It's easy to fall into casual conversation about other people's lives. The picture is likely familiar- you're at a meeting and the discussion devolves into story-telling about a co-worker's travails, rumors about life issues, or tales of woe heard around the copy machine.
These conversations don't serve much use except to make the people talking about other people's problems feel better as they deflect their own issues onto others.
It's incumbent upon leaders to keep these conversations in check when they pop up. I try to deftly move the discussion in a more constructive direction when my "radar" goes off.
People rarely want to be the center of someone else's conversation. Likewise, job performance shouldn't be determined by other's perceptions; it should be the result of first-person observations and analysis.