Learn Lessons from the Gossip Mill

Gossip has its merits. It keeps people attuned to issues and concerns not otherwise expressed by formal methods of communication. For bosses, it’s a great way to get the pulse of a company while achieving retention and productivity goals. For employees, it’s critical in understanding the unwritten practices and policies of any organization.

However, by its inherent nature, gossip has negative impacts on individuals, groups and companies, and can strain or destroy relationships. People are naturally more likely to spread the negative aspects of what a company or individual has done than the positive ones. It’s impossible to eliminate gossip as long as people use it as a way to vent their frustrations with a person, situation or event; use it as a favorite pastime; or use it as a reason to connect with others and hurt anyone they see as “competition.”

Some people mistakenly believe that if gossip doesn’t matter to them, it shouldn’t matter to others. Handled incorrectly or not at all, gossip can ignite into something explosive that can lead companies to close their doors, good employees to depart for competitors, careers being sabotaged, and the creation of sacrificial lambs. Falsely believing that people shouldn’t be talking about “inside” issues won’t stop the gossip. In some cases, it can actually fuel it! It’s time for an intervention of good PR!

How can you use gossip to promote a positive workplace, while keeping your customers and employees happy and satisfied? How do you effectively handle the inevitable gossip that every company and organization must contend with, both internally and externally?

Talk with people, not about them.

Too often when things don’t go right we immediately seek to blame someone, whether warranted by facts or not, and let others know. Or we hear something and immediately call our closest friend or co-worker to tell them. That’s how most gossip gets started and then escalates. Avoid this problem by talking directly with those involved to get their version of events and focus on the facts. Normally you’ll find that while part of the rumor may be true, it usually is not as detrimental to the project or person(s) involved as it would initially appear. Then, you can bring everyone involved together to discuss a win-win outcome, deal with perceptions and create a positive process or system to move forward.

Be responsible for the words you chose to describe an issue or person.

Usually, they are more reflective of how we view our own weaknesses. A boss was lamenting how an employee was not being “collaborative” in his efforts to work with the group. In fact, the employee was simply being outspoken about a long-term issue and expressing his willingness to address it with others. The boss felt that everyone should be solely focused on their own work and not getting involved in everyone else’s job. Because of his incorrect use of the word “collaborative,” other employees were confused and feared losing their jobs for collaborating – or maybe for not collaborating. The company continues to struggle to retain key employees and provide quality products and services to their clients, uncertain whether to get involved to resolve issues or not.

We as human beings love to be offended!

And, we retaliate by spreading gossip about how someone offended us, when in fact they may have been simply making a statement or agreeing with us. A woman shared her experiences as a boss and the amount of turnover she had dealt with recently. The employee she was speaking to indicated that yes, in fact, she had heard about the turnover and the boss’ struggles. The boss was offended that the employee agreed with her and passed her over for a promotion, even though she was most qualified for the position. The boss told others that the employee would not make a good team player.

Find out the facts!

Too often we automatically respond to situations based on how we feel in the moment. Sometimes we feel the need to defend something we have said or done that was misunderstood by others. It may be too late, as the damage is done. Normally, anything can be resolved through effective communication and persuasive listening. It takes a willingness to really hear about others’ perceptions of the situation and clarify the facts. Only then can you move forward within the context of the company’s vision and values, and make a commitment to the welfare of the team.

A new boss once inherited an employee he did not like. The employee had many more years of experience than the boss, so the new boss felt intimidated. While working on a project, the employee complained that there were some ongoing problems that needed to be addressed. The boss then heard from others that they didn’t believe there were any ongoing problems, and that they didn’t wish to work with the negative employee! The boss then used this information to terminate the employee. The boss was uncomfortable learning how to build a team in an environment where employees didn’t automatically and simply agree with one another. Unfortunately the issue hasn’t gone away, and the rumor mill has labeled the boss’s team a “bad group to work with.” That division of the company will soon be closed down since they are not longer profitable.

If there’s an elephant in the room, address it!

