It is tempting to gossip in both our personal and professional lives. Around the water cooler at the office, the mirror in the ladies room, e-mail or Facebook, gossip happens everywhere. We've all received and repeated information that may be harmful to someone else's reputation. At times it may seem innocent or without consequence, but gossip can be dangerous to your appearance.
It is common to be the victim of rumors and gossip, yet even with first-hand experience of the discouraging, damaging result, we continue the cycle by spreading dirt ourselves. This come from our failure to take the consequences into consideration. If we talk slanderous to one person, they may repeat the information to another, leading to a wildfire of gossip that will injure not only the person of topic, but your professionalism as well.
Spreading gossip is unquestionably poor business practice, even if shared in a private setting. Obviously, there is nothing private about social networking sites and online media, so relaying gossip in these arenas can be even more damaging. The best action is to avoid spreading rumors in the first place. Don't gossip, especially about competitors or other brands, and don't slander someone else's name.
With all the destructive, classless mud-slinging we see in the media, particularly in the realm of politics, it can be difficult to prevent ourselves from following in their footsteps. There are too many role models in society that set poor examples for those trying to establish business models. It was common to grow up being told that "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." But, as adults, and as business conscious individuals, sometimes finding the "nice" words to say fall outside what's best for our interests.
In other words, gossip may seem like a necessary path to follow. Revealing a negative truth about someone else could look like a way to build your own reputation. But, in reality, this doesn't reflect how good of a worker or employer you are, it only reflects how that other individual isn't. Before you head down the road of selling out someone else's shortcomings, keep in mind that if you get your facts wrong, you will be the one who is hurt.
Instead of drawing attention to your competitors downfalls, focus on drawing attention to your own positive qualities. In time, the consumers or superiors will see, on their own, the margin between you and the poor quality of your competitors.