Ep #28: How to Deal with Team Members Who Argue and Gossip

 In Podcast

Gossip is “talking to anyone about anything who doesn’t have any control to solve it.” It’s destructive to your business, and here are the foundational tools you need to fix it.

What you’ll find in this episode:

  1. Why you have to know what your values are in your business. Listen to the previous podcast called “Entrepreneurial Values” here.
  2. The importance of setting expectations based on your values.
  3. How a company manifesto and a team book (not a policy book) can help.
  4. If you have all of that in place, and you still have an issue – you have an accountability gap.

Featured on the Show and Other Notes:

  • Kris’ episode – 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Treat Your Business Like a Family
  • Dave Ramsey and The Gossip Rant
  • Please write a review of my podcast. Go to iTunes’ main page here and give it a 5 star if you feel it is worthy and write a review. Do a screen shot and go to Instagram and put that on your story or feed and tag me @KrisPlachyCoach. I will then send you a list of all of my most favorite books that I’ve read over the years.
  • If you’d like to work with me, go here and we’ll either schedule an appointment or I’ll direct you to a resource that can help you with what you’re looking for.
  • Reach out to me by emailing me at support@leadershipcoachllc.com.
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Podcast Transcript

Hey everyone, I’m Kris Plachy and this is How To Lead for Female Entrepreneurs and Founders, because the best way to grow a business is to grow the person who’s running it. Let’s go ahead and get started.

Hello, welcome to the podcast. How are you today? I hope it’s gorgeous, wherever you are. It’s beautiful here. We’re coming into fall, and it’s exceptional, and it’s my favorite. We’re over the horrible heat. Now we get cool evenings and beautiful days and I love to spend my afternoons, I think we’ve talked about this a little bit. If not, I’ll probably do another podcast on it, but not very good at self care. I get distracted, and if I’m at home I feel like I should just either clean or organize or work. So I love the afternoon and the evenings and I go and I watch my daughter play soccer, just have her practice, which I just love because then I get to chill out and be outside, and I love it. So it’s just lovely, and just my favorite time.

So today we’re going to talk about employees who argue, have conflict, and also gossip and talk about each other. I wish I could say, if you’re dealing with this, it’s a fluke thing and oh, too bad. I’m so sorry, that just never happens. But unfortunately, I think the opposite is actually true. It’s more rare if you don’t have employees who are arguing, having conflict and talking about each other behind their backs. In a smaller business, there’s a tendency for it to be, I think, even more common and, unfortunately, more significant. It has a bigger impact on the performance of the company and on everybody in it for obvious reasons. If there’s not a lot of people and just two people aren’t getting along, really affects everybody and I think it’s easier for these things to go on addressed for a longer period of time.

A lot of the reason because I’ve talked about in the past, we tend to treat our small business like a family and families are very dysfunctional. So we just have to really, really, as the leader of this business, decide how we want to roll with this problem, which, again, if you’re facing it, there’s something broken for you, but there is work to do to help you and your company and the people in it not get into patterns where this is just indulged over and over and over. I had somebody I worked with as a client and this was one of the key things she presented with. She had somebody on the team that was really disruptive and people were, as a result, talking about her all the time and complaining about her and there was a lot of conflict with her and it was very disruptive.

Even though there was performance happening from this particular employee, a lot of the other people were not able to perform because of her behavior and the way that she was showing up and just the general distraction. So what I want to do on this podcast today is isolate for you what I know you need to have in place to mitigate this problem on the front end. So if you’re just starting your business, this is good news, maybe really pay attention because we can help you on the front end. If you’re already working in a business that has 35 people or 50 or 10, this is all stuff you can put into place. This is all the work that I do with my clients, especially in the front end of working with them, because it’s like, I don’t know, like math, right?

You have to learn addition and subtraction and division before you can start layering on the other parts of math. Maybe that’s a good analogy or a bad one, but that’s about as good as I ever got at math, was addition, subtraction and division. Then we got into other things and I got overwhelmed, but I have my foundations, so we can always rely on the foundations. I do believe, as somebody who has her own business, there are foundational practices you just have to have in place to help you resolve the relatively predictable but frustrating human behaviors that happen in the world and also within the walls of our business, whether those are virtual or physical walls. So I’m wanting to get into that and I also wanted to remind you, if you like this podcast, I’m assuming you do, if you keep listening, so hi, I would love to know who you are and hear from you.

So my invitation to you is to write a review, and you can do that right now on your iPhone by scrolling down to the main page of the podcast, and you’ll see five big stars. If you think this is a five star podcast, give it five stars. Then there’s a little link that says, write a review. Write the review. After you’ve written it, just take a screenshot of your review and post it to Instagram. You need to follow me first. I’m Kris Plachy coach, @krisplachycoach on Instagram. Follow me, tag me, post your picture and then I’m going to send you my book list, which is just full of fabulous books that have really been the foundational learning of so much of what I’ve done in my work and in my life as a human, and in my life is a woman. So I really want to share this list with you and I really want to also see you on Instagram.

