 7 Pet Peeves in the Workplace.  Here they are, with the percentage of people who identified each pet peeve.

  1.  Gossip – 60%
  2. Other’s poor time management skills – 54%
  3. Messiness in communal spaces – 45%
  4. Potent scents – 42%
  5. Loud noises – 41%
  6. Overuse of electronic personal communication devices in meetings – 28%
  7. Misuse of e mail — 22%

Why should you care?  Because all of these pet peeves are things to avoid if you are going to have positive personal impact and create the life and career success you want and deserve. 

In this post, I want to focus on gossip.  The same day that I received the press release, I got an e mail from Gary Ryan Blair, The Goals Guy.  He has a special report out called Gossip, Rumors and Innuendo: Understanding Gossip and How to Control It!   You can purchase it by going to  Click on “Store”, then “Special Reports”.

Gary likens gossip to 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.”

He’s right.  I know 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, and it’s not great career advice.

Gossip can have a very debilitating affect on other people.  Interpersonally competent people just don’t do it.  People with positive personal impact just don’t do it.  Gossip serves no good purpose, other than to hurt the person about whom it is the subject.

Gossip can be more vicious in this high tech age.  Just last week, a young man who was a freshman at Rutgers University committed suicide after some other boys posted an online video of him engaged in a gay sex act.  This type of behavior goes well beyond the scope of life and career success.  It was just plain cruel and it resulted in the death of another person.

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 another way to kill workplace relationships.  I always suggest to my career success coach clients to 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 each 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 twice, 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 success coach point here is simple.  Follow the career advice in Tweet122 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.  Successful people, those who create positive personal impact, don’t gossip.  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.  Be a life and career success.  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.

That’s my take on the career advice in Success Tweet 122.  What’s yours?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always thanks for reading.


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