Talking with a client, he asked:

‘Why is there a ‘bitchy’ culture developing in my organisation?’

‘Is there a gender difference in terms of unhealthy gossip?’

‘When did this begin?’

‘Who is involved?’

‘How should I talk about it and to whom?'

‘What should I do?’

WHOA, hold on! The noise in the room was ramping up, the speed of thought and of talk was increasing.

So, I asked him to stand back, to pause, breathe, and together we looked at the evidence before us.

Now, this is a very astute leader who can trust his instincts (and often does, which has worked in the past). Therefore, we know that something is wrong and needs attention, this much was clear.

My next advice is clear and a golden rule for leaders:

When faced with a situation that you are not comfortable with, act quickly, honestly, transparently! In this manner, you can move into finding out the facts of what is going on. So, ask questions directly, acknowledge what is not acceptable and share the information with all of those involved.

Through being clear and direct and by acting quickly, the results will be the speediest, the kindest and have the most positive effect possible.

To illustrate, imagine the opposite: we wait, watch, ponder. All this does is at best lead to a stagnation and acceptance of the status quo, at worst it leads to that old favourite parlour games: Chinese Whispers.

Take a spoonful of a gossipy culture, add a touch of Chinese Whispers and garnish with a smattering of professional competition…a recipe for a work environment so full of negativity and mind chatter that the focus on productivity and work begins to take a back seat.

In a nutshell - anytime that we detect a problem in the workplace, trust your instinct and act with direct, honest and transparent communication. It’s not rocket science and can offer us an opportunity to break the habit of a lifetime. How refreshing!