I love when I get to see people’s faces and I get to see where you work and I get to see where you live. It brings all of this to life and I’m a total extrovert. So it brings to life things when I’m sitting here all by myself in my office, staring at my beach scene on my computer as I talk to you. So I’d love it if you would do that. Thank you. So let’s talk about the foundational tools. The impact of an argumentative relationship at work cannot go unaddressed or unnoticed. It’s too hard on people, especially when there’s not a lot of people.

So if you’ve got six people in an office and two of them are arguing, it’s very, very icky for everybody else. It puts everybody else on edge. They don’t know how to respond. If they’re not the boss, then they don’t have any authority over their behavior. So it just puts everybody on edge and it starts to really change how people work and how people communicate. The same thing is true with gossip. Now I think I’ve probably talked about this in the past, but Dave Ramsey does a really good two minute video on gossip. It’s called the gossip rant. It’s pretty intense. But I think the point of it can’t be overlooked. I think he’s spot on. He has a policy where no gossip is tolerated, but he defines gossip as talking to anyone about anything who doesn’t have any control to solve it.

So it doesn’t have to just be about a person. We could be talking about a client, we could be talking about a process in our business. If you and I are colleagues, and I just go to you and say, “I can’t believe they’re using this ridiculous phone system, it’s so terrible.”, and the colleague I’m talking to has no control, no authority, over changing the phone system, that is, according to Dave Ramsey, qualified as gossip. It’s just wasteful. I know that you know that gossiping, talking about other people in a way that is not constructive, doesn’t feel good, I know that you feel like ass after you talk poorly about other people. We all do. In the moment, you might feel like, Oh yeah, I’m getting validated for my frustration, but it’s not useful.

So even for you, as the boss and the owner of this business, the first thing that has to happen, if we have argumentative behavior, we have conflict or we have gossip, is you’ve got to be honest with yourself. Do you talk about other people in your business to other people in your business, and it’s not something you would say to their face? Do you do that? A lot of people say yes to that. So let’s not go into shame. Let’s just acknowledge it and say, yeah, I have done that and maybe I could see how that sets a little bit of a tone. Just be honest with yourself and then decide.

So the first person we’re talking about here is you, do you have arguments with people? Are you annoyed with someone and you treat them that way? I’m going to be doing a podcast here called Entrepreneurial Maturity, which we’re going to really talk about some of these things at more depth. But you being mad and holding a grudge and shutting down and then talking about somebody when they’re not around, that sets a tone. Because if I know you’re my boss and you are now talking to me about George, I know you’re talking about George with someone else. I know you’re talking about me with someone else. I know you are. You talk about George, why wouldn’t you talk about me?

So in order to set the proverbial table then, to make sure that we can address these things, we first have to look at ourselves and then we’ve got to go back to our foundations. If you came to me, and you said, “I have employees who are arguing, I have employees who don’t get along, I have employees who are talking about each other.”, the first thing I would ask you is what are your top three, what are your three values in your business? Would you know? Would you have to get the binder out from the class you took five years ago?

So first you have to know what your values are, and the reason you have to know what your values are is because you have to live by them and then you have to communicate them. Now, if I have value and one of the values is to be a team player or be honest or be authentic or be respectful or be hardworking, then it’s very easy for me to correlate back how the behaviors that I’m seeing in people in my team are not aligned with my values of the business.

But if I haven’t set values or if I set them, but I don’t use them, and I don’t communicate them regularly, then they’re not really a rudder that helps me as the leader of my business assess the behaviors of my team. We have to always remember what people who work for us are always looking at to assess. We have to be looking at the behaviors of our team members and the productivity, because both contribute to performance. So do you have your values? If you don’t, you’ve got to get those set up.

Like I’ve said so many times, this is work I help my clients do. It’s not that it’s hard to decide what your values are, but I think you have to do some good thinking about that, and you have to be clear, and you have to want to lock in because they do become part of the rudder of your business. Then based on our values, we set expectations for how people show up to work. One of the ways that we can do that is have a company manifesto, and we can start with the line, you will love working here if. What will you love? If you love these things, you’re going to love working here. You know what, you’re going to love working here if you love a conflict free gossip free work environment,

We can put that in our expectations. We have to be clear about what we expect of people, both from a performance perspective and behavior. Productivity and behavior. We have to be clear. If you haven’t set expectations, then people are just being the way that they’re being, and they don’t know that they shouldn’t be that way. Why would they? A lot of people gossip. They have no idea that they’re gossiping. It’s just how they’ve always been. A lot of people constantly argue, and they have no idea how disruptive it is because they’ve always just been that way. I used to coach the difficult leader. It doesn’t mean I still don’t, but I used to have a lot of them, and inevitably they would be the one that in the meeting everybody couldn’t stand. Because they were always arguing, but from their perspective, they saw it was their job.

Someone’s got to be devil’s advocate. Someone’s got to make sure we don’t fly off a cliff. Never realizing what an obstructionist they are to everybody else. So we have to have values and expectations and you need to have a team book. You need to have, not an employee policy handbook, a team book. A team book is like, this is what it’s like to work here. This is what we do here. This is how we vibe. The reason this has to be in place is as soon as somebody skids off, you have a place to go. Hey, hey, hey, hey, remember how this is what our values are and this is what our expectations are? You doing that over there, does not align with this. But if you haven’t done that first and somebody’s doing things, and you just don’t like it or it’s affecting the team, you don’t really have anywhere to go that’s related back to performance and standards that have been set, and it’s harder.

