COMPANY CULTURE / JUL. 21, 2014
version 2, draft 2

10 Reasons Not to Gossip at Work

It’s easy to gossip in the office. Work can be boring and people on the other hand can be very interesting.  

Gossip, or the exchange of social information, has been the social glue of humankind since learning to grunt and share a portion of buffalo around the campfire.  

Talking about others can have a lot of good aspects to it, for example, 

  • social bonds are strengthened 
  • if someone knows of a problem, there is a possibility of help/comfort/resources 
  • our behaviour is modified to stay within social norms and avoid being the subject of gossip ourselves 

The Dark side

There is, however, a dark side.  

It’s all very well to keep up with caveman comings and goings and to know what your ’tribe’ or office are up to. The problem begins when the gossip is not just the exchange of information to thicken the social glue but becomes malicious and an activity in itself.  

Untamed gossip

Gossip ’untamed’ can damage reputations, divide people, and cause consequences for future careers.  

As tempting as it to join in with gossip, it’s always best to try not to, especially if the gossip is not of the harmless "Mary had hair extensions" variety but more of the "John is a skiver and can’t do his job’ sort of gossip.   

Gossip and careless talk can be toxic for your colleagues, and your own career.

 Here’s 10 reasons why you should resist the office gossip: 

  1. Just as everyone loves to gossip, everyone feels a bit bad after the initial exhilaration of the new tid bit has been shared. Who wants to feel bad?  
  2. People will respect you if you don’t engage in gossip, and people who are respected are more likely to get the best jobs. Successful staff are never spotted gossiping (at least not openly).  
  3. Intention - you never know the real reason behind the gossip. Is the person gossipping enacting revenge for a perceived slight that you are not aware of? You don’t want to be manipulated by someone else’s agenda.  
  4. If you are quick to pass harsh judgment on others and their work, then you are making yourself vulnerable to be the subject of similar criticism. Can you take it?  
  5. You’ll feel good about yourself as you learn to steer conversation away from gossip and onto other topics of conversation. This is quite a skill in itself.  
  6. You’ll be remembered for the good work that you do, not the good gossips that you had. 
  7. Apparently, people remember just the ’feeling’ that they had when they were with you when forming memories, rather than you in your completeness. You don’t want that feeling to be one associated with negativity.  
  8. There is sometimes smoke without fire. Things you hear are not necessarily true and can be misconstrued or taken out of context. You don’t want to pass on information that is not necessarily true or fair or useful. Question the intentions of the person passing on the gossip.  
  9. People’s careers can be damaged by character assassination and unfair criticism on their work performance. Become known as someone who points out the good things about your colleagues, rather than one to highlight it when someone bodges up.  
  10. Gossip is a sign of a poor working environment. Try and foster better communication between your colleagues.  

 What we hear about people affects our opinion. If someone says that John on the 2nd floor is a skiver, this can easily cement your opinion. You might have only seen John in the corridor, so don’t let someone else’s opinion become yours.   

Lost in translation 

And, you never know the full story. John might be caring for a poorly relative and away from the office for emergencies. Seeking privacy, he might not have shared this information with those around him. 

On a career level, once you’ve establish gossipy relationships with your colleagues, it can be hard for you all to resume a professional relationship again. If you want to get on, it’s best to avoid it and keep conversations work-related.  

Never trust "Don’t tell anyone but......[insert gossip] unless you are willing for this information to go out in the same format, i.e., [Don’t tell anyone but, (you) said that [insert gossip] x10. The only way to keep a secret, is not to disclose anything that you don’t want to be shared. Tell your close friends outside of the workplace and family the things you want to keep to yourself.  

 

What if you work with a monster? 

There are some real characters in the office. Some people are just difficult to work with. While having a bit of a moan can help you let off steam, drawing attention to someone’s faults just makes them bigger and bigger and even more difficult to contend with.  

If you are having real problems with a colleague, such as constant lateness, it’s best to talk to your manager. You have more chance of the situation changing than if you just grumble about it. Make sure it’s a valid problem too. Are they always late, or is it just that they didn’t include you in a recent project and you feel miffed and want to draw attention to the timing blip? 

I’m not perfect. I’ve succumbed to gossip just like everyone else. But I try the best I can to be a better person today than I was yesterday.

 

Image source: http://blog.aimvic.com.au

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