It won’t go away on its own! Organizations have lost huge numbers of members, customers, employees and revenues by not addressing ongoing concerns. Companies have lost great employees and lots of money because it failed to handle issues effectively, or because of the proverbial “skeleton in the closet.” These types of things will eventually come back to haunt you if they are not addressed effectively. Even if it doesn’t seem like a problem to you, someone may see it as a problem, or make it a problem.

A female employee complained about her new female manager to the point of taking a different job with a male boss. However, that didn’t stop her from continuing to complain about this female manager, who was dealing with liability issues her predecessor hadn’t handled well. Eventually the female manager left, after filing a lawsuit for harassment. When the employee was finally asked why she kept complaining, she stated, “I just don’t like working with women bosses. And, I liked my former male boss better.” Usually when there is a spark, a fire will follow. Many other harassment suits followed and the company’s assets were sold.

Get everyone on the same page by helping them understand the bigger picture (vision) as well as the steps needed to achieve it (action plans).

Remember this is a process, not an event. Hire a facilitator to help everyone – executives, managers and employees – work through issues, particularly those that keep reoccurring. Be committed to handling other issues that will arise, as well. Train everyone to handle both the ‘people and material’ side of meetings.

Have your managers and executives work with a coach or mentor.

A third party can help support them in developing the competence and confidence to address concerns and opportunities that arise, as they arise. What they learn can be as simple as how to communicate with others, how to be heard by others, how to resolve conflict confidently, and how to be “politically correct.”

Don’t rely solely on email to convey important messages or resolve conflict.

The average person has the reading and writing ability of a sixth grader. As a result, messages can easily be misread or misunderstood due to varying education levels, reading and writing capabilities and/or the cultural definition of words. For example, you may interpret this article one way and focus on something in particular, while others may focus on something else of importance to them. Each reader will then convey to others their belief about whether this article was of value to them or not. A rumor has been started!

Be responsible for what you convey to others.

Too often we believe that it is others’ responsibility to understand what we meant, even if it’s not what we said. Unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world. Take time to check with the listener to hear what they’ve heard you say. The difference will be amazing.


There’s no getting around the fact that there will be gossip in almost every organization. How you use that fact, how you approach communicating with your staff, and how your company handles gossip, will have a huge impact on the success of your organization. Don’t make assumptions about how people receive and perceive information about the organization, the staff, and their own personal role, duties and performance. Taking a few very effective steps can significantly cut down on a lack of information, as well as miscommunication and misunderstanding that can start the gossip mill churning, fueling wild speculation, drama, hurt feelings and resentment.

© Jeannette L. Seibly, 2006-2007

 Jeannette Seibly, Principal of SeibCo — your partner in developing work and career strategies for selection, results and growth, we improve your bottom line!   Contact SeibCo, LLC @ 303-660-6388 or JLSeibly@comcast.net.  Website: http://www.SeibCo.com

HITTING WALLS IN LIFE — When can I have what I want?

Most of us go through life hoping that someday we can have what we want, and have all our dreams come true. Many of us know what our dreams are, and can articulate them. They also change over time. However, when we dream about what we want, we often – almost automatically – stop and allow our minds to rationalize all the reasons why our dreams shouldn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t happen.

At that moment, you’ve hit the proverbial “wall in life,” and stopped! Most people are good at rationalizing why something won’t work, and never come up with reasons why it could, should and would happen. They’ve limited their dreams from happening now, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year – maybe ever.

Fortunately the walls in life that have stopped us from pursuing – and achieving – our dreams are all just in our heads! It’s not our parents, families, teachers, bosses and/or education level that have been limiting us. It’s simply how we view life, our willingness to have what we say we wish to have, and then do what it takes to achieve it. Walls in life are not insurmountable. To give up because we believe “it must not be meant to be” takes away our confidence and competence in fulfilling our life’s dreams.

How do we achieve our life dreams? Our goals for tomorrow? Next year? What about 5 or 10 years from now?

It sounds simple, and it can be, even though it may not look that way from where you’re standing or sitting right now: Write out your dreams, and write them into goals and action plans.  Address your fears and insecurities as they arise, and know that they simply represent a “wall in life” that has probably stopped you before from having what you said you wanted – and that you can overcome the wall.

