Gossip…. Boy! What does that have to do with software development? Well here’s the thing…. Gossip is the spread of words and ideas about a person that they would not appreciate; usually behind their back. This action seriously impedes the ability of team members to work together effectively, and here’s why….
When I use my words and spread negative ideas about you, it may seem to me that I’m attacking you. I may be doing that, but I’m also hurting myself and my ability to be effective in a team. So, let’s say I think you are stupid and I talk about you behind your back. What ends up happening is that you will eventually know. You will hear it from someone else or my feelings will come out in conversation ,even if I don’t say the words. There is a level of communication deeper than words. And this ends up making you hate me for it. And you hating me for it is not a good thing. We won’t be able to work well together and we’ll be less inclined to solve the “in between” problems on our team.
Self organizing teams rely on everyone doing their part and also keeping an eye out for the “in between” issues that are no one person’s responsibility. Gossip eats away at a team’s ability to do so effectively.
So where is the place for negative feedback? That is a great question that has many parts. I’m sure I’ll write about it soon. But the short answer is : a) start with yourself before you criticize others, b) examine your agreements with others, have they been broken or do you need clearer agreements?, and c) once you do (a) and (b) then sincerely talk to the person either one-on-one or in appropriate group setting such as a retrospective.
Now I’ve got to go catch a plane and eat my own dog food; as I’ve been writing this I’ve noticed that I’ve been part of some gossip and I’m doing more harm than good.