So a lot of people just don’t have the quote/unquote “time” to set up their vision and their values and their expectations in their team book. But you know what, if you don’t do it on the front end, and if you don’t do it today, if you don’t do it this week, you’re going to take time on the back end when you have all of this problems and the drama. So first we set the expectations. This is exactly what my client and I did, that I just referenced. We had to do that work first. We had to get her head really clear about what does it mean to work in your company, and is this woman’s behavior in alignment to that? If not, then we’re going to have that kind of a conversation. But we have to get your expectations very clear.

If you believe that your values are clear, and you believe that your expectations are clear, and you have a company manifesto, and you have a team book, and you still have this behavior, then the reason you still have that behavior is because now we have an accountability gap. You’ve done the work, but you’re just not holding people accountable to it. That brings me to our next conversation. Why aren’t you holding people accountable to the kinds of behaviors that you expect? Why do you put up with it? Why do you tolerate it? Most of you will answer, “What am I supposed to do? Fire them?”

Maybe. Maybe they don’t fit your organization anymore. Maybe they don’t suit it. Then the next comment I hear is, “Yeah, but I don’t have anybody else. If I lose them, they know everything about my business. They know everything. If I lose them, I’m going to be lost.” This is part of the problem, again, with a small business, is we get so dependent on a few people. I can promise you a few weeks of being lost is refreshing compared to having somebody who gossips and causes problems on the team and conflict. We have to tell people who are arguing with one another on a regular basis, who don’t get along, who are just fussy with each other, they don’t like each other. They need to get over that, and I believe you need to have that kind of a conversation. This behavior between the two of you. Unacceptable. Needs to end right now, or you will both find somewhere else to work because that’s not happening here. You’ve got to be that kind of firm if you want to eliminate the behavior.

If you’re used to everybody yelling and screaming at each other, and you love that, and you’re backstabbing, you don’t mind, then don’t worry about it. But most of you, I don’t think that’s the case, but your clarity here is critical for them. We have to hold people accountable, you guys, to the behaviors that we expect. Otherwise, everybody else is like, what’s the point of the values and the expectations? Why did she bother putting all this together? She doesn’t even hold anybody accountable to it. So why don’t you do that? Some of it is the reasons I said, they’re going to leave. What’s the point? I don’t know what I do without them. It’s hard. It’s funny, in my group program that I have, the women in this program are just so exceptional. So shout out to each one of you.

I just am so enjoying everybody I work with. It’s ridiculous how smart they all are and capable. So many good things put into the world because of them, and yet the thing that everybody struggles with is literally having to fire someone. I think in the first few weeks that I’ve been working with different groups of women, it’s first order of business is we start firing people, and our calls are about making sure that’s the best decision for the business. Because sometimes it’s not. But if it is, then how to prepare, how to have the conversation set up, what you need to be solid in the conversation, how to execute. Whether it’s actual results or behaviors, we have to be able to address it. So when we’re talking about employees who are argumentative and creating conflict, when they just are acting like 12 year olds and they just don’t like each other, and/or they start talking about each other to other people or even to you, the way to solve it is frankly quite simple.

You get your values in order, you get your expectations in order. You make sure you have a nice little team book that outlines what we expect of one another and how it works here. You calibrate all that with the team, and then for anybody who cannot meet the expectations that you’ve outlined, you have to hold them accountable to that and then you move forward. Really, this is a math equation. This is does not have to be a very difficult process. The reason it gets difficult is because your brain is struggling with fear and worry, and probably even a little shame and embarrassment. All the stuff that we just have to work through. That’s what’s preventing you from addressing it if you have the foundations in place. So we have to give people feedback and tell them these kinds of things are unacceptable. You have to anchor that in real evidence, facts, not your opinion and not other people’s opinions.

What are they actually doing, saying in the world, not just, hey, you’re very gossipy, but hey, I’ve heard you say three times this about George. Here’s the impact that has on everybody else. When you do that, it’s unacceptable. We’ve just got to be really clear. So again, it’s not uncommon to have these issues on the team.

It is a huge bottleneck to overall success if it doesn’t go addressed and it will become a part of your culture. I have worked with business owners who have a culture of gossip and we have to back the train up and really get clear about how we’re going to resolve that. We can. It’s totally solvable. I promise you. If that’s where you are with your business, and you’ve got this gorgeous business that’s doing really well and serving the public and whoever you observe amazingly, but inside you’re all on pins and needles with each other, I can help you with that, but you’ve got to be willing to do these things. This is where it begins.

All right, so glad you tuned in today. Don’t forget to write a review and post it on Instagram and talk to you next time. Hey, don’t miss a thing. Make sure you join my community@krisplachy.com/connect. Once you join, you’ll get all the information on exclusive and private experiences that I’m offering to my clients. I can’t wait to see you there.

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