A 47-year-old woman had had a dream of living in Colorado since she was 15. When she was younger she had been on a 4-H exchange trip and truly enjoyed the drier climate, sun and mountains. She vowed to move there soon. Graduation from high school, college and a graduate degree came and went. She worked for several different companies and moved around the state where she had always lived, as had her parents and family members.

Moving was always a possibility; however, there were always reasons why not to (e.g., couldn’t find a job there, schools were less expensive in-state, her mom & dad lived here, etc.). Then at age 47, the “lights went on” and it became clear she needed to make a commitment to do this for herself. It was clear to her that the “perfect time” was “by when” she made it happen! She developed her plan, shared her dream and requested the networking resources necessary. The goal was set for 4-30-2003. She arrived on 4-09-2003!

While it hasn’t been easy living in a new region of the country, not knowing anyone, not always knowing what to expect from new resources, she loves where she is living. That brooding sense of not being fulfilled is gone. Most importantly, she believes in herself. She knows she can make her dreams into realities.

The “perfect moment” is when you decide that it is. It doesn’t matter the reasons you give yourself for when you will or will not. Being afraid of change and not being willing to blast through the walls in life are all that are in the way of accomplishing your dreams.

How do you accelerate this process? Write it out. Walk it out. Talk it out.

Take time to write out your goals. The woman made her move to Colorado sooner than expected because she wrote out the end goal, and worked backgrounds to put in place tasks and milestones for it to happen. There wasn’t an “if” – there was simply a “by when” each item was to be completed. When she didn’t complete that item, for whatever reason, she would talk it out with her closest friends and get back in action. She also kept a journal with recording her fears and excitement of moving so far away by herself. Seeing them written in black and white helped provide her with a new perspective, more compassion for herself, and renew her determination that “yes, I can do this.”

Walk it out … or exercise regularly. Even a mile a day will help you feel good and can keep a positive mindset needed to help you  move forward in accomplishing your goals.

Talk it out … with a trusted friend. Include those familiar walls that pop up when you’re least expecting them. Share with a coach or mentor your goals, someone who won’t buy into your “BS,” or what’s commonly known as “excuses.” If you include in your plans the opportunities to “hit the wall,” you can blast through them quicker. Most people make the mistake of trying to go it alone, without the benefit of others’ insights and help, thus limiting what’s possible. Talking with a good coach/mentor will keep you in action, and provide insights into making the process easier!

©Jeannette L. Seibly, 2005-2007

Jeannette Seibly, Principal of SeibCo — your partner in developing work and career strategies for selection, results and growth. We improve your bottom line!  jlseibly@gmail.com

HIRING MYTHS — What you don’t know can cost you!

The challenge and cost of a hiring mistake is one of the most-discussed, most frustrating, and most misunderstood problems that our businesses can face.

If you do not know what a single hiring mistake is costing you, take the annual salary for the position and multiply by 2.5.  This number represents productivity loss, recruiting and hiring cost, training cost, liability, unemployment, and the other 101 hidden costs that we usually try not to think of, or may be aware of, when we lose an employee.   

Hiring mistakes often begin with our believing in “hiring truths” only to find that in reality they are “hiring myths!”   When we hire someone who does not fit the job, we have already begun an almost inevitable course that will end with failure—and another hiring casualty.

Myth #1:        We can hire anyone to do anything.

We believe in the illusion that we can coach, train and motivate anyone to do anything.  Unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world.  People come into our companies with their own “version” of how to do something and whether or not they will.  Sometimes we can train them in “our” way; many times we can provide surface training.  It’s what’s underneath (a.k.a. core behaviors, thinking styles and occupational interests) that can keep them from doing the job as it needs to be done.

Myth #2:        I’ve always relied on my gut.

While using your “gut” or “intuition” can provide insight, it’s far from a perfect science.  Usually, our gut feelings are based upon past experiences; we’re trying not to hire the same (unsuitable) person we did before, or find someone as great as the person that just left for a better job.  People are like ice bergs: You only see the tip, the part they wish to show us.  However, we miss the 75% that is covered up that will make or break their success in our business.

