The quickest way to kill team morale and ruin trust is to allow gossip. I define gossip as communicating negatively about someone when they are not present. It is an expression of disrespect.
The opposite of gossip is practicing the value of honoring the absent. I read about this in the classic “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. A great coaching question to stimulate thought and team discussion is “How would you feel if people heard what you were saying about them?” I’m sure if you are saying wonderful things about their character and value you would be glad to get caught!! Unfortunately, most of the talk “about” other people when they’re not around is negative and disrespectful.
Here’s another great question to consider. “How would your team, organization, company, family, or church be different if gossip was banned?” It seems that most people are quick to talk ABOUT people, but reluctant to talk TO people about issues. I encourage you as a leader not to just accept negative reports about others but offer to meet with everyone together so that you can address the problems. If a person bringing a negative report is unwilling to meet and work with the other person to resolve the issue, the negative information is useless and constitutes gossip.
I realize this is a high standard of communication within an organization, but it can be implemented. For this standard to be effective, the leaders must be bold, courageous, and first willing to rid their own communication of negative, critical talk about others.
Problems and issues need to be clarified, attacked and solved. People need to be loved, encouraged, accepted, forgiven and understood.