Myth #3:        We simply hire and fire until we find the “right one.”

In the meantime, the other “right” ones have left!   The cost of personnel has gone up, quality and customer relations have declined, and your bottom line has been severely impacted! 

Myth #4:        Any assessment tool will do.

Why don’t more of us use assessments to improve our hiring (and lower turnover)? Part of the answer lies in lack of education on the topic—not many of us have even attended a single seminar on use of scientific assessment tools. Part lies in reluctance to spend any money on new processes. Part of it, frankly, is the already overwhelming load we place on the people who are doing the hiring—they are untrained.

Fortunately, the science of assessments has produced increasingly useful and valid tools. While no assessment, or even a combination of assessments, guarantees success, the same study showed that use of personality, abilities, interests, and job matching measures can raise your success rate to 75% or better.

© Jeannette L. Seibly and John W. Howard, 2006

 Jeannette Seibly, Principal of SeibCo — your partner in developing work and career strategies for selection, results and growth, We improve your bottom line!   JLSeibly@comcast.net 

John W Howard, Ph.D., owner of Performance Resources, Inc. helps businesses of all sizes increase their profits by reducing their people costs. His clients hire better, fire less, manage better, and keep their top performers.  jwh@prol.ws

Stay Motivated During an Economic Downturn

With an economic downturn in business, you may have started feeling the pinch. Budgets have been slashed. Training and development dollars suspended. Travel curtailed. Salaries decreased. Expenses reduced.

During this time, some executives will succeed financially while others will fail. While it’s not a law of life that one must fail during a downturn, people who are afraid to learn and give it all they’ve got could find their personal financial growth negatively impacted. Those who succeed find their success depends upon their attitude and their ability to use this time as an opportunity to increase their business savvy.

When your company experiences a growth slowdown or experiences financial trouble, now is the time to improve your “business depth and breadth.” Or, your alternative is to become a job seeker. The Labor Department’s latest survey of employees found that even when the economy was still red hot, that even during the best of times, many displaced employees take a big hit. And, executives are not exempt! In fact, the rule of thumb is that the higher up the corporate ladder you go the longer it’ll take you to find another comparable position, not necessarily with the same financial renumeration!

A year or two after being laid off, over a fifth of former full-timers were either still unemployed or had left the labor force–and another 11% were either self-employed, working part-time or doing unpaid family work. Nearly 40% of re-employed workers had to change occupations to find work—and—39% back on full-time payrolls were receiving less pay than at their previous jobs (and over half of these suffered wage declines of at least 20%).

With the economy slowing down, now is the time to get yourself some executive insurance—developing your business depth and breadth, or another way of saying it: your business acumen. It can result in you staying and growing with your company or moving on, on your own terms, thus ensuring your personal financial growth.

Golden Rule #1: “IF YOU’RE WAITING FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO DO IT, SO ARE THEY!” What can you do when your company’s growth has slowed or is in financial trouble? First, and foremost, get in action NOW. What immediate challenges does the company face (whether or not you’re directly responsible for that area)? Interview different managers. Ask questions and really listen to their responses: “What are 3 issues facing us today?” “Why are these issues important?” “How do you suggest they be resolved?” “How much will it cost if we do?” “How much will it cost if we don’t?” 

Golden Rule #2: “DON’T BELIEVE IN THE NAYSAYERS.” Be careful not to fall victim to the naysayers of the company. In order for this process to work, you need to believe in your company, employees, and products/services. In asking the questions from Golden Rule #1, a common theme/issue will emerge. Investigate with outside people. Ask them their thoughts and opinions. Then get into action, put together a plan. Now is NOT the time to wait until all the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed.

Golden Rule #3: “DON’T KILLTHE MESSENGER IN WORD OR IN ACTION.” Review with people, from within your company as well as outside of your company, your outline of the solution. Really listen to their ideas and whenever possible incorporate their ideas and thoughts. What do they like? What don’t they like? What alternatives could they provide? Don’t be afraid of brainstorming. True synergy will result in a better solution. Can they at least live with the plan even though it’s not ideal? Remember to listen to their rationale, even when you don’t agree. Ask for their help. If they’re not willing to, move on. [Remember, part of the reason your company is in its’ economic state is due to blaming it on external factors and not being responsible internally for moving projects forward, improving customer service, closing prospective sales, etc.]

Golden Rules #4, #5, & #6: “HAVE THE GUTS TO FAIL (do the best you can “by when” you say you will) … AVOID PERFECTIONISM (it can always be done “better”) … DON’T WAIT FOR ALL THE FACTS (there will always be more).” Establish 3-month goals. Hire a coach or consultant (YES, find the money) that will keep you on track and moving forward. This will keep you out of the quagmire that internal thinking has already gotten you into. It’ll be the best money ever spent.

Golden Rule #7: “NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO AGREE WITH YOUR GOALS: BE CLEAR, BE CONSISTENT AND FOLLOW-THROUGH, THEY’LL COME AROUND.” Now is the time to stay focused on sales and delivering products and services on time and within budget. It’s not time to worry about the carpeting. Nor the new system you believe will save time someday. Curtail unnecessary spending. Stay focused on having money coming in the door while ensuring the highest quality of products/services are meeting customers’ needs.

Golden Rule #8: “BE WILLING TO LEARN YOUR LIFE LESSONS NOW INSTEAD OF WAITING FOR TOMORROW.” Remember to stay focused on achieving the results. You may need to layoff people. Many companies put this dreadful task off too long or jump at it too quickly to save a few bucks sacrificing future growth. This will require a level of objectivity that most managers fail to use and can be a very uncomfortable process. It can also become a turf war. The bad news is that you may win the battle, but ultimately you’ll lose the war if you’re not truly looking from a bigger picture. Ask questions: What happens with different projects if we cut those employees now? How do those projects impact the bottomline? Which employees are most versatile? Which employees have the best skills? Which employees work best with customers, internally and externally? These are the employees you need to keep. They may not be the employees you like best! You’ll learn a life lesson of being able to work with anyone at anytime, anywhere, under any circumstance. 

For instance: I have a client that did not like his boss. And, if I had told this client a year ago, when I began working with him, that he’d enjoy working with his difficult boss, he wouldn’t have hired me. We made extraordinary process, he was the only one achieving all of his goals in a $150MM company. During this process I suggested he talk with his boss about how to work better with him and apologize if necessary for anything he had not done to support the boss or the department. As a result of that meeting, he changed his attitude toward his boss, and vice versa. They became great allies. Also, his employees now liked his boss! His life lesson? He’s able and capable of working with anyone at anytime; and this is well recognized throughout his company.

Golden Rule #9: “HAVE FUN AND ENJOY YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS AS WELL AS THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF OTHERS.” There are no guarantees that if you follow all these “Golden Rules” that you’ll keep your current job, your company will succeed or stay in business. A benefit however is that you’ll learn to move forward with ease. You’ll learn valuable lessons about yourself, your relationship with goals and achieving them, and how to work effectively with different types of people to get the job done on time and within budget. Now is also the time to celebrate your successes and others’ achievements. While you’ll need to keep your primary focus on the company and achieving these goals, make sure to take a couple of hours weekly (for early morning breakfasts or after work meetings) to ensure your network is working in the event you need a job. Follow these Golden Rules and the possibility of multiple job offers, either from within or from other companies, will appear.

(c)Jeannette L. Seibly, 2003

Avoid Executive Derailment

Many of us say we are committed to being successful in our life and career.  Yet, 40% to 60% of high-level corporate executives brought in from outside a company will derail in their careers within two years.  Why do they fail so quickly (normally between seven and nine month in the job)?  (Liberum Research’s analysis of North American public companies) 

Are you one of those executives who has “failed”?  Are you confused as to why?  Do you conveniently blame the company, industry, perceived biases (e.g., age, gender, etc.)? 

If you are concerned about your future as an executive (think, yes I should be), now is the time to get yourself some executive insurance by taking responsibility for your career.  Invest your time and money in yourself, while achieving the results your Board of Director’s require.

Stop talking about it.

Be a solution provider.  How?  First, and foremost, get in action NOW.  What challenges is your company facing (whether or not you’re directly responsible for that area)?  Interview different managers by asking questions and really listening to their responses:  “What are 3 issues facing us today?”  “Why are these issues important?”  “How do you suggest they be resolved?”  “How much will it cost if we do?”  “How much will it cost if we don’t?”

Do not buy into the negativity.

There’s a reason you were hired to move the company forward.  Falling victim to the negative “clique” of the company will only ensure the status quo.  As you are talking with people about the issue(s), a common solution will emerge.  Be careful not to jump too quickly without investigating other alternatives with Board members, employees, industry experts, etc..  Get their thoughts and opinions.  Then get into action, put together a plan.  Now is NOT the time to wait until all the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed.  

Truly listen to all ideas.  Don’t kill the messenger of bad news.

Share with the people your outline of the solution.  Really listen to their ideas and whenever possible incorporate their ideas and thoughts.  If you don’t, you will probably derail your career.  What do they like?  What don’t they like?  What alternatives could they provide?  Don’t be afraid of brainstorming.  True synergy will result in a better solution.  If they don’t like it, can they at least live with the plan even though it’s not ideal?  Remember to listen to their rationale.  If they’re not willing to make a decision, they may prove to be a detriment in the future. 

There is no failure if you’re moving forward. 

You need to believe in the process of designing, developing and implementing the solution(s) necessary.  You’ll either achieve the results you’ve declared, or not.

Get started by establishing three and six month goals now.  Develop action plans and assign responsibilities.  As you move forward, new facts will emerge.  Keep on track by focusing on the end results, without overlooking the obvious concerns.  Hire a coach or consultant (YES, find the money) that will keep you on track and keep you out of the quagmire that internal thinking has already gotten the company into.  It’ll be the best money ever spent.

Not everyone wants to win, even if they say they do. 

People’s actions speak louder than their words.  Now is the time to stay focused on the goals, actions to achieve those goals, while delivering products and services on time and within budget.  It’s not time to worry about the carpeting.  Nor the new system you believe will save time someday.  Or other derailments people will create since they are not comfortable with change.   Stay focused on ensuring the highest quality of products/services are meeting customers’ needs.

 Having the right people in the right job will ensure success.

This is paramount.  You may need to re-assigned job duties to ensure greater success for the company, and job satisfaction for your employees.  Do this in a progressive manner, while ensuring the person is the right person for the position or assignment.   This will require a level of objectivity by using valid assessments designed to show thinking styles, core behaviors and occupational motivations.  Have “straight conversations” designed to support employees in their careers by honoring their strengths.  Develop training and development to support them in becoming effective in their weaknesses.  Remember people don’t change core behaviors. 

Be clear as to how others view you, as well as your inherent strengths and weaknesses.  Leaders who are able to hold their employees accountable for the necessary results are usually the ones that have the respect of their employees, and Board of Directors.  You’ll learn that your attitude about your employees will determine your success! 

Example:  A client had great dreams and goals.  His employer and  family were all on board to help him achieve them.  However, he would always believe the maybe someday, three to five years down the road, he could have them.   With the help of his coach, he clarified his inherent strengths and weaknesses.  He  now manages from those strengths, while allowing his coach to support him in diminishing his weaknesses.  He’s aware of what “gets in his way;”  and, honors his commitment by blasting through those excuses.  He’s a great example for his employees to achieve what they want to have in life, and he loves living his dream.   His boss is very happy!

Enjoy your success, and the accomplishments of your employees.

Enjoy success now, even if you haven’t fully achieved the end result.  Remember, life and goals are a process.  During this time, you’ll learn valuable lessons about yourself, your relationship with goals and how you go about achieving them.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2007

About the author:  Jeannette Seibly is a nationally recognized coach, who has helped 1000’s of people achieve unprecedented results.  She has created three millionaires.  You can contact her:  JLSeibly@gmail.com OR http://SeibCo.com